China represents the world's largest market for new battery-electric cars, making up 55% of global EV sales. For a long time, American, European and other Asian automakers staked their hopes on China, only for that country's homegrown auto industry to advance by leaps and bounds—and to snatch up the buyers companies like the Volkswagen Group and General Motors used to have. 

At the Beijing Auto Show this year, they're fighting back. Hard.

Welcome back to Critical Materials, your daily roundup for all things EV and automotive tech. Today, we're talking about Volkswagen's quest to regain market share in China, CATL's new 620-mile LFP battery pack, and Xiaomi's ability to absolutely crush the new EV game. Let's jump in.

30%: VW Group Shows Off 44 Cars in Beijing Auto Show

Volkswagen ID.Code Beijing Showcar (2024) Sketches

Volkswagen is attempting to take back its crown in China by launching an all-out offense, starting at the Beijing Auto Show. The German automaker brought 44 cars with it to China this week as a show of force—half of them being EVs.

Volkswagen previously held the crown as China's top brand for 15 years prior to being dethroned by domestic automaker BYD; it actually has a very long history in China, dating back to the 1980s.

However, the recent rise of domestic Chinese brands has squashed much of the competition, driving down the U.S., European, Japanese, and South Korean market share as Chinese car companies reached more than 50% in recent years.

This, according to Bloomberg, is partly due to the Chinese automakers simply knowing what Chinese consumers want in their new cars—technology. Bloomberg reports:

Electric cars make up less than 10% of VW’s sales in China, and most are European designs—such as the 195,888 yuan ($27,000) ID.4 X sport utility vehicle—that hold little appeal to local drivers, who increasingly prefer tech and gadget-laden cars from domestic manufacturers that can respond to Chinese-language voice commands and link to local social media sites.

VW has been actively working to address this by essentially throwing money at the problem. Last year, it shoveled $700 million into investments for local brand Xpeng. The partnership recently revealed a jointly-developed platform called the "New China Electrical Architecture" meant to speed up Volkswagen's transition to fill market-specific needs, such as more advanced in-car tech and intelligent connected vehicles.

One of the ways that it plans to do this is by launching a youth-focused sub-brand called "ID.UX" which offers "lifestyle-oriented," "driver-centric," and "progressive" vehicles. The ID lineup of vehicles will grow to 16 models by the top of the decade, 5 of which will be under the ID.UX brand.

Volkswagen says that it's aiming to bump its market share in China up to 15% by 2030, which would mean selling about 4 million cars annually. VW previously held 19.3% of the market in 2020, though that number sharply declined to 14.5% in 2023 as sales of combustion engine cars became less popular.

60%: CATL Reveals 620-mile LFP Battery Pack

CATL Shenxing fast-charging LFP battery announcement

Meanwhile, Chinese EV battery giant CATL has announced a game-changing LFP battery pack capable of delivering 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of range on a single charge.

Coined the Shenxing Plus, the battery builds on the original Shenxing battery platform revealed last year which delivered about 70% of the capacity versus the new Plus.

The Plus is capable of adding gobs of range in a short amount of time just likes its predecessor. In fact, the pack is capable of achieving charging speeds of 4C, meaning that it could theoretically fully charge the battery in about 15 minutes. CATL specifically says that a 10-minute charge is capable of adding more than 370 miles of range, or around 60% of the battery's capacity.

Additionally, the pack offers an energy density of 205 watt-hours per kilogram, which approaches the density of NCM batteries found in many modern EV. For comparison, the Tesla Model 3 NCM batteries are around 260 wh/kg. The battery makes use of a proprietary honeycomb material to increase cell density and uses CATL's CTB 3.0 packaging tech which increases overall volume efficiency by about 7%.

It's worth noting that CATL has previously unveiled a battery called the Qilin which offered similar range back in 2022, though it used lithium-ion cells rather versus the Shenxing's LFP pack. As such, the Shenxing battery is expected to target vehicles in more affordable markets.

90%: Xiaomi SU7 Gets 75,000 Orders, Expects to Deliver 10,000 by Summer

Xiaomi SU7 (2024): The exterior

Xiaomi, the smartphone manufacturer that built what the Apple Car could have been, is absolutely killing it with sales of the SU7.

Reuters reports that it has achieved 75,723 locked-in orders—that is, orders with a non-refundable deposit—as of April 24th. And of those, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says that it expects to deliver more than 10,000 vehicles by June and 100,000 by the end of 2024.

It's worth noting that deliveries of the SU7 have actually already begun. Xiaomi has delivered 5,781 units within 28 days of the car's official launch.

That's an extremely aggressive timeline from official announcement (December) to launch (March) to deliveries, especially when we're used to the slow-burn approach that automakers like Tesla have taken with the Cybertruck and to-be-released next-gen Roadster.

It was reported earlier this month that its SU7 EV sold out for all of 2024 in just 24 hours after beginning deposits in March, which is a no-brainer given its merits of long-range, tech-focused cabin, and stylish exterior—all starting at under $30,000.

Xiaomi says that its automotive unit will be "100% focused" on the Chinese market over the next three years, according to Lei. Following that, it hopes to become one of the world's top-five automakers over the next two decades.

100%: What Non-Car Company Should Build An EV?

Dyson EV SUV

Everybody wants to be the next Tesla. Or maybe they just want a little bit of that Tesla money, as if that ship hasn't yet sailed with legacy automakers moving towards EVs at a rapid (yet now-cooled) pace.

Apple and Dyson are just two names that threw in the towel but keep in mind that Sony is actually going through with their plan to partner with Honda to build a car. If nothing more, it's interesting to see how different companies solve the problem of personal transportation.

If you had it your way, what non-car company would you want to see try their hand at building an EV? Let me know in our new commenting system down below.

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