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Süd-Chemie to Invest C$35M to Boost Lithium Iron Phosphate Production for Li-Ion Batteries

10 February 2007

Süd-Chemie, a global chemical company, will invest C$35 million (US$30 million) in 2007 and 2008 in one of its Canadian affiliates to increase lithium iron phosphate production capacity for use in new generations of lithium-ion batteries to 1,500 metric tons per year.

Phostech Lithium Inc., Boucherville/Canada, an affiliate of Süd-Chemie, is already investing C$6 million to expand its production capacity from 300 metric tons per year of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) to 900 metric tons per year.

In 2007 and 2008, the additional C$35 million in investment will increase capacity to 1,500 metric tons per year.

In the 1990s, researchers at the University of Texas proposed using lithium iron phosphate as cathode material in lithium-iron batteries. Lithium iron phosphate was non-toxic and cheaper than conventional cobalt cathodes. Unfortunately, it turned out to have low conductivity.

In 2002, Yet-Ming Chiang and his colleagues at MIT showed that doping lithium iron phosphate with positive ions of another metal could drastically boost the material’s conductivity. Chiang is a co-founder of A123Systems, which licensed the technology from MIT for further development and commercialization.

The University of Texas licensed its original lithium-iron phosphate technology to Hydro-Québec, which developed it from 1997 to 2001. Phostech Lithium has been granted an exclusive license from University of Texas and Hydro-Québec for the production and sale of LiFePO4 for lithium-ion batteries.

Favored markets are power tools, electric bicycles and scooters as well as electric and hybrid cars. For example, electric bicycles and wheelchairs with lithium-ion batteries sold in South East Asia, Europe and in the US contain Phostech Lithium’s product.

Süd-Chemie AG, an independent company active in the field of Specialty Chemistry, is the major shareholder since 2005 of Phostech Lithium, founded in 2001 by a group of Québec scientists. Société Générale de Financement (SGF) is the third shareholder.

(A hat-tip to youplau!)

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There is a cynicism extant that can be seen amongst frequent posters. Here is another concrete example of money being committed to build the factories that can build the components for the coming flood of hybrid and PHEV autos.

Industry is gearing up. Its easy to see if you but open your eyes...

And Texas U and Hydro-Quebec filed law suit against A123 for patent infringement.

Seems only the lawyers can bring anything to production and that's not batteries...it's controversy for money!

I read where A123 has a joint agreement with an oil company. That can't be good and will only serve to slow down production and give Big Oil control over the L-ION battery business; they already have control of the NiMH battery by controlling the basic patent. Control the battery business and you control the electric auto business.

Control the battery business and you can hedge your exposure to disruptive technology by being invested in the current {oil} and the future{battery}.BP is invested in wind turbine technology and they are not storing the tech in a salt mine somewhere.They are making money on the turbines.One thing about big{oil,tobacco,pharma,etc.}is that they will follow the surest path to the dollars.If we continue to show interest in phev,bev, then big somebody is going to look to cash in on that interest.As for lawsuits,microsoft is continually sued and the desktop pc still circled the globe in a flash.Once the bumps are worked out this tech will spread like the pc,cell phone,vcr,dvd etc.The legal jockeying may simply show that everyone involved thinks that this is going to be worth hundreds of billions and they want a piece.If they are correct then we all benefit.

Wonderful news. This indeed appears to be serious business. Below I try to calculate some very very rough estimates of how many powertools, E-bikes, etc. this production capacity equals.
I understand that production of nanotech coated LiFePO4 could be about 2400 tons pro anno by ultimo 2008 (900+1500). I assume that this material make up 25% of the total weight of an a123 M1 cell (this is a wild guess, speak out if you know better, I am an economist not a chemist). So the material could produce 9600 metric tons of a123 M1 cells. A 70g cell at about 3V 2,3Ah means that it takes about 10kg to make a 1kWh battery. In other words, 9600 metric tons of M1 cells represent a giant 960.000 kWh battery. That is enough to produce:
27,500 BEVs (like phoenix SUT using 35kWh) or
120,000 PHEVs (using 8kWh for 15 miles all electric range) or
565,000 HEVs (using 1,7kwh like the Prius) or
3,200,000 E-bikes (using 0,3kWh) or
140,000,000 powertools (using 0,07kWh like the Dewalt 36V battery)

