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CATL, Didi to build battery swap facilities for ride-hailing cars

CATL and Didi said on Jan. 28 that they have signed a partnership to build battery swap stations for commercial fleets to recharge their electric vehicles, in a sign of China’s urgent need to set up a gold standard for EV infrastructure.

Why it matters: The news reflects how major players are rushing to build alliances and expand their presence in the hope of getting a larger say as the Chinese central government is pushing for industry-wide standards to drive EV adoption and reduce the strain on the grid. 

  • Xin Guobin, a vice minister of industry and information technology, in June said Beijing will back businesses’ efforts to jointly set standards for battery specifications and swap techniques. 
  • Meanwhile, the central government recently set a goal to begin operating large facilities for bi-directional charging in the next two years, which would allow EV batteries to charge during off-peak hours and return surplus energy to the grid when demand is high.

Details: CATL and Didi will set up a joint venture for a fast and large-scale roll-out of a battery-swapping network for ride-hailing services in China, according to a joint announcement, which did not reveal detailed plans for the swap network or the size and structure of the JV. 

  • The two companies will also promote the adoption of EVs with swappable batteries while exploring collaboration on other areas such as storage-integrated EV charging facilities, the statement said.
  • CATL expects such efforts to enhance its reputation since public infrastructure could help promote it as a purveyor of better quality and longer service life, people close to the company told Caixin.

Context: NIO is for now the dominant player in the field, operating more than 2,300 battery swap stations in China as of December. The EV maker plans to add at least 1,000 more this year and has partnered with big names including Geely, Changan, and Chery. 

  • China reported a significant 81% annual increase for its battery swap infrastructure network with a total of 3,567 swap stations as of December, according to data compiled by the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance (EVCIPA).
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