Vehicle fires involving electric cars from Xpeng and Li Auto are sparking quality concerns a year after a series of blazes involving Tesla and Nio cars drew widespread media attention.

Why it matters: The incidents come just as Xpeng Motors and Li Auto debut on US stock markets, highlighting issues around EV quality control.

Details: An Xpeng G3 crossover caught fire in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Tuesday, Xpeng Motors reported on microblogging platform Weibo. Local firefighters extinguished the blaze and there were no injuries.

  • An initial investigation showed that the vehicle battery pack was severely damaged from bottom impact, which Xpeng said may have caused the fire.
  • The brand name of the battery was not disclosed. Xpeng started equipping its cars with the NCM 811 batteries from battery giant CATL in 2019, and had earlier sourced batteries from two smaller domestic battery makers.
  • The so-called NCM 811 battery, also used in Tesla and Nio EVs, contains 80% nickel, 10% cobalt, and 10% manganese. It is capable of a longer driving range compared to a lithium iron phospate (LFP) battery, but carries a higher thermal runaway risk.
  • The incident was the first combustion report for Xpeng. A company spokeswoman declined to comment.
  • A week ago, Li Auto said one of its Li One plug-in hybrid vehicles caught fire on an expressway in the southern Chinese city of Zhaoqing. Two passengers were hospitalized and under observation, according to a company announcement (in Chinese).
  • The Nasdaq-listed EV maker blamed the accident on what appeared to be iron bands snagged by the speeding SUV that smashed through the fuel pipe, sparking the fire. The final results from the investigation have not been revealed.
  • This was the second report from Li Auto about a fire involving one of its vehicles. There have been a series of quality complaints ranging from brakes to suspension problems over the past few months. Multiple car owners have requested additional plates to protect the vehicle chassis on the company’s online community forum.

Context: Xpeng is the latest in a number of Chinese EV makers which have filed for a US initial public offering, following rivals Nio and Li Auto. The Alibaba-backed company is looking to build up its war chest amid a stiffer competition in its home market thanks to Tesla.  

  • Li Auto delivered 2,516 units in July and Xpeng delivered 1,641 EVs to customers during the same time period. Together, the two EV makers have produced less than half the number of China-made sedans that Tesla has delivered, according to figures from China Passenger Car Association.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen