China, Japan And South Korea Battery Companies Stifle All The Magical Powers

- Oct 16, 2019-

In the process of China's new energy vehicles booming in the past few years, China's power battery industry has arisen. However, although foreign-powered batteries are also supported in the Chinese market, they have not formed scale. With the increasingly loose policy environment, foreign-funded power battery companies that once faced the difficulties in the Chinese market but have encountered difficulties are now making a comeback.

Not long ago, the 318th batch of motor vehicle enterprises and products announced by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology website showed that Chongqing Jinkang Ruichi brand pure electric cars and Dongfeng Renault Winduo brand pure electric cars were among them. Their power battery suppliers are Samsung (Tianjin) Battery Co., Ltd. and Nanjing Lejin Chemical New Energy Battery Co., Ltd. (owned LG Chemical). Once with the "white list" (in March 2015, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the "Automobile Power Battery Industry Standard Conditions", and based on this, the power battery companies to implement catalog management, that is, "white list") foreign-powered battery is now selected among them.

It can be clearly seen that the threshold for the restriction of China's power battery industry will be gradually broken in the future, and Chinese and foreign-funded enterprises will be in the same competitive environment. In the world, various power battery companies have already started a contest. Who will stay ahead in the future? In the same competitive environment, can China's rising power battery companies be able to sit back and relax? To analyze these issues, you need to understand the development strategies, technical routes, or even the global industrial layout of each company.

High specific energy is the development consensus

At present, the development goal of power batteries formulated by China is roughly equivalent to that of Japanese and Korean companies, and they are pursuing high specific energy. The industry consensus is that the higher the energy density of the power battery, the longer the driving range.

In China, the “Technology Roadmap for Energy Saving and New Energy Vehicles” draws a blueprint for the development of power battery technology. In 2020, the specific energy of pure electric vehicle power battery cells reached 350Wh/kg, reached 400Wh/kg in 2025, and reached in 2030. 500Wh/kg. Today, China's power battery leader Ningde era ternary battery cell energy density of 240Wh / kg, 2019 will launch a single energy density of 280Wh / kg or more NCM811 battery, and plans to put cell energy before 2020 The density is increased to 300Wh/kg.

In comparison, the current Samsung SDI 3rd generation power battery has an energy density of 550Wh/L and has been mass-produced. According to the Samsung SDI plan, the energy density of the 3.5th generation power battery that is expected to be mass-produced in 2019 can reach 630Wh/L. At the same time, Samsung SDI is also accelerating the development of the 4th generation battery and the 5th generation battery, the energy density can reach 700Wh / L (equivalent to 270 - 280Wh / kg) and 800Wh / L (equivalent to 300Wh / kg), is expected Mass production was carried out after 2021-2022 and 2023 respectively.

In 2018, LG Chem has achieved small-volume production of NCM811 batteries. In 2020, LG Chem will also introduce third-generation power batteries. The target energy density of single-cell batteries is 270-280Wh/kg, which is higher than the energy density of current mass production. 50%.

In Japan, the nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) material produced by Panasonic currently has an energy density of up to 250 Wh/kg for 18650 cells. In addition, the 21700 cylindrical battery cell used by Tesla Model3 has an energy density of 340Wh/kg, which is the highest energy density battery in the market. This is a battery jointly developed with Panasonic.

In general, on the way to increase energy density, various companies have invariably aimed at the ternary system, and high nickel has become a consensus. In this process, nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) or NCA has become a magic weapon to increase energy density, and the battery type has also evolved from NCM523 to NCM622. Now NCM811 batteries have also been mass-produced. However, although major companies have a common understanding of the development of high-energy energy, they have also been divided into high and low levels in this competition. At present, Panasonic is ahead of other companies with the high energy density of 21700 batteries. Samsung SDI lags behind other competitors and is at the bottom.

There are still some conclusions about the strategies

At present, unlike the industry's general pursuit of high specific energy of power batteries, companies are not uniform in their development routes, and their specifications or models are diversified. Square, cylindrical and soft-packed batteries go hand in hand and are favored by different companies.

01

LG Chem and SKI are based on soft pack batteries. According to the analysis, the soft pack battery has better safety. When a safety problem occurs, the soft pack battery generally blows up, but does not explode. In addition, the advantages of the soft pack battery include light weight, 10% - 20% lighter than the equivalent capacity aluminum lithium battery; small internal resistance, good cycle performance, flexible design, can be customized according to customer needs. Of course, the shortcomings of the soft pack battery are also obvious: the consistency is poor, the cost is high, liquid leakage is easy to occur, and the technical threshold is relatively high.

02

The main products of Samsung SDI and Ningde era are square batteries. Square batteries also have obvious advantages: they can produce large-capacity single cells, and the hard case protects the battery better than the soft-pack battery. The safety of the battery is also improved compared with the cylindrical battery. At the same time, the grouping efficiency of the square battery reaches 88%, which is higher than the grouping efficiency of the soft pack and the cylindrical battery. However, at present, there are many models of square batteries, and the process is difficult to unify, which is an insurmountable shortcoming.

03

Unlike other companies that use the NCM ternary system, Panasonic batteries use the NCA system and mainly produce cylindrical batteries. In comparison, the production process of the cylindrical battery is mature, the yield is high, and the specification and model can be unified, and the overall cost advantage is exhibited. However, the NCA positive electrode material is prone to generate gas during charging and discharging, which poses a safety hazard. Therefore, a thermal management system is required. In addition, module and PACK integration is also more difficult, and energy density utilization is lower.

From the perspective of the structure of the power battery, the battery cells are only basic units, and they need to be grouped before they can perform. At present, there are big differences in the grouping efficiency of different types of batteries. LG Chem and SKI's soft pack battery cells have higher energy density than square cells, but they are lower in group efficiency. The current energy density conversion rate is about 80%; Samsung SDI and Ningde era's main square cells are grouped. The most efficient, the energy-to-module conversion efficiency of the cell to the module can be as high as 90%; Panasonic supplies the battery for Tesla, different models use different specifications, and the group efficiency is not the same. For example, Tesla Model3 has two specifications modules, energy density conversion efficiency of up to 84%; ModelX (90kWh version) energy integration efficiency is only 60.41%; Model3 energy integration efficiency is only 64.2%. Overall, square batteries have the highest group efficiency and cylindrical batteries have the lowest.

In addition, cycle life is also an important indicator of power batteries. At present, LG Chem's cycle life can reach 2000 cycles, Samsung SDI's power battery cycle life can reach 1500 times, Panasonic's 18650 cell cycle life is about 500 - 1000 times. The cycle life of the 523 system power battery cell in Ningde era can reach 1800 times, which is close to the product life index of Korean companies. Overall, the cycle life of Chinese and Korean batteries is at the same level, and the cycle life of Panasonic batteries is low.

In the future, under the guidance of different strategies, enterprises will surely launch a fierce battle, and the market will give an answer.

Striving for the stable position of the whole vehicle is a big test

The reason why the competition of power batteries tends to be fierce is to compete for supporting users. At present, the world's leading battery companies have basically divided the supporting layout.

01

The core customer of Panasonic's power battery is Tesla. With the continuous increase in Tesla's sales, the production and sales of Panasonic's battery are also growing. In addition, Panasonic's customer list includes Volkswagen, General Motors, Nissan, etc. In the global user layout, Panasonic has 6 Japanese customers, 4 European customers, and 2 US customers. At the same time, Panasonic has established battery production plants in the United States and China to provide complementary services to users.

02

LG Chem is involved in Hyundai and Kia. Its core customers include GM, Renault, Volvo, CT&T, etc. The main models are Chevrolet Bolt, Volanda, Renault Zoe and so on. Currently, LG Chemical's production facilities are located in South Korea, China, the United States and Poland. The factory in South Korea can meet the needs of Korean companies and regulate the global market orders. The factory in China is aimed at China's huge battery demand market. In the United States, the factory is mainly for the supply of American car companies GM, Ford, etc. Poland is the first large-scale power battery production base of LG Chem in Europe.

03

In comparison, Samsung SDI has more partners, and it is the core battery supplier for more than 30 electric models. Core customers include BMW, Volkswagen, Ma Hengda, LucidMotors and more. At the same time, Samsung SDI has established automotive power battery factories in Korea, China, the United States, Hungary and Austria, targeting the most developed or most dynamic regions.

04

In the competition for supporting companies, Ningde era is not lost to any Japanese and Korean companies. At the Guangzhou Auto Show last year, more than 40 cars of 23 car brands were equipped with Ningde era batteries. In recent years, the Ningde era has accelerated the pace of market development, and signed strategic cooperation agreements with SAIC, Dongfeng, FAW, etc. The top domestic auto companies have basically cooperated with the Ningde era. In addition, the core customers of the Ningde era are not limited to domestic enterprises, BMW and Volkswagen also extended an olive branch to the Ningde era.

In general, the current global supporting resources have been basically robbed, and in this competition, how to stabilize the layout, or even delineate a larger layout depends on the future strategic layout of the enterprise. In addition, as Japanese and Korean companies accelerate the deployment of the Chinese market, how to consolidate their positions by the Chinese power battery companies represented by the Ningde era is also a big test for enterprises.

Different profitability

After the "staking of the horse", the profitability of the power battery companies began to receive much attention. Because profitability reflects the level of production management of the company, it also has a direct impact on the future development of the company.

