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China's Newest New Energy Vehicle Startup Li Auto Reaches Sales of 30,000 Units This Year

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【Summary】China’s newest New Energy Vehicle (NEV) startup Li Auto is off to a good start in 2020. On Friday, the company announced it reached cumulative sales of 30,000 units so far this year. The 30,000 sales milestone is a first for a startup automaker in the country.

Eric Walz    Dec 18, 2020 12:50 PM PT
China's Newest New Energy Vehicle Startup Li Auto Reaches Sales of 30,000 Units This Year
The Li ONE SUV includes a small combustion engine is used to generate electricity to charge the vehicle's battery and extend overall range.

China's newest New Energy Vehicle (NEV) startup Li Auto is off to a good start in 2020. On Friday, the company announced it reached cumulative sales of 30,000 units so far this year. The 30,000 sales milestone is a first for a startup automaker in China, news outlet Gasgoo reports.

Li Auto, along with NIO and Xpeng Motors, are emerging as three of the most promising EV startups in China. The three automakers are all strong competitors to Tesla in the country.

China is the world's biggest auto market.

All three companies are publicly traded in the U.S. The Li Auto and Xpeng IPOs were this past summer, while NIO launched its U.S. IPO in Sept. 2018

Li Auto was founded in 2015 and was formerly known as CHJ Automotive. The company's first vehicle is the Li ONE extended-range electric SUV. Production of the Li One began in Nov 2019 at the company's factory in Changzhou. The first deliveries to customers in China began shortly after.

Sales of the Li One have been brisk throughout the year. Li Auto announced on Oct 18 that it had delivered more than 20,000 Li ONE SUVs over the past ten months, the fastest among all local new energy vehicle startups, according to Gasgoo. 

Since October, the company has sold an additional 10,000 Li ONE SUVs as the company experienced an uptick in sales. In November, Li Auto's deliveries jumped 25.8% over the previous month, the best-ever monthly sales performance.

According to Li Auto, Li One SUV customers are spread out over 31 provinces, autonomous regions and centrally-administered municipalities in China. 

Unlike Xpeng Motors and NIO which are building fully-electric vehicles, Li is taking a different approach. Its Li One SUV is not purely electric and has a hybrid powertrain. However its still classified as a "New Energy Vehicle'' (NEV) in China, which includes fully-electric or hybrid powertrain models.

Although the Li ONE is powered by its electric motors when cruising like conventional EVs, the energy source for the electric motors comes from both the battery pack and range extension system that includes a dedicated, 1.2 liter turbo-charged internal combustion engine and a 100 kW electric generator. A component called a speed reducer used to connect the two power sources together. 

The electric propulsion portion of the Li ONE consists of a 140-kilowatt rear-drive electric motor powered by a 40.5-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The SUV also includes a 11.9 gallon fuel tank for the dedicated gas engine. This small combustion engine is used to generate electricity to charge the vehicle's battery, but it also helps to extend overall range.

Li Auto says its Li ONE SUV offers the same driving range as fully-electric EVs of a similar class. The Li ONE delivers a NEDC range of 800 kilometers (497 miles), acceleration from zero to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds, according to the company.

Li Auto cites limited access to EV charging infrastructure in China as one reason for building the Li ONE with an smaller internal combustion engine that's used to generate electricity to charge the vehicle's battery.

Li Auto calls its powertrain design extended range EV technology (EREV).

Drivers have traveled 230 million kilometers in the 30,000 Li One SUVs that are on the road in China.

Like Tesla's vehicles, the Li One SUV supports over-the-air (OTA) updates. The automaker allows its customers to submit feedback and suggest improvements using the Li Auto app. 

To-date, Li Auto said it shipped 10 OTA (over-the-air) upgrades since December of last year with 33 all-new applications and functions added, and over 60 vehicle functions were improved based on customer feedback. The latest 2.0 version will be launched by the end of the month.

Among the new features in the Li One is a unique "car-cleaning mode", which can avoid frequent locking or unlocking when cleaning the vehicle.

In July, Li Auto raised over $1.4 billion in its U.S. initial public offering (IPO). Its shares are listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol "LI." Like its rivals Xpeng Motors and NIO that are both publicly traded in the U.S., Li Auto hopes to take advantage of the strong interest in electric vehicles and related stocks from investors, which pushed Tesla's stock to record highs this past summer. 

On Dec. 4, Li Auto announced the pricing of its latest offering of 47 million American depositary shares ("ADSs"), each representing two Class A ordinary shares of the Company, at a public offering price of $29 per ADS. The underwriters have a 30-day option to purchase up to an aggregate of 7,050,000 additional ADSs from the Company.

The company said the net proceeds from the proposed offering would be used for R&D of next-generation electric vehicle technologies, including a high-voltage vehicle platform, the development of future models, autonomous driving technologies and general corporate purposes.

Li Auto's stock price was up 3.5% on Friday to $31.77. On Nov 2, the stock was valued $22.88, down from its 52-week high of $47.70.

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