Current status of LiFePO4 battery raw materials
Since the beginning of this year, the new energy vehicle and lithium battery markets have continued to boom, and the prices of upstream raw materials for lithium batteries have risen rapidly. Among them, the cathode material is the most critical raw material for lithium batteries, including lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide. At present, lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide, electrolytes, etc. are all rising to vary degrees, and some raw materials have increased by more than 200% compared with the beginning of this year. “One item is hard to find” has become the current status of raw material procurement for lithium battery companies. What’s more, many raw material manufacturers have ordered until next year.
Why is the raw material resource of lithium batteries so tight this year? First of all, from a global perspective, China, as the world’s largest lithium consumer, accounted for 57% of the world’s lithium demand in 2019. And 60% of the demand comes from lithium-ion power batteries. As a strategic emerging industry in my country, the importance of lithium batteries as the “heart” of new energy vehicles is self-evident.
Advantages of LiFePO4 batteries
Compared with the traditional aqueous solution secondary battery, the lithium-ion battery has the significant advantages of high specific energy, long cycle life, and environmental friendliness. It is a battery system with great development potential. It has been widely used in electronic products. With the adoption of the draft EU battery directive in June 2007, lithium-ion batteries have gradually entered the cordless power tool market.
At the same time, due to the increasingly prominent environmental and oil issues in recent years, electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles powered by various secondary batteries have received more and more attention. Quite good safety and specific energy, so it becomes the first choice for various electric vehicle power sources.
At the same time, due to the low price, the price per unit of energy of lithium iron phosphate lithium-ion batteries has dropped sharply. Compared with nickel-hydrogen batteries, which are affected by large fluctuations in nickel prices and the high pollution of lead-acid and nickel-cadmium batteries, lithium-ion batteries have shown better performance. growing competitiveness.
Therefore, understanding the development of China’s lithium-ion power battery industry is of great significance to helping readers identify genuine and fake new energy vehicles, as well as to my country’s new energy vehicles and even the sustainable development strategy.
Ternary and LiFePO4 batteries have become mainstream cathode materials for electric vehicles
A summary of the definition of lithium-ion batteries: “use the concentration difference of lithium ions to store and discharge energy.” Secondly, from the perspective of the basic composition of lithium-ion batteries, it is mainly composed of four major raw materials: a positive electrode, negative electrode, electrolyte, and separator…
Under the current technical conditions, the cathode material is not only the key factor determining the performance of the battery but also the most expensive part of the lithium battery, which has a direct impact on the energy density, service life, and safety of the battery pack. However, there is a significant gap between different lithium battery cathode materials, and the applicable fields are also different. It can be said that not all lithium battery cathode materials are suitable for new energy vehicles.
Let me talk about lithium cobalt oxide first, as the originator of power lithium batteries, it was first used in Tesla Roadster, but due to its low cycle life and safety, it has been proven that it is not suitable as a power battery. To make up for this shortcoming, Tesla uses what is known as the world’s top battery management system to ensure the stability of the battery. But in fact, it has not been recognized by the market. Lithium cobalt oxide now occupies a large market share in the 3C field.
The second is the lithium manganese oxide battery, which was first proposed by the battery company AESC. The background of this AESC is a joint venture between Nissan and Nippon Electric Co., Ltd. (NEC). The representative model of lithium manganese oxide is the Nissan LEAF. Due to its low price, low energy density, and general safety, it has a so-called good comprehensive performance. However, since new energy vehicles are in the popularization stage, users attach great importance to mileage and safety, so they are gradually replaced by new lithium battery technology.
The third is lithium iron phosphate. As BYD’s main material, it has good stability, long life, and cost advantages. It is especially suitable for plug-in hybrid vehicles that require frequent charging and discharging, but its disadvantage is that its energy density is average. However, due to its stable and non-spontaneous characteristics and the current ternary lithium battery that has not yet solved the problem of frequent spontaneous combustion, lithium iron phosphate batteries are expected to further expand their market size.
Finally, the ternary lithium battery, as a rising star, has the highest energy density. Pure electric vehicles that have requirements for cruising range have broader prospects and are currently the mainstream direction of power batteries. However, its safety is poor. Most of the spontaneous combustion accidents of electric vehicles are caused by the installation of ternary lithium batteries. However, the “magazine battery” released by GAC and the “blade battery” released by BYD recently have made major improvements in battery safety, reducing the risk of spontaneous combustion of electric vehicles equipped with ternary lithium batteries.
Domestic patent applications for lithium-ion power batteries are in a steady growth trend
The embryonic stage of lithium-ion power batteries began in 1972, Stanley. Whittingham entered Exxon Corporation, and his team produced the world’s first rechargeable lithium battery (anode titanium disulfide, anode lithium metal), and Exxon applied for a patent in 1976. His original designs provided the basis for the modern lithium-ion battery.
