CATL’s EV Battery Swap Business Enters Operation with Aiways as Its First Client and Harmontronics as Equipment Provider

published: 2022-05-16 9:30 | editor: | category: News

CATL formally launched its EV battery swap business EVOGO this April 18. Earlier this January, CATL said that it will establish pilot sites for battery swap across 10 Chinese cities this year. Now, the company has set a more ambitious target of raising the number of cities under EVOGO’s coverage from the current four to 30 by the end of 2022. 

CATL and Aiways Will Jointly Develop EVs Featuring Battery Swap

CATL also announced on April 27 that it has signed a cooperation framework agreement with EV brand Aiways. Under the agreement, the two parties will be jointly developing a variant of the electric crossover SUV U5. The variant will feature battery swap and is scheduled for release this fourth quarter. 

Aiways is a Chinese EV startup that was established in 2017 and is headquartered in Shanghai. According to its official website, Aiways has set up a vehicle manufacturing plant in Shangrao, a battery manufacturing plant in Changsu, an R&D center in Shanghai, and a European sales center in Munich. The Shangrao plant is capable of outputting 300,000 vehicles annually. As for the U5, it is the first EV developed by Aiways and powered by CATL’s battery cells.

EVOGO, which is under the control of CATL’s subsidiary CAES, offers a solution known as Swapping Electric Block (SEB). It is a cell-to-pack technology and thus smaller than the battery packs or modules used in conventional EVs. Rather than taking out an entire battery pack and insert a new one, drivers can mount as many “blocks” as they need. Blocks can be charged individually as well since each of them has its own management mechanism. With the adoption of EVOGO, Aiways and future potential clients will be able to achieve greater efficiency in battery usage and a higher degree of separation between battery and the rest of EV platform. As EV websites such as Electrive have pointed out, a conventional EV battery system has a fixed and model-specific capacity. 

For a long time, CATL has been collaborating closely with Aiways with respect to technology, development strategy, and investment. CATL actually owns a 0.35% stake in Aiways through one of its subsidiaries. The related information is available at Qcc.com, which is a platform for searching information on Chinese enterprises.

Also, according to reporting by various news outlets, the U5 is powered by CATL’s ternary lithium battery cells. The U6, which is the second EV model developed by Aiways, adopts the same battery cells. Like its predecessor, the U6 is an electric crossover SUV and scheduled for launch in Europe later this year.

Harmontronics Has Become CATL’s Partner in Expansion of Battery Swap Stations

Harmontronics, a Chinese provider of automated and precision manufacturing solutions, recently revealed at a virtual investor conference that it will assist CATL in building EV battery swap stations. Established in 2007 and headquartered in Suzhou, Harmontronic has expanded its portfolio to include equipment deployed for car manufacturing, battery manufacturing, and battery swapping. Presently, the company has manufacturing bases in Shenzhen and Ganzhou. Moreover, it has 10 branch offices and service centers worldwide. In 2009, Harmontronics was listed on the Sci-Tech Innovation Board (STAR Board) of the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Last year, Harmontronics established its battery swap business as an independent unit within the company and designated it as one of the company’s three core businesses going forward. Thanks to favorable policies and strong downstream demand, the battery swap market is expected to grow rapidly. Harmontronics therefore wants to take advantage of this boom.

Besides partnering with CATL, Harmontronics has also entered into an agreement with Suzhou Shengneng Energy Technology to provide battery swap equipment for commercial and passenger vehicles. Shengneng is a subsidiary of GCL Energy Technology. The agreement was announced on April 13 this year and is tentatively worth RMB 679 million. According to reporting by news outlets and a related notice filed with the relevant regulatory authority, Harmontronics has already begun product delivery. GCL Energy Technology currently intends to construct 300 battery swap stations for electric passenger cars and 185 battery swap stations for heavy-duty electric trucks.

Harmontronics has disclosed that its battery swap business generated revenue for the first time in 2021, reaching an annual total of RMB 8.54 million. As of the end of 2021, Harmontronics had received RMB 910 million worth of orders for battery swap equipment. In fact, battery swap equipment accounted for more than 40% of the company’s incoming orders at that time.

To further expand its business operations, Harmontronics will be issuing new shares to raise RMB 1 billion. Of that total, RMB 550 million will be used to build new production lines for battery swap equipment. The company aims to increase its annual production capacity for battery swap equipment by 2,000 units. The announcement to raise capital through equity financing was made on April 26 this year. 

With regard to capacity expansions, Harmontronics has stated that it wants to establish a strong position in the EV battery swap market in advance. This way, the company will be able to gain significant growth momentum. Harmontronics has also said that it will leverage its wealth of expertise and experience to achieve in-house manufacturing of key components and standardization of equipment parts. The company believes that it can maintain leadership in this market by meeting its customers’ diverse design requirements while keeping the production cost down. 

This article is a translation of a Chinese article written by Wendy at TrendForce. It contains information that is either sourced from other news outlets or accessible in the public domain.

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