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Five times the output, China’s high-nickel material battery is coming.

On the track of the power battery industry, the Chinese "players" NCM523 and NCM333 are steadily running, and the NCM622 is struggling to catch up. The more potential NCM811 has just started from the starting line, but the momentum is very strong.

NCM333, NCM523, NCM622, and NCM811 are several subdivision types of ternary power batteries. The ternary power battery refers to a lithium battery in which the positive electrode material is a nickel salt, a cobalt salt or an aluminum/manganese salt which is formulated in a certain ratio, that is, nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) or nickel cobalt manganese (NCM).

Due to the difficulty in the development of nickel-cobalt-aluminum batteries, its core technology is still in the hands of Japanese companies. The main supply business of nickel-cobalt-aluminum materials is mainly Japanese companies such as Sumitomo Metal, Nippon Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. and Toda Chemical. At present, there are relatively few enterprises that develop nickel-cobalt-aluminum batteries in China.

More companies use nickel-cobalt-manganese materials. The role of nickel is to increase the volumetric energy density of the material. Cobalt is used to improve the cycle and rate performance of the material. Manganese is mainly used to improve safety and structural stability.

According to the mixing ratio of nickel-cobalt-manganese, nickel-cobalt-manganese materials can be classified into 333, 523, 622, 811 and the like according to the nickel content from low to high. At present, the specific energy of the battery using NCM523 material in China can reach 160-200Wh/Kg, NCM622 can reach about 230Wh/Kg, and NCM811/NCA can reach 280Wh/Kg.

At the 3rd International Summit on 2018 Power Battery Applications held in early November, Wang FANg, chief expert in the field of power battery of China Automotive Technology and Research Center, mentioned that from the perspective of industrialization, China's power battery industry is in the NCM523 and NCM333 era, NCM622. At the pilot stage, the NCM811 is in the development phase, but the actual development is faster than expected.

According to data from the China Automotive Power Battery Industry Innovation Alliance, as of September this year, the cumulative sales of China's power batteries was 45.6 GWh, and ternary batteries accounted for more than half. Among them, NCM523 material battery is still the mainstream, but the growth rate of NCM811 material battery can not be underestimated.

"811" first year

According to the requirements of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for the Automotive Industry, by 2020, the new energy steam power battery cell has a specific energy of more than 300Wh/kg, and strives to achieve 350Wh/kg. The system strives to reach 260Wh/kg, and the cost is reduced. 1 yuan / Wh or less. By 2025, new energy vehicles account for more than 20% of automobile production and sales, and the power battery system has a specific energy of 350Wh/kg.

Considering the increase in energy density of power batteries and the impact of rising global cobalt prices, the NCO811 material battery with less cobalt and high nickel has become the focus of research and development.

In May, Shenzhen BAK Power Battery Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as BAK Battery) began mass production of 18650-3.0Ah power battery cells using high-nickel 811 materials. Four months later, BAK Battery announced that its 811 products accounted for more than 50% of the power battery shipments, and it has been used in a variety of models.

At the China International Energy Conservation and New Energy Vehicle Exhibition held in October, BAK Battery also demonstrated a high-nickel 811 material battery that has been mass-produced. According to BAK Battery, the 21700-4.8Ah cylindrical battery has reached the highest capacity level in the world.

Founded in 2001, BAK Battery is mainly engaged in R&D, production and sales of lithium-ion batteries. It is one of the representative enterprises of domestic cylindrical batteries. According to data from the study of truth, in the first three quarters of this year, BAK battery installed capacity accounted for 2.8% of the national market share, ranking sixth.

In addition to BAK batteries, there are many battery companies in China that have announced their high-nickel battery production plans.

At present, Tianjin Lishen Battery Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Tianjin Lishen) has realized mass production of high-nickel 811 material batteries, and related models have entered the recommended catalogue. And the company developed the NCA high specific energy power battery, the battery specific energy has exceeded 300Wh / kg.

According to PushEvs, the power battery giant Ningde Times plans to introduce the NCM811 power battery in 2019. Huang Shilin, president of Ningde Times, once stated that the company plans to achieve a battery energy density of 300Wh/Kg by 2020. BYD and Guoxuan Hi-Tech also proposed a similar plan.

The above three companies ranked first, second and fourth in the country in the first three quarters of this year.

Established in 2011, Ningde Times was independently formed by the global battery giant ATL's power battery business. Since 2017, Ningde era has surpassed Japan's Matsushita to become the world's largest supplier of power battery shipments, and successfully listed in 2018. By the end of this year, production capacity is expected to exceed 31.5 Gwh. BYD's production capacity is 28GWh. Guoxuan Hi-Tech was established in 2006 and landed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2014 with a production capacity of approximately 16GWh.

