China's Li Auto to mass produce first fully electric EV in Feb

Staff members stand at the booth of Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker Li Auto, at a shopping mall in Beijing

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Li Auto said on Friday it will start mass production and delivery of its first fully electric car in February, as the up-and-coming Chinese automaker bets on fast-charging technology to solve range anxiety for EV users.

Li Auto said its MEGA multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), with a waterdrop-shaped front design, is to be equipped with 800-volt charging architecture and Chinese battery giant CATL's latest Qilin batteries. The combination would give the MEGA a range of 500 km (310 miles) on a 12-minute charge, the company said.

Li Auto, which has already started taking pre-orders in China for the new model at an estimated price of under 600,000 yuan ($83,000), also touted the low air resistance of its streaming design, which reduces energy consumption and extends the driving range.

The MEGA, which received more than 10,000 orders by noon (0400 GMT), is taking on global auto brands in the large-sized MPV market they still dominate with gasoline vehicles. Li Auto aims to outsell BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi in China in 2024.

"The MEGA is appealing to wealthier, millennium generation Chinese families who are increasingly having more children and need vehicles in this size," said Bill Russo, CEO of Shanghai-based advisory firm Automobility.

"All that existed for that category was a way too expensive Toyota Alphard and a GM GL8, which is a basically a businessman's lease car... they don't pay attention to anything other than the driver."

China Merchants Bank International Securities analyst, Shi Ji, said in a note last week that Li Auto expected a monthly sales volume of 5,000 units or higher for MEGA.

Mercedes Benz is the current market leader in the MPV segment, aiming its Vito model at business users with average monthly sales of 1,400 units.

Li Auto declined to comment on its monthly sales target.

"Li Auto's MEGA will become the top choice of cars priced above 500,000 yuan for family users, the model with the highest sales among cars in that price range of all fuel types and sizes," the company said.

The MEGA MPV will be the first model made at Li Auto's Beijing plant, which has a design capacity of 100,000 units a year.

Founded in 2015, Li Auto offers four extended range hybrid SUVs priced above 300,000 yuan and designed for family users. It ranked seventh by sales volume in the first ten months this year among manufacturers of electric and hybrid cars in China and hasn't unveiled any plans to sell its cars overseas.

The company posted net income of 2.82 billion yuan in the third quarter and revenue of 34.68 billion yuan.

($1 = 7.2441 yuan)

(Reporting by Zhang Yan and Brenda Goh; Editing by Tom Hogue and Miral Fahmy)