A nice start, though still far from saving the world entirely from its dependence on fossil fuels. To do that we would need to produce about 100,000,000 PHEVs a year. That would necessitate that battery production increased 833 times from its ultimo 2008 level (in combination with greatly increased biofuel production). That sounds very doable to me in about two decades if the involved costs can be managed. From the selling price of the Dewalt pack ($169) we can estimate that 1kWh of the A123 battery cost about $2400. This is competitive for powertools and e-bikes but it needs to drop to about $1200 to be competitive for use in HEVs (the current NiMh cost about $1200 /kWh but they are heavier and more space demanding than lithium). A123 have said that they can compete with the price of NiMh for use in HEV. At this time A123 should have enough volume production of their batteries to know that they can sell it for $1200/kWh and still be profitable. For the battery price to be competitive for a mass market for PHEVs I believe that the price must hit about $600 /kWh or lower so that a 8 kWh pack would cost about $5000 per vehicle. If PHEVs are produced as seriel PHEVs with the ICE set up as an efficient genset you can save money on the transmission and the ICE because electric drive-trains do not need as complex gearbox/transmission (no torque issue) and because you can use a smaller ICE versus a normal non-electric car. However, the PHEV will need an electric engine and some power electronics and that cost extra versus the non-electric car. That stuff is expensive right now but it can be brought down in price a lot from mass production also because electric engines have far fewer parts to assemble than ICEs. No doubt that PHEVs will cost more than non-electric cars. In mass production (millions per year and with a battery price at $600kWh probable doable in a few years) I think that PHEVs will cost about $5000 to $8000 more to produce than comparable non-electric cars. That should still be competitive because PHEVs will be more durable, save about 75% of the annual fuel bill, and the no-noise characteristic of the PHEVs will be attractive. Furthermore, as discussed elsewhere on greencarcongress the utilities could greatly benefit from the V2G capabilities of PHEVs and some suggest that utilities may even pay people for providing such V2G services.
So it is indeed wonderful news that the production of nanotech coated LiFePO4 is increasing at this speed. Recall that production was practically zero when Dewalt introduced these cells in its powertools back in November, 2005. What an achievement.

Earl:

I strongly suspect that technique of hedging you refer to could be understood by conspiracy theories neofits.

Ups, I meant 14,000,000 powertool packs not 140,000,000

Thsi is but one tiny player in but a tiney segment of the business.. But the point I was making is that it is symptomatic that the electrification of the auto is gaining momentum, coming forward as a building certainty. Its far from simply releaasing a "concept car" or as the "Hillaries" are wont to do to "confiscate the oil profits" and invest it to make a "start", on doing something.

I'm sure it will be to build a few totally impossible to produce, concept cars, and waste the rest on pet social programs. Once again risking real progress by killing the golden gooses.

Instead of declaring victory and going home, the CARBite beuraucrats in California want to get into the global warming business, to justify their keeping and expanding their jobs and empires.

Its hard to say what ercentage weight of a lith oin battery is the lithium material as lithium itself is rather light BUT id suspect its at least a third of the weight.

As for power tools they are likely to switch over to knew super capacitor based sortage as it offers faster recharge lower cost and more then needed power output and power capacity. Its also alot lightera and never wears out..

Henrik,

See the 14th comment here;
http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/01/30/beyond-peak-oil-are-we-facing-peak-lithium/

Suggests about 0.4kg/kWh.
So 1,500,000kg is about 3,750,000kWh of storage.

Given that 20kWh is a handy sized EV or PHEV battery pack, that's 187,500 V's worth.

Shaun thankyou for the link it is informative. However, you misunderstand the meaning of Wayne Brown (post 13). To quote him
"76.92 / .188 = 409.15g of Lithium Carbonate in 1kWh of this Saft Li-ion battery."
The point is this number is valid for lithium carbonate and the 1500 metric tons produced at the planned second plant is referring to lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4). In addition it is coated lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) and we don't know the weight added by this coating so we can still not do the implied math on LiFePO4. Furthermore, this is not a saft battery (the chemistry and kWh is different in the a123 battery) and the combined production of plant 1 and plant 2 will be 2400 metrix tons ultimo 2008. You are also wrong about 20kWh for a PHEV it is prohibitively expensive for mass sales of PHEVs unless the price of a123 cells drops to about $300 /kWh.

Earl: I also agree that major players will and should play a major role in on-board storage units production.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Big Oil (+ others) switching from fossil fuel (and other business) to alternative fuel + cleaner energies + batteries production etc.

A few dozen major players could create the level of competition required to accellerate transition to mass produced affordable PHEVs and BEVs.

Henrik, I like your approach but offer these comments:

1. Phostech does not sell to A123Systems. Phostech is in with the U-Texas/U-Montreal/Hydro Quebec crowd that is a rival to MIT-based A123, and is suing A123.

2. Phostech claims about 2 kg of LiFePO4 cathode per kWh, so your 2.5 kg/kWh guess was pretty close.

3. I agree scaling up 833 times is no big deal over time. These factories are cheap.

4. New DeWalt packs cost about $100 on EBay ($1300/kWh). A123 price to DeWalt is probably about $1000/kWh. This web site sells LiFePO batteries (not A123) for $1333/kWh:

http://www.powerstream.com/LLLF.htm

5. 8 kWh should give about 25 miles of PHEV range. GM's Volt design uses 16 kWh for 40 miles, but with a conservative 70% DoD trigger.