In the development stage of continuous breakthroughs in basic technologies, Akira Yoshino developed the world’s prototype of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery in 1983. In 1985, pioneered the use of carbon (polyacetylene) instead of metal-removing lithium as the negative electrode material, established the basic concept of rechargeable lithium-containing alkaline lithium batteries, and obtained Japanese registered patents. In 1991, lithium-ion batteries were commercialized for the first time by Sony.
Since then, it entered the stage of large-scale commercialization of lithium batteries in 1997. From 2002 to 2021, the annual trend of the number of patent applications and authorized ratios of lithium batteries for new energy vehicles. On the whole, the number of patent applications for lithium-ion power batteries is on the rise, which is closely related to the global energy crisis, the deteriorating environment, government policy guidance and support, the development of the automobile industry, and the gradual increase in awareness of intellectual property protection.
1. Two growth periods of patents related to lithium-ion power batteries:
1) The first growth stage (2002-2011)
Since 2002, the number of patent applications for lithium batteries has shown a trend of rapid growth, with an average annual growth rate of 40.15%; the overall number of patent applications is in a high-speed growth trend. The main reason is that before 2007, China was in the new energy strategic layout and exploration stage, and there were few patent applications. This stage was the initial stage of research and development of domestic lithium-ion power battery technology; after 2008, with the strong support of the national and local governments, In the pursuit of higher energy density lithium-ion power batteries, breakthroughs have been made in key technical fields such as positive and negative electrode materials, separators and electrolytes. Several high-value patents have been applied for, and the number of applications has increased rapidly.
2) The second growth stage (2012-present)
From 2012 to 2013, the development trend of lithium-ion power batteries is not clear, and the downstream market industry is still in the development stage. Domestic enterprises have just begun to invest and deploy in the field of power batteries, resulting in a slowdown in the number of patent applications. With the guidance of the state, the investment of enterprises, and the gradually clear market development trend, a small peak of applications began to usher in 2014, reaching 19,400 in 2016, and the lithium battery industry has entered a mature market-oriented operation stage since 2017. The basic technical difficulties were solved, so the average annual growth rate of patent applications was reduced to 20.9%.
According to the period average trend method established by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of patent applications for lithium batteries will reach 31,800 in 2021; the number of patent applications in 2022 and 2023 will reach 42,400 and 46,000 respectively; Patent applications for lithium batteries will usher in the first peak in five years.
2. Although China, the United States, Japan, and South Korea are competing with each other in lithium battery technology
From the IPC classification number (subclass), it is not difficult to find that in the field of lithium battery technology, the H01 M battery pack is the most innovative branch, accounting for 58.06% of all related patents; followed by the H02J power supply or distribution System, this branch is mainly reflected in the charging and discharging fields that are strongly related to lithium batteries; the third is the G01R measurement branch, which is mainly a signal system for measuring various temperatures, heat dissipation and other states of lithium batteries. The sum of the patents of H01M, H02J, and G01R exceeds 3/4 of the total patents.
From the ranking of applicants, it is found that the top 10 applicants with the largest number of patent applications related to lithium batteries are all Chinese companies and universities, which reflects the importance Chinese companies attach to lithium battery technology.
In fact, in the process of global lithium battery technology research and development and industrialization, China, the United States, Japan, and South Korea have formed a four-legged situation. But it is undeniable that Japan is still leading in technology research and development, South Korea’s lithium battery product market share is the first in the world, and China’s lithium battery products still have a certain gap in product strength. Therefore, the top 10 applicants are all Chinese companies mainly derived from my country’s targeted new energy industry subsidy protection policy, such as Guoxuan Hi-Tech, Tianjin Lishen, BYD, Ningde Times, Guanyu Battery, and Dongguan New Energy. Battery products were able to gain a foothold in the domestic market.
According to the data, with the strong support of the state, the technical route of lithium-ion batteries has begun to change to artificial graphite and composite silicon-carbon materials as the main negative electrode materials, and the positive electrode materials are developing in the direction of high nickel and low cobalt. With the adjustment of the national subsidy policy and the implementation of the double credit policy, automobile and battery companies are facing severe challenges, which forces companies to increase investment in battery technology research and development, and companies need to explore new technologies, new products, new formats, and new businesses through innovation This will play a positive role in promoting the establishment of a new battery technology system.
In Made in China 2025, it is proposed that the energy density of power batteries needs to exceed 400Wh/kg. To achieve such a goal, new challenges have been put forward for both manufacturers and R&D institutions. Can achieve zero emissions, and green travel goals.
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