Argus Media Limited

09/13/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/13/2021 00:54

China to step up non-cobalt battery development

China will accelerate development of key battery technologies such as cobalt-free power batteries, solid-state and solid-liquid hybrid lithium-ion batteries, and hydrogen fuel batteries, according to the country's science and technology ministry.

'The ministry will adhere to the direction of electrification, intelligence and networking to boost the development of the most critical and frontier power battery technologies applied in the electric vehicle (EV) industry chain during the country's 14th five-year plan from 2021-25,' said Xu Chaoqian, deputy director of the ministry's high-tech department, at the 17th China Automobile Industry Development international forum.

China will also advance the development of solid oxide fuel batteries used in hydrogen-fuelled vehicles and support the development of other key technologies such as vehicle-mounted liquid hydrogen systems, high-power density fuel cell stacks and engines, high-power and long-life fuel cell stacks and engines, as well as key equipment for hydrogen-refuelling stations, Xu said.

The non-cobalt trend in the power battery industry has accelerated since 2020 following initiatives by US EV producer Tesla and Chinese auto manufacturer BYD. The two firms released all-electric vehicles that use lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries in May 2020. BYD in October last year launched a production line for its LFP blade battery in Ningxiang city in south China's Hunan province. The battery can increase energy density by at least 30pc and reduce raw material costs by 30pc, it said.

Many Chinese producers continue to put more effort into developing LFP batteries that have better safety performance and lower average production costs compared with nickel-cobalt-manganese/nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCM/NCA) batteries amid lower government subsidies on EVs. But LFP batteries have lower energy density and shorter EV driving ranges than NCM/NCA batteries.

China's total output of power batteries rose to 92.1GWh during January-July, up by 210.9pc compared with the same period last year, according to data from the China Automotive Manufacturers Association. Output of LFP batteries also rose by 51.1pc to 47GWh over the same period.

Argus assessed the range for 99.5pc grade carbonate, the key feedstock for LFP battery manufacturing, at 138,000-145,000 yuan/t ($21.40-22.48/kg) ex-works on 9 September, sharply higher from Yn128,000-138,000/t ex-works on 7 September in light of tightening supplies and buoyant demand from the lithium battery and energy storage industries. The current price is also 180pc higher than the level at the beginning of this year.