Didi cabs could soon reload whole CATL battery blocks

CATL wants to push the battery-swapping business in China and has agreed to form a joint venture with ride-hailing provider Didi. They want to introduce the new service and suitable vehicles on a large scale, with CATL building on existing advances.

Image: EVogo

The battery giant debuted a solution in January 2022 called Evogo. CATL has won Dongfeng Peugeot Citroën and Aiways as automotive partners. Aiways and CATL are planning to launch the first battery-swap model this year in the U5 SUV. Also, Dongfeng was to bring the Fukang ES600 sedan equipped for battery swapping, specifically targeting the cab and ride-hailing market.

Cue in Didi. With CATL now teaming up with the ride-hailing service provider also known as the Uber of China, the battery maker expects to leverage both companies’ technical advantages and operational capabilities. According to comments made during the signing ceremony in Ningde, Fujian, CATL also lists leading service and technology standards to improve resource utilization and social operation efficiency among the targets.

The ride-hailing business is “one of the most valuable application scenarios for battery swap services,” thanks to its large user base and high recharge frequency, the company added on its WeChat account.

Didi Chuxing claimed roughly 84 million monthly active users, according to Statista, in November 2023; Nikkei speaks of nearly 600 million signees globally and says Didi’s China service recorded 31.3 million transactions in a day on average in the third quarter of last year.

Neither Didi nor CATL have named the JV or published numeric targets. There are, however, details on the technology since CATL’s subsidiary Contemporary Amperex Energy Service Technology (CAES) presented Evogo in early 2022.

The unit batteries are at the heart of the system, which CAES calls Choco-SEB. SEB stands for Swapping Electric Block, and Choco is meant to refer to the station’s resemblance to a chocolate bar.

The Choco-SEB use CATL’s cell-to-pack technology, in which the cells are integrated directly into the battery pack (or, in this case, the block). According to CATL, a single block should offer a range of up to 200 kilometres with an energy density of 160 Wh/kg and a volumetric energy density of 325 Wh/l.

A standard Evogo system exchange station takes about three parking spaces and can hold up to 48 Choco-SEBs. Swapping a block should take about one minute.

Last year, CATL put the monthly rental price at 399 yuan (€58) per block but said this would be dynamically adjusted depending on conditions of use.

There was no mention of pricing in today’s announcement, and the company also needs to deliver data on the rollout. On the latest counts, EVogo had only installed stations in Xiamen, Quanzhou, Hefei, Guiyang, and Fuzhou.

At the same time, the focus on battery swapping is in line with national policies. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) reiterated its support for the technology at a conference held in late December, with pilot projects set to begin for public transport this year.

In June 2023, CATL also presented a battery swap solution for heavy-duty electric trucks with Qiji Energy, as reported.

According to data compiled by the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance (EVCIPA), battery-swapping stations increased by 80 per cent, up from 2,000 stations last January to 3,567 by the end of December 2023.

Over 2,000 of these belong to Nio, which pioneered the field.

cnevpost.com, yicaiglobal.com, scmp.com


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