Penghui Energy, Yiwei Lithium Energy and other companies also said that they have completed the process of high-nickel 811 batteries from product technology breakthroughs, to small batch production, to customer sample certification testing.

When the positive electrode material company Dangsheng Technology accepted investor research at the beginning of this year, it said that it has achieved mass production of high-nickel 811 cathode materials, and this year's annual production and sales will maintain a substantial growth.

At present, the price of NCM811 is about 240,000 yuan/ton, which is higher than the price of NCM523. However, due to the reduction of cobalt consumption, the former cost is about 14,000/ton lower than the latter. Therefore, the gross profit of NCM81 tons will increase by 3.9-4.4 million yuan.

According to the real lithium research, driven by demand, the total production of NCM811 batteries in 2018 will reach 10-15 times last year.

In the first quarter of this year, the domestic ternary material output was about 31,700 tons, an increase of 64.26%. Among them, conventional NCM models (including NCM523 and NCM333) accounted for 78%; NCM622 models accounted for 14%; NCM811/NCA accounted for 8%, an obvious increase. Two years ago, NCM811/NCA had a market share of less than 1%.

Therefore, in 2018, it was called the high-nickel 811 mass production year in the industry.

According to a recent report released by UBS, the market share of NCM811 will expand rapidly after 2020. By 2025, NCM622, NCM811 and NCA of ternary materials will form a three-pronged pattern.

Difficult to move forward

Due to the adjustment of the proportion of nickel-cobalt-manganese, the high-nickel material such as NCM811 increases the nickel ratio and greatly increases the energy density of the battery, and also causes the battery thermal stability to continue to decrease, thereby affecting the safety of the battery.

Nickel also affects the reversible specific capacity and cycle performance of the battery during the reaction process, resulting in a problem that the battery cycle performance is weakened and the charging efficiency is lowered, which hinders large-scale application.

Industry consensus, although the domestic NCM523 and NCM622 battery preparation technology is relatively mature, but the production of NCM811 battery is still not easy.

Due to the chemical nature of nickel itself, it is easy to cause the precipitation of lithium, which affects the subsequent processing such as mixing and coating. This is a major problem that needs to be solved in the production of NCM811.

The production of single cells mainly includes mixing, coating, baking, rolling, and slitting. The mixture is mixed with the positive and negative solid battery materials, and then added to the solvent, and stirred into a slurry by a vacuum mixer. In the coating step, the positive and negative electrodes are coated on the surface of the current collector (copper foil, aluminum foil) to fabricate the plates.

In an interview with reporters, Li Yanbin, chief engineer of Becker battery cylindrical battery, said that in the process of producing NCM811 battery, BAK needs various factors such as selection and ratio of cathode material, slurry and electrolyte, as well as process and manufacturing environment. Make improvements. She cites, for example, "considering the high oxidizing properties of high-nickel materials, the water used in production has also been adjusted."

Relevant persons pointed out that at present, there are still few batteries using NCM811 material on the positive electrode material, which is generally a small-scale test stage, but the NCM811 material is doped with NCM333 or lithium manganate and the like as the positive electrode material. It is already more common. "Strictly speaking, there is a difference between using 811 cathode material and NCM811 battery," he said.

According to the source, the use of mixed materials can increase the energy density while greatly improving safety. Enterprises verify the reliability of technology by gradually increasing the proportion of NCM811 materials, which is also considered as one of the methods to develop high-nickel battery technology.

"At present, only NCM811 cylindrical 18650 battery has the possibility of mass production in technology. The high-nickel batteries in other package forms have yet to be further studied." The relevant person told reporters that the production process of domestic 18650 cylindrical battery is more mature and stable. , laid a good foundation for the application of NCM811 material.

The 18650 is a standard lithium-ion battery model, a cylindrical battery with a diameter of 18mm and a length of 65mm.

Cylindrical, soft and square are the different packages of power batteries. At present, the cylindrical power battery production process is the most mature, the battery assembly cost is lower, the yield and consistency are higher, but the monomer specific energy is slightly inferior to the other two batteries.

The soft pack power battery has high safety performance and good cycle performance, but the consistency is poor and the cost is high. The square battery is safer than the cylindrical battery, and the relative energy density is high, but the production process is difficult to unify.

