Beijing WeLion New Energy Technology Co. is a Chinese maker of long-range electric vehicle batteries, including one capable of going 1,000 kilometres on a single charge, it has plans for going public no later than 2025 as it banks on automakers embracing next-generation cells in the race to overcome range anxiety.
The company is a supplier for the 1,000km range semi-solid state cell to Chinese EV upstart Nio Inc., and its target is a 20-fold surge in revenue to 10 billion yuan (R25.73 billion) by 2025 to fuel its aspirations, founder Li Hong said in a recent interview.
Best known as WeLion, the company was valued at 15.7 billion yuan in its most recent funding round, said Li, who also holds the title of chief scientist.
The EV industry is banking on the solid-state batteries for change because they enable high-voltage, high-capacity cathodes that provide a substantial boost to battery capacity and performance, according to BloombergNEF.
It was recently reported by Digital Trends that Toyota manufactured a fully solid-state battery that can provide 1,183km of range on a single charge. It has plans to make a battery that boasts 1,450km per charge, but it only expects to start putting solid-state batteries in its EVs in 2028, while WeLion’s is already available in a mass-produced car.
Even though nobody has yet succeeded in the commercialisation of solid-state batteries, WeLion’s semi-solid state cell is being used in Nio’s all-new ES6 sport utility vehicle unveiled in May, making it one of few next-generation battery makers in the world to start mass production and commercialisation.
Currently, WeLion’s battery for Nio has a 150 kilowatt-hour pack, and the 1,000km range compares favourably with the Lucid Air Dream Edition R (840km) and Tesla Inc.’s Model S (640km). The cell has an energy density of 360Wh per kilogram, Li said.
That beats the estimated 300Wh per kilogram of Tesla’s 4680 battery, according to Shinyoung Securities in Seoul.
An analyst at BNEF, Jiayan Shi, said that WeLion isn’t the first company to successfully deliver commercialised semi-solid state batteries, but its 360Wh per kilogram reached the highest energy density among current commercialised EV battery cells. “Nio has a standard size for battery packs, but WeLion’s cell managed to put more energy into the same volume, and that it is a success.” – Shi added.
Li, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also co-founded low-cost sodium battery maker HiNa Battery Technology Co.
Li also mentioned that the technology is attracting interest from a wide array of automakers including Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co., Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Geely Automotive Holdings Ltd., and Chinese consumer electronics-maker Xiaomi Corp.
In order for WeLion to meet its ambitious sales goal, it is building four more battery production facilities in China to boost its annual capacity to 30GWh by 2025 from 6GWh now. The batteries can also be used for energy storage systems and drones.