On February 4th, Panasonic released the third quarterly report for the fiscal year 2019 (the Japanese fiscal year starts from April 1st to March 31st), and the first three quarters benefited from the rapid growth of the power battery business. Panasonic achieved revenue of 6.08 trillion. The yen increased by 2.9% year-on-year; the energy business of the secondary battery was 522.3 billion yen, a year-on-year increase of 26.4%. Panasonic expects its energy business revenue to reach 715 billion yen for the full fiscal year, up 27.1% year-on-year. The operating profit of the energy business is expected to reach 20.1 billion yen, an increase of 81.1% year-on-year, and the operating profit margin is about 2.8%.

In 2018, LG Chem achieved revenue of 2.818 billion won, a year-on-year increase of 9.67%, mainly from the energy business, chemical and basic materials business. In addition to the substantial increase in the profit of the energy business, the profitability of other main businesses declined. The operating profit of the chemical and basic materials business, which contributed 95% of the company's profit, decreased by 24.1%, and the operating profit decreased by 4.3 percentage points year-on-year. In 2018, LG Chem achieved a net profit of 152 million won, a year-on-year decrease of 24.88%. The energy solutions of the battery business achieved revenues of 6.52 trillion won, a year-on-year increase of 42.95%, and accounted for 23.1% of total revenue. It is estimated that the revenue of LG Chemical Energy Solutions will reach 10 trillion won in 2019, an increase of 31%. The energy solutions business is the highlight of LG Chemical's financial report. In 2018, the operating profit of this business reached 209 billion won, a year-on-year increase of 6.2 times.

Samsung SDI's business mainly includes lithium battery and materials business. In 2018, Samsung SDI achieved revenue of 915 million won, a year-on-year increase of 44.31%, of which lithium battery business revenue of 6.95 trillion won, an increase of 60.66%.

The 2018 annual performance report disclosed by Ningde Times shows that the company achieved a total operating income of 29.61 billion yuan in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 48.08%; the net profit attributable to shareholders of listed companies was 3.58 billion yuan, down 7.71% year-on-year; after deducting non-recurring gains and losses The net profit attributable to shareholders of listed companies was 3.11 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 30.95%.

Overall, the global mainstream power battery companies have relatively good revenue levels, which also brings positive benefits to the company's subsequent layout.

Race against time to seize the technical high ground of the future

Nowadays, the competition in the field of power batteries is becoming more and more fierce. In order to maintain their own advantages, companies have increased their research and development efforts towards the established goals to grasp the commanding heights of future technologies.

According to the plan, LG Chem will develop from 622 batteries to 70% nickel, 10% cobalt and 20% manganese, that is, develop 712 batteries. The future development goal is to develop NCMA batteries by adding alumina to NCM to make the nickel content close to 90% and the cobalt content below 10%. At present, LG Chem 712 battery is being actively developed and will be mass-produced within 2-3 years. In addition, NCM811 cathode material developed and produced by LG Chem is more suitable for cylindrical batteries, and will be used in large quantities in electric buses in the future.

During the charging and discharging process, lithium ions easily form residues on the surface of the NCA, which affects the service life. In response to this problem, Samsung SDI is currently developing a new material. In the future, NCA materials will be used to reduce the residue and improve the service life of the power battery by making a metal coating on the surface of the NCA.

At present, Panasonic has developed lithium batteries such as lithium nickel cobalt manganate and nickel cobalt aluminum aluminate, which have been supplied to enterprises. In product development, in order to solve the problems of low thermal stability and safety caused by nickel oxide, Panasonic has carried out nano-coating treatment on the surface of the positive electrode material, with particular emphasis on improving the technology such as Panasonic Solid Solution (PSS). safety.

At present, the NCM523 used in the battery cathode material of Ningde era is expected to mass-produce NCM811 system batteries by the end of 2019. In addition to the development of high-nickel materials, Ningde era is also committed to the development of cathode materials for high-voltage platforms, and is expected to be mass-produced after 2020. After mass production, the energy density of cells will be improved. At the inaugural meeting of China Automotive Power Battery Industry Innovation Alliance Power Battery Branch last year, Wu Kai, vice president and chief scientist of Ningde Times New Energy Technology Co., Ltd. introduced the development ideas of Ningde era: by 2020, Ningde era will adopt silicon carbon anode materials. In order to increase the theoretical energy density of the negative electrode, thereby increasing the energy density of the cell; the electrolyte is optimized for formulation and adding new additives to make it more resistant to high pressure and thermal stability; the separator is mainly coated with a wet diaphragm.

Vehicle companies enter the competition more intensely

In addition to competition among power battery companies, vehicle companies have begun to take advantage of this field.

In China, in addition to the Ningde era, BYD also harvested a lot of markets; in Europe, German auto companies actively responded to the EU initiative. Volkswagen will be in Salzgitz, Germany