Li Auto opens 500th supercharging station but needs to quadruple installation rate to hit 2024 target

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Yesterday Li Auto opened its 500th supercharging station, 43 days since opening the 400th station. That would be an impressive figure were it not for Li Auto’s target calling for the launch of 2000+ supercharging stations by the end of 2024.

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If Li Auto is going to achieve its target it will need to install an average of 250 supercharging stations a month during the second half of the year, which is approximately four times the current installation rate. Obviously, Li Auto is not suddenly going to be able to achieve that level in July meaning that by the end of the year the rate would need to be around 500 in a month to average it out.

Earlier this month Li Auto signed a deal with CNPC, China’s largest petroleum company, and under the deal charging piles will be installed at CNPC service stations across the country. This deal might yet mean that Li Auto can achieve the 2000+ target this year.

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Until this year Li Auto could do no wrong with a string of hit products and sales records near monthly. However, progress for Li Auto seriously stalled this year. Previously, Li only sold range-extended SUVs but this year launched its first all-electric car, the Mega MPV. Sales have been less than expected, so much so that Li has pushed back the launch of further all-electric models to 2025 rather than later this year. On June 24 a class action was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of investors who acquired Li Auto securities between February 26, 2024 and March 20, 2024. The action is based on the claim that investors were misled by company announcements and that it overstated demand for the Mega. It should be remembered that Li Auto is listed on the Nasdaq.

Li Auto’s supercharging station is based on a 5C charger, unveiled at last year’s Shanghai Auto Show. ‘C’ refers to the charging multiplier meaning that a 5C charger can charge at a rate of five times assuming the battery is capable of such charging. The Mega (see specs) is fitted with CATL’s Qilin battery which is 5C capable and means that it can charge from 10-80% in as little as 10 minutes 36 seconds.

Under Li’s plans the 2000 supercharging stations will provide 10,000 charging piles, an average of five per station. This theoretically could mean charging a maximum of 25 cars per hour at each station. However, the stations are open to all EVs and most EVs in China do not support such fast charging meaning they will be taking up the pile for considerably longer than 10 minutes.

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Map showing the current coverage of Li Auto supercharging stations

Of the 500 superchargers installed to date, 416 are situated on highways which have been one of the biggest obstacles to EV motoring in China. Highways covered are the G2 Beijing-Shanghai Expressway, G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macao Expressway, G15 Shenhai Expressway-Shanghai-Haihai Section, and G25 Changshen Expressway-Hangzhou-Shenzhen Section. The expansion plan calls for superstations on the G1, G5, G30, G40, G42 and G45 along with additional sections of the G2, G4 and G15. The coverage aims to be 90% in key urban areas and more than 70% for national highways.

Note: the 500th station according to Li Auto opened in Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong Province.

Update: on July 1 Li Auto announced that as of June 30 the company had now opened 600 supercharging stations – an additional 100 in three days! Therefore 200 stations took 46 days which is still a lot under the required level but it makes the 2000 suddenly look a lot more achievable.

Sources: Li Auto, Autohome, PRNewswire, Autohome

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