Chinese Electric Car Battery Maker Ups the Ante

BluePark Intelligence secured over 300 million renminbi (US$46.3 million) in a A+ round to fund next generation battery-swapping and EV ecosystem.

BluePark Intelligence Energy Technology Company, the battery maker spinoff of China’s listed Electric Vehicle (EV) maker BAIC BluePark New Energy Technology Co Ltd (BAIC BluePark) has raised over US$46 million to fund R&D work, develop the market for its new generation of products, and build an “open ended energy service ecosystem”.

Both companies are part of the Beijing Automotive Industry Corp (BAIC) group of companies; hence the name prefix. The battery focused startup, founded in 2016, is often simply referred to as “BluePark Intelligence” (蓝谷智慧) in Chinese media.

According to one industry report, BAIC BluePark has “187 battery-swap stations in 15 Chinese cities for 16,000 electric powered taxis”. The company has reportedly sold more than half a billion EVs in China since it begun operations.

Advancing the EV battery ecosystem

BluePark Intelligence’s core businesses include building and operating EV battery-swap stations, as well as the echelon utilization of EV batteries (in layman terms — recycling decommissioned batteries for other uses).

The battery-swapping operation caters mainly to the taxi population as well as car sharing networks. The battery echelon utilization business provides electricity storage services as well as repurposed batteries for courier and delivery companies (whose riders often rely on electric bikes).

These two aspects of the EV battery space has received strong support from the Chinese government in recent years. Resting on this national push, BluePark Intelligence says it has developed proprietary intellectual property and data analytics that has helped it to secure strategic partnerships with numerous third parties.

Big name investors

Very little public information seems to be available on BluePark Intelligence itself. Most of the press coverage relates to its parent company BAIC BluePark which designs and manufactures EVs.

However, since BAIC is a state-owned enterprise, this latest A+ round from BluePark Intelligence has garnered other big name investors, in addition to capital injection from BAIC BluePark itself. Notably, one of them is SK Future Energy Shanghai, a wholly owned subsidiary of SK Innovation from Korea, which in turn, is part of the Korean conglomerate SK Group.

The other two external investors were listed Chinese battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL), and a private equity firm called Langfang Anpeng Equity Investment Fund Partnership (廊坊安鹏基金).

Advancing Battery-as-a-Service (BaaS)

BAIC BluePark claims to have pioneered battery-swapping for EVs in China, a business model which Nio — another Chinese EV maker which is now renowned as the most likely local competitor to Tesla in China — is also using for its vehicles. Nio has 143 battery-swapping stations in China, and plans to build 300 more in 2021. The whole swapping process takes only about six minutes.

Nio is also trying out a battery leasing model, whereby its EVs are sold for less if the owner choose to lease the battery instead of buying it with the vehicle. The company hopes this will boost sales of its new ES6 SUV model.

Either way, China is all for the battery-swapping model. The government is said to be “working to establish common industry standards for the procedure…to enable drivers to change batteries at any facility, no matter what EV they have…”

Given that Tesla had already tried and failed in the swap model some years back in the U.S., the world is watching to see if China can make it happen the way it always has — use central command policies and throwing money at it to force the adoption.