What happened

Shares of Chinese electric-vehicle maker Li Auto (LI 3.73%) were trading sharply higher on Tuesday. The company's stock price has been volatile since its initial public offering in July. 

As of 1:45 p.m. EDT, Li Auto's American depositary shares were up about 11.2% from Monday's closing price.

So what

Li Auto's shares have had a roller coaster ride since the company's initial public offering in the U.S. on July 30. 

LI Chart

LI data by YCharts.

Li isn't just another company with a business plan and good intentions, though. The company has been shipping its first vehicle, the Li One crossover SUV, since November of 2019 -- and it's a product with an intriguing differentiator.

While several companies, including Tesla (TSLA 3.17%) and Li's domestic rival NIO (NIO 0.62%), have targeted China's white-hot, upscale-SUV market segments with electric models, the Li One adds an interesting twist that may have been inspired by General Motors' (GM 0.87%) original Chevrolet Volt: an on-board generator.

A blue Li One, an upscale electric SUV.

The Li One SUV is an electric vehicle with an on-board generator for recharging. Image source: Li Auto.

The Li One is considered an electric vehicle, not a hybrid, but it has a gasoline-fueled generator on board that acts as a "range extender," recharging the SUV's battery on the fly when recharging stations aren't available.  

The thinking is this: While high-speed electric-vehicle chargers are common in and around major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they're still relatively scarce in many other parts of the country. But as in the United States, gas stations are plentiful just about everywhere. The Li One is an electric vehicle that won't leave its occupants stranded when there's no fast recharging station nearby. 

Now what

Some analysts who have looked closely at Li Auto see a lot to like. Two Wall Street banks initiated coverage of the company with bullish ratings last week, noting the appeal of the range extender and arguing that the company has the infrastructure and resources to ramp up production to around 500,000 vehicles per year by mid-decade. 

Li Auto is an intriguing company that isn't yet well-known in the U.S. but is in an industry (electric vehicles) that has benefited from intense interest from auto investors this year. Given that, it's not really surprising that its stock price has been volatile over the last few weeks.