Summary on Electric Vehicles at CES 2016

The International Consumer Electronics Show 2016 (CES 2016) took place in Las Vegas from 1/6 to 1/9. The presence of electric vehicles (EVs) have been growing over the past years (not counting the already numerous new in-car products that go into the EVs). This year, GM CEO Mary Barra and VW Passenger Cars CEO Herbert Diess went there and unveiled new EVs from the two companies respectively.

  1. Bolt from GM

It is GM’s first 200-mile all-electric car (the exact EPA range rating is not available yet). The car will be available towards the end of 2016 (model year 2017) and with a MSRP of $37,500 before any incentives.

Mary Barra did not disclose much on the specs during CES 2016, but now we know a few things from the Detroit Auto Show. The battery size is 60 kWh with a specific energy of about 138 Wh/kg. (Please find more data on specific energy on our homepage.) The electric motor can generate 150 kW (or 200 horsepower). The 0-60 mph acceleration probably takes less than 7 seconds.

As for the fast charging, Bolt can use 50 kW CCS charger for a boost of 90 miles worth in 30 minutes.

  1. BUDD-e concept from VW

It is a concept all-electric minivan with an EPA range of 233 miles. BUDD-e is modelled on the 1960s’ classic VW Bulli (also known as the Hippie Bus).

It has a 101 kWh battery. The cell format is yet to be decided; It can be 37 Ah, or the developing 60 Ah, or even something better.

Fast charging definitely will be an option, something like 30 mins to 80% SOC. It will use CCS charging protocol. High-voltage 800V charger is in discussion right now, which makes sense considering the big battery size.

  1. e-Golf Touch from VW

The special feature on this version of e-Golf is that there is a new generation of infotainment system equipped. The system includes a big screen and enables gesture control.

In terms of the performance improvement on 2017 e-Golf, there can a 30% increase in range from the current 83 miles EPA rating. VW will start to use cells with higher capacity than the previous ones (37 Ah vs. 25 Ah) but similar volume.

  1. FFZero1 concept from Faraday Future

The concept electric supercar was one of the hottest topics associated with CES 2016. It is designed to just fit the driver. The acceleration is pretty fast – <3 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. There is a helmet for the drive to get water and oxygen. It also features mirrorless architecture.

The car has “aero tunnels” to improve aerodynamics as well as to keep the batteries in operating temperature range. Other than this, very little is known on its battery system.

  1. Focus RS and Fusion from Ford

Focus RS is a much anticipated car, which is expected to feel like driving a GT but with a low price tag. It features a 2.3L EcoBoost engine with start-stop technology – so a microhybrid car.

Another Ford car on display was Fusion. 2017 models include a hybrid and another plug-in hybrid Energi. The electro-range of Energi is expected to remain at 19 miles.

  1. i8 Spyder concept from BMW

This is the convertible version of the plug-in hybrid i8. It features the i Future Interaction concept including the gesture control system AirTouch. BMW also presented the concept of Mirrorless technology on the standard i8.

  1. EHang 184 concept from EHang

It is not a conventional electric vehicle, because it is a human-flying quadcopter drone. However, it is also called “Autonomous Aerial Vehicle”, powered by battery. The drone can fit one person inside and fly 23 minutes with an average speed of 100 km/h (or 62 miles/h). The maximum power is 106 kW and the energy consumption for one trip is 14.4 kWh. (Please read our previous article Nice Concept EHang 184 Human-flying Electric Drone Calls for a Better Battery.)

Nice Concept EHang 184 Human-flying Electric Drone Calls for a Better Battery

One of the nice surprises during CES 2016 ought to be the claimed first ever concept drone that can autonomously fly a human being – the EHang 184.

It is essentially a quadcopter with a big enough cabin. According to the specs on the company’s website, there are two 1.5m propellers loaded on each shaft, 8 in total. The cabin is roughly 2 meters high and 1 meter wide, quite roomy for a person.

Inside the cabin, it’s got a good-looking seat and a 12-inch touchscreen stretching to the front. There are features like air conditioning, 4G network, a trunk for up to 16-inch luggage, a reading light and a downward camera. This thing can hover for 23 minutes and fly at an average speed of 100 km/h (or 62 miles/h). It translates into roughly 38 km or 24 miles in distance.