The expansion of scale and advances in technology are the main ways to reduce battery costs and increase competitiveness. In recent years, domestic battery companies have continued to increase R&D investment. In the first half of 2018, R&D investment in Ningde era was 718 million yuan, accounting for 7.6% of operating income of 9.36 billion yuan, and R&D personnel accounted for one-fifth of the number of employees. In the same period, Guoxuan Hi-Tech's R&D investment was about 132 million yuan, accounting for 5.1% of revenue. In addition, it is announced that 5% of sales will be invested in research and development each year, as well as Lishen battery and BAK battery, which has accumulated more than 300 million yuan in research and development over the past three years.

Face up to the gap

Compared with Chinese battery companies, Japanese and Korean companies have taken the lead in high-nickel batteries.

Among them, Japan's Matsushita can be said to lead all the way. Since the beginning of supply of cylindrical batteries to Tesla in 2008, Panasonic has continuously improved its cathode materials, and has successively introduced NCM18650 batteries and NCA21700 batteries with specific energy up to 340Wh/kg.

Korean companies also laid out NCM811 batteries earlier. Among them, LG Chem plans to introduce a third-generation soft-packed power battery with a cell core energy density target of 270-280 wh/kg, which is 50% higher than the current energy density. Samsung SDI, which has a prismatic battery as its main product, is developing its fourth-generation battery. The monomer energy density can reach 270-280 Wh/kg. It is expected to be mass-produced between 2021-2022. The fifth-generation battery will be available after 2023. Production, battery cell energy density will reach 300Wh / kg.

Relevant data show that the above three Korean battery companies invested 3.5 billion yuan, 2.8 billion yuan and 1 billion yuan in 2017.

However, the development process of high-nickel batteries for Korean companies is not as smooth as expected. Previously, LG Chem and SK Innovations announced the postponement of their NCM811 battery production plan. Many battery industry insiders speculate that the main reason for delaying mass production is that the safety of NCM811 soft and square batteries is still flawed.

Wang FANg said that quality control is the key to winning a competition. Whether product performance, safety, longevity and cost can compete with competitors is the key concern of enterprises.

“Batteries with high consistency and high security are more competitive in the market.” According to relevant sources, in recent years, China’s battery industry has developed rapidly in technology and scale, and the gap between battery technology and Japanese and Korean companies has Not big, but Chinese battery companies still lag behind in terms of consistency. China's leading battery companies have a gap of nearly two to three years from Japanese and Korean companies.

Consistency refers to the consistency of all characteristic parameters of all cells in the battery pack during the whole life cycle. The single cell capacity attenuation, internal resistance growth and inconsistent aging speed will directly affect the life of the battery pack, even for electric vehicles. Safety.

"The bad products in the production process of Japanese and Korean companies have reached the top of the list, and Chinese companies can't do it."

Safety gate

Ouyang Minggao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, repeatedly stressed in his public speech that "for high-power energy batteries, safety is the first."

A number of battery industry insiders said in an interview with reporters that the recent frequent occurrence of self-ignition of electric vehicles is closely related to the current over-emphasis on increasing battery energy density and neglecting safety issues.

With the official implementation of the New Energy Vehicle Subsidy New Deal on June 12, the demand for power battery specific energy has increased significantly, from 80Wh/kg last year to 120Wh/kg. In the future, this indicator will be further enhanced.

According to data from the China Automotive Technology and Research Center, in 2017, the average specific energy of China's power batteries was around 115Wh/kg, which has rapidly increased to 139Wh/kg in 2018. More than half of the models can get 1.1 times subsidies.

According to the 2018 pure electric passenger car state subsidy expression and technical requirements, the battery can achieve 1.1 times subsidy than the energy of 140Wh/kg, and 1.2 times higher than 160Wh/kg.

Deng Zhongyi, dean of the Lions Science and Technology Research Institute, believes that simply pursuing high energy density is a high-risk thing, which will inevitably sacrifice the safety and cycle life of the power battery. “High energy density makes sense only when safety is guaranteed, and where cost and longevity are acceptable,” he points out.

"At present, the demand for high-nickel 811 material batteries is very strong, but for safety reasons, the battery is not used in the future." A battery industry analyst who did not want to be named told reporters.

He pointed out that in order to meet the policy requirements for energy density and subsidies, enterprises often choose to retreat in terms of safety under the pressure of rapidly lowering the selling price, limited R&D costs and time investment.

However, high nickel 811 materials are not the dominant factor leading to a decline in safety. Li Yanbin told reporters that the safety of the battery is not determined by a certain material, but by the system, which includes diaphragm, electrolyte, process and production control, as well as battery management system and PACK.

“Improving the energy density of the battery, not only the material improvement, but also the safety pressure should not be concentrated on the battery, and the whole process should be improved,” she said.

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