CATL expands commercial vehicle battery business in Europe


The Chinese battery giant CATL has just signed a deal to provide VDL Bus & Coach with its high energy density battery system based on its standardised LFP-CTP (Cell to Pack) product platform. For SME business CATL has also appointed Quantron as its authorised sales and service partner for commercial vehicles and industrial applications in Europe.

Firstly to CATL SME business in Europe: As an importer, Quantron is now authorised to supply batteries in Europe as a dealer for CATL. The German company specialises in the electrification of commercial vehicles and is now responsible for CATL battery sales and after-sales partner for commercial vehicles and industrial applications. Quantron will also rely on CATL batteries for its own retrofits in the future.

For this purpose, Quantron will use CATL’s standardised lithium iron phosphate-based CTP battery solutions. CTP stands for “cell to pack” and refers to a battery technology that integrates cells directly into battery packs – without module level. This enables the company to offer “a high energy density combined with low costs and high sustainability (cobalt-free) in the vehicles,” Quantron wrote in a press release.

Quantron is also going to tailor battery solutions based on CATL’s NMC battery components to customers’ needs, mass produce and then deliver them. In doing so, the conversion company intends to appeal primarily to small and medium-sized companies, which often only have a small purchase volume. The young German company says it will be cooperating with 700 partner workshops across Europe to ensure a comprehensive network with on-site service for electric vehicles.

According to CATL, its cooperation with Quantron is not intended to reach large OEMs – the Chinese company will continue to do this business directly. Such a deal has just been signed with Dutch bus manufacturer VDL, one of Europe’s top three electric bus-makers, along with Polish company Solaris, who both compete in a league with CATL’s Chinese rival in batteries, electric vehicle and battery giant BYD.

The first electric buses from VDL Bus & Coach with the new CATL battery system are expected to be launched in the Netherlands later this year. Neither company has revealed exactly which bus model(s) will receive the new batteries but did extrapolate that CATL will be supplying the Dutch bus manufacturer VDL with batteries from the LFP-CTP (Cell to Pack) product platform. CATL presented this cell-to-pack technology at the IAA last autumn. What is novel about these systems is that the Chinese battery giant skips the intermediate step of the modules and insert the battery cells directly into the ready-to-install battery pack. Since this eliminates some of the module components, the CTP batteries have a higher energy density – CATL speaks of up to 160 Wh/kg.

In comparison, the other two largest electric bus providers in Europe, BYD and Solaris, use their own battery systems: Solaris is using the newest “Solaris High Energy + batteries that are also characterised by a high energy density. These battery cells are installed in modules. The other big player in electric buses in Europe is BYD – in itself one of the world’s big battery makers, who not only supplies its own vehicles but offers its battery solutions to third parties as well. BYD claims it is the first company to fully industrialize the Iron-Phosphate battery used in its electric buses.

But CATL has its eye on the rapidly growing European electric bus market. This is not only demonstrated by the VDL deal: last year CATL concluded a supply agreement with Daimler Trucks & Buses for battery cell modules for electric trucks. However, VDL is up among the top three next to Solaris and BYD, whereas Daimler Trucks and Buses has woefully missed a timely market entry for battery-electric buses. Early last year, Daimler was only covering around 2 % of the electric bus market in Europe.

“CATL is committed to driving forward advanced energy innovations around the world. Providing highly efficient and reliable solutions for the electrification of commercial vehicles is a key element for the overall development of the e-mobility market,” said Li Xiaoning, Executive President of Commercial Vehicle Applications International. “CATL, VDL Bus & Coach and Quantron AG share the same commitment and passion for e-mobility”.

CATL should also be pleased about the additional major customer with VDL for another reason: Not surprisingly in the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, CATL’s profits in the 1st quarter fell by 29.14 per cent compared to the same period of the previous year, while revenues fell by 9.53 per cent. (VDL – CATL), (PDF in German), (CATL profits)


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