Now let us talk about different scenarios for the battery. Our starting point is the 14.4 kWh needed for a trip and the 106 kW maximum output, from the specs online.

One scenario would be to use a battery of just 14.4 kWh. Based on the specific energy  data of current lithium-ion battery packs in electric cars (available at our homepage), a 14.4 kWh battery pack most likely weigh more than 100 kg. For example, the newly released Chevrolet Bolt electric car from GM has a 60 kWh battery which is as heavy as 435 kg.

The net weight of EHang 184 is 200 kg. Can half of the weight come from the battery for drones?

Even if the answer is yes, there certainly is room for batteries to improve. United State Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC, formed by Fiat Chrysler, Ford and GM) set a goal of 235 Wh/kg for battery packs by the year of 2020. Then the 14.4 kWh would weigh around 60 kg.

Now say EHang can carry the 14.4 kWh battery around. Pulling 106 kW out of it can be another issue. The Chevy Bolt 60 kWh battery’s power is 150 kW –  a power-to-energy ratio of 2.5. In this scenario for EHang 184, the power-to-energy ratio is over 7.

Actually there is high-power batteries on the market, like the Microvast LpCo batteries. They can have a power-to-energy ratio of 4, but at the sacrifice of the specific energy, meaning the batteries are much heavier at the same energy.

As another scenario, say the drone needs 20% additional energy reservoir (it probably should), then the battery size is 17.3 kWh. It leaves 80 kg for other components of the drone. And still, the power-to-energy ratio is too high.

What if we keep the power-to-energy ratio and the power requirement at 4 and 106 kW respectively? Then we need a 26.5 kWh battery. The mass of this battery will be very close to 200kg already.

As we can see, EHang 184 put quite some pressure on the battery technology, namely higher specific energy so batteries can weigh less, and higher power-to-energy ratio so batteries can output more power. These (and many other parameters like cost, safety and temperature tolerance) are in line with the current demand on battery performance from the car industry.

EHang 184 looks like a nice technical concept with good market outlook. Maybe we should build such a battery to make it fly.

Uber and Guangzhou Automobile Form Strategic Partnership in China – Electric Cars a Focus

Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd. (GAC) announced that it has become a strategic investor of Uber China in Dec. 21, 2015. The investment amount was undisclosed. This can be part of Uber China’s (ongoing maybe) Series B round fundraising, with a valuation of $6-7 billion. Moreover, Uber filed documents for a $2.1 billion Series G round fundraising on Dec. 3, 2015, which could lead to a value of $64.6 billion afterwards.

GAC is controlled by Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group, which is a Fortune Global 500 company (ranked at No. 362 in 2015, with revenues of $33.237 billion in 2014). GAC’s revenues in the first 3 quarters of 2015 are $2.92 billion (or 18.95 billion yuan), increased by 21.2% as compared with the same period of 2014. The company also has joint ventures with carmakers such as Honda, Toyota and Fiat in China.

Uber and GAC will collaborate on promoting electric cars, besides investment, sales and marketing. GAC currently produces an electric SUV Trumpchi GS4 EV and a range-extended electric sedan (a type of plug-in hybrid) Trumpchi GA5 REV. Trumpchi GS4 EV has an electro-range (a car’s range on electric) of 150 miles (or 240 km) while Trumpchi GA5 REV’s electro-range is 50 miles (or 80 km). The carmaker will start to sell another 2 models in 2016 as well – plug-in hybrid sedan Trumpchi GA3S PHEV and SUV GS4 PHEV.

This partnership is believed to benefit GAC in terms of fast growth in the market of new energy cars, both domestically and globally. In first half of 2015, GAC was ranked at No. 3 in China in terms of the number of plug-in hybrid electric cars produced but was outside of top 10 for electric cars. On the other hand, the partnership can help Uber building up an environmental-friendly image. As a company offering ridesharing services, it has direct relevance to greenhouse gas emissions and our ecosystems, in a positive way. According to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation accounts for 27% of US greenhouse gas emissions and 90% of the fuel in this category consists of gasoline and diesel.

Uber, in March 2015, put a first fleet of 25 electric cars on the road of Chicago, in collaboration with Green Wheels and BYD. The electric cars are BYD e6, with a real-world range of about 140 miles.

A New Tesla Car Will Be First Released in Korea in 2016?

There are reports recently from Korea and China saying that Tesla is releasing a “Model E” in Jeju Island of Korea in 2016. The information online indicated that the price would be $35,655 before government incentives and the car could drive up to 320 km (equals to 198.8 miles) with a 48 kWh battery equipped.

The price and mileage disclosed resembles the expected specs for the upcoming Tesla Model 3, which will be shown to the public in March 2016 (probably during the Geneva Motor Show) and start production in 2017 according to the CEO Elon Musk. The battery of Model 3 is largely speculated at 50-60 kWh at this point to our best knowledge and may come from Tesla Gigafactory.

Tesla in 2014 considered naming its Gen III model as Model E and filed a trademark application. However, later the company abandoned the application. Ford filed a similar application to trademark Model E a few months after Tesla and sticks with the application later on. Tesla then named the new car Model 3 (maybe with three horizontal bars to represent).

So, can the “Model E” for Jeju be the “Model 3”? Regarding the trademark registration, US and Korea both are members of the Madrid Protocol treaty, which permits the holders of US applications and/or registrations to extend their rights to more than 80 country members. The trademark applicants do need to fill requests for this extension through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In this regard, a different company could still have trademarked Model E in Korea.

We will be waiting for official information from Tesla and maybe its Korean office – Tesla Korea Limited (which was registered on Nov. 13, 2015) After all, one report on the Jeju “Model E” mentioned also that the car would be released in the US and other countries in early 2016 as well, and the “Model E” photo in that report looked like Tesla Model X indeed. Or maybe the wording “release” in the report simply meant the start of taking orders. This would agree with the timeline Elon Musk has conveyed.  Regardless, it would be interesting to see how close the numbers – $35,655 for the price and 48 kWh for the battery energy – can be to those of Model 3 after the car comes out.

Korea can be an important market for Tesla. The CTO JB Straubel in November 2015 described that Tesla was “committed” to and saw a “great potential” in this market, during the Energy Korea Forum. A Model 3 crossover and a Model Y may also be in the pipeline.

Top 10 Rankings on EV Battery Manufacturers and Battery Material Suppliers in China – Part 3

China is one of the most important markets for new energy vehicles. This is the Part 3 of the report on 2015 Top 10 Lists on electric car (EV) lithium-ion battery (LIB) manufacturers and cathode material, anode material, electrolyte and separator suppliers in China, released by CCID Consulting and itdcw.com. (Please also see Part 1 and Part 2)

Electrolyte Suppliers

China produced more than half of the electrolyte in the world in recent years (for example, the percentage was 51.7% in 2012). In 2014, 42 thousand tons were sold. The production was estimated at over 50 thousand tons in 2015.

  1. Capchem

Current production capacity is 10 thousand tons/year. Planned total capacity will be 45 thousand tons/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $26.2 million (or 0.17 billion yuan), increased by 18.39% as compared with the same period in 2014. The customers include Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, Lishen, BYD, BAK and Coslight. The company sells chemicals for capacitors as well. In 2014, R&D expenses were 4.61% of the revenue.

  1. Tinci

Current production capacity is 12 thousand tons/year (including 5 thousand tons at Kaixin, acquired in 2014). Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $11.6 million (or 75 million yuan). Tinci supplies electrolyte products to customers such as Guoxuan, Wanxiang A123, Coslight, BYD and Sony. 5.1% of the revenue from the first half of 2015 was put into R&D. It also makes lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6) currently at 1,000 tons/year and plans to expand to 4,000 tons/year soon. The company can see significant growth in profit thanks to the recent price jump of battery raw materials. (Please see our previous article on Lithium-ion Battery Supply Chain Alert! Hot New Energy Vehicle Market in China Drives Demand (and Price) High on Raw Materials)

  1. Smooth Way

Current production capacity is 7 thousand tons/year. Another 5 thousand tons/year are planned. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $13.1 million (or 85 million yuan). ATL is the company’s major customer.

  1. Guotai-Huarong

Current production capacity is 10 thousand tons/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $27.7 million (or 0.18 billion yuan). The company was among the first manufacturers in China to mass produce the electrolyte. Its customers include ATL, Lishen, LG and Panasonic. Cathode materials can be its next line of products.

