Kia is using CATL battery cells for the very first time for the new generation of the Niro EV, whereas the manufacturer has so far only used elements from South Korean manufacturers for its electric cars. Why ? Simply the cost.
This is the South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo which reports the information so far kept secret, but obtained from a brand manager: the battery pack with a capacity of 64.8 kWh of the new electric Kia Niro consists of lithium-ion nickel-manganese- cobalt (NMC) produced by the Chinese equipment manufacturer CATL whereas they have so far come from South Korea.
Kia Niro EV 2022 review: we tried the new electric SUV exclusively
The main reason for switching from SK Innovation (now SK On) to CATL as a cell supplier is undoubtedly their lower cost, although the source did not want to comment on this particular subject, deeming the information confidential. . According to’Hankook Ilbo, Kia initially planned to switch from SK On to LG Energy Solution, another compatriot, but the difference would have been made at the lower price level of CATLs not only thanks to the economies of scale achieved, but also to the chemistry of the cells used. LGES and Sk On indeed offer NMC 811 cells, containing a greater amount of nickel in order to achieve greater energy density, while CATL uses less modern cells, which favor cobalt, which is good for speed charge at low temperatures, but which are paid in terms of energy density.
Still according to the newspaper, the fact of seeing Chinese cell manufacturers making their way onto South Korean soil has created some local tensions: many customers have expressed their disappointment and some of them even want to cancel their order. L’Hankook Ilbo also expresses its concern about the cells themselves: “This is the first time that CATL, which has made a name for itself mainly with its lithium-ion-phosphate (LFP) batteries, has embarked on the mass production of batteries NMC for cars. This means that their quality and safety have not yet been demonstrated”.
But we can see here perhaps an excess of chauvinism or a new manifestation of the very long-standing tensions between China and South Korea since CATL already supplies NMC batteries to, among others, BMW for the iX3 and Mercedes for the EQEs and EQS.