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”