  1. Jinniu

Current production capacity is 5 thousand tons/year. Revenue in 2014 is $30.8 million (or 0.2 billion yuan). Jinniu started to develop LiPF6 earlier than other competitors in China and is among the first to commercialize it. Now it is facing competitions from Do-Fluoride and Tinci. In the first half of 2015, it made 700 tons of the salt, all of which are for its own electrolyte. The percentage of R&D investment in revenue is kept high at about 8% in recent year.

The rest of the Top 10 list on electrolyte suppliers includes Kaixin, Shanshan Battery Material, JGHITEC, KUNLUNCHEM and BICR.

Separator Suppliers

Separator production in China accounted for 48% of the global production in 2014.

  1. Mingzhu

Current production capacity is 50 million square meters/year. The capacity will ramp up to 140 million square meters/year by 2017. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $10.8 million (or 70 million yuan). Its customers include BYD and CALB.

  1. Senior

Current production capacity is 80 million square meters/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $23.1 million (or 0.15 billion yuan). As one of the biggest separator suppliers in China, Senior’s customers include LG Chem, BYD, Lishen, CALB and Guoxuan. It is among a few Chinese companies that supply to major battery manufacturers overseas.

  1. Zhongke

Current production capacity is 100 million square meters/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $27.7 million (or 0.18 billion yuan). Zhongke is one of the first separator companies in China. Its products (with the brand of Green) are leading the industry in terms of square meters sold. The list of its customers covers the majority of battery makes in China.

  1. BNE

Current production capacity is 72 million square meters/year and the capacity will be expanded into 110 million square meters/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $9.2 million (or 60 million yuan). Its customers include CALB and Coslight. Newly founded in 2010, BNE grows in a fast pace and was evaluated at $138.6 million (or 0.9 billion yuan) in 2014.

  1. HongTu

Current production capacity is 20 million square meters/year and a 45 million-square meter plant is under construction. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $3.1 million (or 20 million yuan). It supplies the separator to companies like Lishen and will enter Samsung and Wanxiang A123 as well.

The rest of the Top 10 list on separator suppliers includes DG, Jinhui, Yuntianhua Niumi (website not available), FSDH (website note available), Huiqiang.

Top 10 Rankings on EV Battery Manufacturers and Battery Material Suppliers in China – Part 2

China is one of the most important markets for new energy vehicles. This is the Part 2 of the report on 2015 Top 10 Lists on electric car (EV) lithium-ion battery (LIB) manufacturers and cathode material, anode material, electrolyte and separator suppliers in China, released by CCID Consulting and itdcw.com. (Please also see Part 1 and Part 3)

Cathode Material Suppliers

China is a leading county for producing cathode materials for LIB. It produced 23,730 tons in Q2/2015, or a 41.3% increase over the same period of 2014.

  1. Shanshan New Material

Current production capacity is 15 thousand tons/year. The production will ramp up to 30 thousand tons/year by 2016. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $157.1 million (or 1.02 billion yuan) and the profit increases by 100% as compared with the same period of 2014. Its customers include ATL, BYD, Lishen and LG Chem. Shanshan Corporation owns Shanshan New Material for cathode, Shanshan Tech for anode and Shanshan Battery Material for electrolyte.

  1. Pulead

Production capacity was 15 thousand tons/year by 2014. Revenue in 2014 is $115.5 million (or 0.75 billion yuan). Peking University is one founding party of the company. Products include lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2, or LCO), lithium nickel cobalt manganese oxide (LiNixCoyMnzO2 x+y+z=1, or NCM) and lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4, or LFP). Customers include ATL, CATL, Lishen and Coslight.

  1. Reshine

Current production capacity is 15 thousand tons/year. Revenue in 2014 is $223.4 million (or 1.45 billion yuan). Products include LCO, NCM and precursors. Reshine is among the first Chinese cathode manufacturers who entered the global market and supplies the materials to battery makers such as Samsung, LG Chem, SK Innovation and Toshiba.

  1. Jinhe (website not available)

Current production capacity is 9 thousand tons/year for cathode materials and 16 thousand tons/year for precursors. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $49.3 million (or 0.32 billion yuan). It makes NCM and lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (LiNi0.8Co0.15Al0.05O2, or NCA). The customers include Samsung, LG Chem, ATL, CATL and Lishen.

  1. Easpring

Current production capacity is 9 thousand tons/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $52.4 million (or 0.34 billion yuan). It’s also a first Chinese supplier to export the cathode materials. Its major products are LCO and NCM. In 2014, Easpring started to develop NCA with Korean company GS Energy. Customers include BYD, BAK, Lishen, ATL, Samsung, SK Innovation, LG Chem, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba. It produces 6 thousand tons of anode materials a year as well.

The rest of the Top 10 list on cathode material suppliers includes Tungsten , B&M, Kelong, Changyuan Lico and Zhenhua (website not available).

Anode Material Suppliers

China and Japan are two major anode producers. In 2014, China produced 51.6 thousand tons of anode materials, which equals to a 47.43% increase over 2013.

  1. BTR

Current production capacity is 30 thousand tons/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $104.8 million (or 0.68 billion yuan). BTR is the major supplier for Samsung, LG Chem, SK Innovation and Panasonic. It reacts fast on technology upgrade. One example is that the company stays at the front of the commercialization of high-energy silicon anode materials.

  1. Shanshan Tech

Current production capacity is 15 thousand tons/year. Another expansion of 35 thousand tons/year is underway. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $63.2 million (or 0.41 billion yuan). Shanshan Tech is a subsidiary of Shanshan Corporation. It is a leading supplier on artificial graphite and also is developing silicon, soft carbon and lithium titanate (Li4Ti5O12, or LTO). Customers include LG Chem, Sony, ATL and Lishen.

  1. Shinzoom

Current production capacity is 10 thousand tons/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $5.1 million (or 32.8 million yuan). Graphite materials are its major products. The company also is developing silicon carbon composites, hard carbon and soft carbon. Customers include BYD and CATL. One of Shinzoom’s investors is Easpring.

  1. Zichen

Current production capacity is 10 thousand tons/year. The company plans to increase the production capacity to 40 thousand tons/year. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $15.4 million (or 0.1 billion yuan). Zichen is ATL’s major supplier. The products are mainly used in high-capacity LIBs.

  1. Sinuo

Current production capacity is 8 thousand tons/year. Revenue in 2015 is $12.3 million (or 80 million yuan). Sinuo is focused on artificial graphite products and trying to supply to major battery manufacturers.

The rest of the Top 10 list on anode material suppliers includes CHNM , Zeto, HGL, Hirong and Kimwan.

Top 10 Rankings on EV Battery Manufacturers and Battery Material Suppliers in China – Part 1

China will soon officially be the world biggest market for new energy vehicles in 2015. 279.2 thousand of such vehicles were manufactured there up to November in 2015 and the number of them sold was comparable to the number manufactured in the past. (Please see our previous article on Lithium-ion Battery Supply Chain Alert! Hot New Energy Vehicle Market in China Drives Demand (and Price) High on Raw Materials) In comparison, the new energy vehicle sales in the US was only 103 thousand during the same period.

CCID Consulting (Controlled by Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, MIIT) and itdcw.com jointly released 2015 Top 10 List on electric car (EV) lithium-ion battery (LIB) manufacturers and cathode, anode, electrolyte and separator suppliers in China recently. The rankings were based on companies overall competitiveness. This is the Part 1 of the report. (Please also see Part 2 and Part 3)

EV Lithium-ion Battery Manufacturers

  1. BYD

Current production capacity is 4.5 GWh and by 2016, the production capacity is expected to reach 10 GWh. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $462.4 million (or 3 billion yuan). Its major line of EV battery products are based on lithium iron phosphate cathode material. All of its EV batteries are used in its own vehicles such as the EV model e6 and plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) model Tang and Qin.

  1. CATL

Current production capacity is 1.4 GWh. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $146.4 million (or 0.95 billion yuan). CATL is quite competitive in the global market, making it a supplier to BMW. It has already drawn attention from the competitors in Japan and Korea.

  1. Guoxuan

Current production capacity is 1.5 GWh. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $115.6 million (or 0.75 billion yuan). It covers a whole value chain from cathode materials to battery packs. The market value is $3.8 billion (or 25 billion yuan). Its batteries are mainly used in buses.

  1. Wanxiang A123

Current production capacity is 1 GWh. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $54.0 million (or 0.35 billion yuan). It’s one of the leading companies in China to manufacture pouch EV cells. Wanxiang in 2013 acquired A123’s assets for about $256.6 million, and purchased battery technologies from Leyden in 2014. Also in 2014, Wanxiang sold the grid-scale battery business to NEC for $100 million and acquired the assets of Fisker Automotive for $149.2 million.

  1. Coslight

Current production capacity is 0.5 GWh. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $54.0 million (or 0.35 billion yuan). It’s one of the top lead-acid battery producers in China, which helps the company find success in EV LIBs. It is mainly focused on prismatic batteries and also owns considerable share in the stationary energy storage market.

  1. Lishen

Current production capacity is 1 GWh. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $87.9 million (or 0.57 billion yuan). It’s a subsidiary of state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC). Lishen is a top cell supplier for consumer electronics. Cylindrical 18650 cells are the primary EV battery products.

  1. BAK

Current production capacity is 0.6 GWh. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $7.7 million (or 50 million yuan). BAK is considered as a pioneer of cylindrical EV batteries in China and is listed on NASDAQ.

  1. CALB

Current production capacity is 2 GWh. The company is building a 5 GWh plant and also plans to invest $1.9 billion (or 12.5 billion yuan) on EV batteries. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $61.7 million (or 0.4 billion yuan). CALB is a state-owned company. Most of its customers are bus makers.

  1. Microvast

Current production capacity is 1.5 GWh and another 4 GWh plant is under construction. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $69.4 million (or 0.45 billion yuan). The company is focused on fast charging technologies for buses. Its LpCo cells can be fully charged and discharged in less than 15 mins (Please refer to our Battery Status Tracker for more data).

  1. Wina

Current production capacity is 1 GWh. Revenue in the first half of 2015 is $30.8 million (or 0.2 billion yuan). Its core technology is on prismatic cell and the major application is for buses.

The Cells in Tesla’s 90 kWh Model S that “Partially Use Silicon” – What Can They Be?

One thing noted in Tesla’s Model S update announcement back in July is the introduction of silicon in the anode of the cell. This change enables the battery pack to deliver 90 kWh of energy on a single charge, a roughly 6% boost from the previous 85 kWh system. Although Elon Musk was trying to keep it low by describing the move as “a baby step in the direction of using silicon”, the news had stirred up some excitement in the battery community. It had been long overdue to see silicon anode’s debut in an electric car (EV) battery.

Silicon has the potential to help lithium-ion batteries meet 350 Wh/kg on the cell level and 235 Wh/kg on the pack level (United States Advanced Battery Consortium USABC CY 2020 goals for EV batteries). The state-of-the-art graphite does not have this potential; the highest energy density reported with graphite anode was less than 250 Wh/kg to our knowledge (243 Wh/kg for Panasonic 3400mAh NCR18650B cell). Also, Argonne National Lab reported by simulation that the energy density of packs would not be able to exceed 200 Wh/kg if only graphite was used. This promise of silicon comes from the fact that 1g of silicon can store 3578 mAh of charges while graphite can only do 373 mAh/g. The energy of a cell or a pack is simply the product of the voltage and the amount of charges. It should be mentioned that this 10-fold difference in specific capacity cannot be translated into 10-fold difference in specific energy mainly due to the weight from other components in a cell.

The interest in silicon anode started in the early 80s and the nanopowder approach that prevails now was first explored by Hong Li et al in 1999. However, even up to now, silicon shows impractical short cycle life in the pilot production scale, stemming from the 280% volume change between the charged and the discharge states as well as the physical properties of silicon and its lithium alloys. Panasonic was reported in 2009 to have been developing silicon-based 4000mAh 18650 cells for fiscal 2012 volume production, but they are not yet available to our knowledge.

Currently, 5-10% of silicon can be blended with graphite as the anode material and the cell can exhibit comparable cycle life as graphite does. This probably is what “partially use silicon” meant in Elon’s comment.

The Model S had been using Panasonic’s 3100mAh NCR18650A before the update announcement. The cell is based on NCA cathode/synthetic graphite anode couple (NCA refers lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide, LiNi0.8Co0.15Al0.05O2). It should be acknowledged that Tesla represents the technical approach on using 18650 cells for EV applications.

The 3400mAh NCR18650B from 2012 is with the same electrode chemistries. It has been seen since then that 3 newer Panasonic 18650 cells might have silicon (silicon oxide actually) mixed in the anode – 3400mAh NCR18650BF, 3500mAh NCR18650GA and 3600mAh NCR18650G.

NCR18650BF is 2g lighter than NCR18650B with the same rated capacity and nominal voltage, according to the tentative specs available online. The energy density is 248 Wh/kg (a slight 2% increase based on NCR18650B). NCR18650GA’s energy density was estimated at 255 Wh/kg (a 5% increase based on NCR18650B), although the cell is a bit heavy at 48.0g. NCR18650G has high capacity and there is some improvement on weight and dimensions from NCR18650GA, so the estimated energy density was 269 Wh/kg (a 11% increase based on NCR18650B). The specs of NCR18650GA and NCR18650G also are available online. NCR18650GA is being sold at places like orbtronic.com and fasttech.com, and NCR18650G at places like keeppower.com. It should be noted that these 3 cells are not listed on Panasonic official website.

Other cell manufacturers might be using silicon in the anode as well, such as LG Chem’s 3500mAh INR18650-MJ1 and Samsung’s INR18650-35E.

Lithium-ion Battery Supply Chain Alert! Hot Electric Vehicle Market in China Drives Demand (and Price) High on Raw Materials

New energy vehicle production has seen an increase of 500% in China in November as compared with the same period of last year, according to the recent data published by Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China (MIIT). In this month, China manufactured a number of 72.3 thousand of such vehicles, which brings to a total of 279.2 thousand between January and November this year, or a 4-time jump from a year earlier. Lead electric carmakers there include BYD, Geely, Jiangnan and BAIC.

Nearly 100% of new energy vehicles sold in China in the past two years are pure electric and hybrid electric vehicles (EVs) (MIIT defines new energy vehicles as vehicles powered by pure electric, hybrid electric, fuel cell, solar cell, hydrogen fuel and other new energy storage systems). EV’s rapid growth has posed high demand on lithium-ion battery (LIB) supply. The domestic EV market size can reach 12.5GWh, but the current battery supply capacity in China is only 5GWh, less than half of the demand.

As a result, the prices for several LIB raw materials have been ramping up significantly over the past months.

Lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6), the salt in the liquid electrolyte, can be quoted at as high as $40 thousand/ton (or 260 thousand yuan/ton) in December, rising from $14 thousand/ton (or 90 thousand yuan/ton) at the beginning of the year. The increase is almost 2 times.  The high price has pushed up the price of the electrolyte by 20-30% and electrolyte manufacturers plan to further adjust the price in January 2016.

Lithium carbonate (Li2CO3), the precursor for synthesizing cathode materials and LiPF6, sells now for $18.6 thousand/ton (or 120 thousand yuan/ton) in China, as compared with an average $8.5 thousand/ton (or 55 thousand yuan/ton) in September. The price is skyrocketing in just 3 months. US company FMC also announced that it would increase the price for lithium carbonate by 15%, effective in October this year.

The demand on separator increases to 620 million square meters in China this year, up by 36% from last year. In early 2015, the average price was $0.6/m2 (or 4 yuan/m2). However, the supply has become tight in recent months and battery OEMs can be paying as high as $1.2/m2 (or 8 yuan/m2) nowadays.

In response, suppliers are expanding their capacities. For LiPF6, 3 major Chinese companies Tinci, Do-Fluoride and Jiujiujiu each will double their annual production, to 14,000 tons in total by 2016. Despite this increase, there still can be a gap of 3000 tons globally to meet next year. In the case of Li2CO3, Tianqi and Ganfeng in China is ramping up to 27,500 and 11,000 tons/year respectively. Albermarle’s new 20,000-ton plant in Chile also expects to start offering the salt in 2016.  Regarding the separator, Mingzhu is on its way to 140 million square meters by 2017 and HongTu’s 45 million-square meter plant is under construction. On the flip side, there could be excess capacity in the coming years.

The impact of this round of price increase on battery and EV segments is yet to be figured out. For one thing, assuming that the electrolyte in a cell costs 15% of the total, if the cost of electrolyte increases by 50%, we may see the cost of the cell go up by 7.5%. Continue reading “Lithium-ion Battery Supply Chain Alert! Hot Electric Vehicle Market in China Drives Demand (and Price) High on Raw Materials”