--ddw

Henrik,

I was very aware of the different chemistry's involved I was merely trying to get a better figure than your "this is a wild guess" .

I'm also very aware of the costs of Li battery technology, I was just pointing out that the SCALE of production (which is what this post is all about) is starting to get into interesting volumes.

I enjoyed your original comments by the way.

One question for anyone who rememberes or can dig it up. I remember quite a while back lithium batteries were poopooed for one very fatal flaw. The amount of lithium avaliable to mine.

Does anyone know how much lithium we have avaliable to us to mine?

Wintermane: the amount of lithium available is only limited by how much you are willing to pay for it. It is somewhere around the 35th most common element on earth. Sea Water contains between 140 and 250 ppb of lithium. That works out to at least 14,000kg of Lithium per km3 of sea water. Not to mention it is found in brines and igneous rock.

Erk thats alot worse then I thought. That means about 200 cars eats a cubic kilometer of seawaters lithium.

Winter: Don't sweat it ... there's a whole lot of sea water out there (over a billion cubic kilometers I think). Not to mention that lithium recycles. I'm not even sure lithium will be the best E-storage out there in a couple of years. It could be carbon nanotubules (MIT), barium titanate (Eestor and BSAF), carbon coating (firefly), some sort of advanced NiMH or even a modified zebra.

DDW thank you very much for your comments they are really useful. Below I recalculate the issue using your comments and add cell phones and notebooks to get a better idea of the implied proportions. So production is 2400 metric tons by ultimo 2008. Using 2kg of nanocoated LiFePO4 cathode per kWh of the Phostech battery we get 1.200.000 kWh. Enough for an annual production of either:
34,300 BEVs (like phoenix SUT using 35kWh) or
150,000 PHEVs (using 8kWh for 15 miles all electric range) or
706,000 HEVs (using 1.7kwh like the Prius) or
4,000,000 E-bikes (using 0.3kWh) or
17,100,000 powertools (using 0.07kWh like the Dewalt 36V battery)
24,000,000 notebookes (using 0.05kWh the average notebook)
400,000,000 cell phones (using 0.003kWh the average cell phone)

The Phostech batteries (or the a123 cells for that sake) are not suited for cell phones or notebooks because the more conventional lithium chemistries have higher energy density and nobody whant there notebooks or cell phones to be heavier than they are today. However, the comparison clearly shows that Phostech is a mayor producer in the global lithium market. It would be really interesting to know how much the A123 and Altair are able to produce right now and what they plan to do in the next 24 months. If anybody have any idea about it let’s here it and we can get a more realistic idea of whether oil is doomed and if so how soon it could happen. A wild guess from me is that a123 produce about the same quantities as Phostech (they do 900 tons or 450,000 kWh per year right now) and that Altair have hardly started. Altair have promised Phonix to be able to deliver a maximum of 500 35kWh batteries this year. A high estimate for Altair is that they will be able to make 1000*35kWh or 35,000 kWh this year.

It is noteworthy that although A123 and Phostech say they use nanocoated LiFePO4 cathode their batteries differs quite a lot when it comes to energy density. In particular, the official energy rating of a123 is 3,3V*2,3Ah for a 70g cell. That is, 108,4 Wh/kg. However, from data given at http://www.powerstream.com/LLLF.htm for the Phostech battery its energy content is only (0,06kWh for 800g) or 75 Wh/kg. Obviously the batteries are very different and the ongoing court case is not going to be as trivial as it might have looked. It could go on for years and probably will because of all the money involved.

So what kind of money are we talking about? Below are some rough estimates of current market as well as remarks on potential markets. Currently there is an estimate of a $5 billion global market in 2006 for lithium batteries (see http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/02/forecast_liion_.html for Andersons opinion). In my opinion that is a great understatement of the actual market. Judge for yourselves whether the numbers below are more realistic.

** Cell phone sized batteries: Current global market 1,200,000,000 units at about $6 per 0.003kWh unit or $2000 per kWh unit. Global market value $7,2 billion. This market will double in four years I believe.
** Notebooks: Current global market 50,000,000 units at about $100 per 0,05kWh unit or $2000 per kWh. Global market value $5bill. This market is about 400,000,000 units per year in 20 years from now.
** Powertools: I don’t have much idea about that market. It is counted in millions per year but it is much smaller than notebook batteries anything from 2 to 10 million units per year of the 0,07kWh size DeWalt use could be true. If you know better please speak out. (DDW I will still say that the price of the DeWalt powertool is $169 per pack. The $100 at ebay does not count because there are other issues involved such as promoting shops by offering temporary low prices in order to attract customers to but other products at full price. Note that on ebay there is a quantity restriction you can’t order 100 or 100.000 units if you want to. The implied kWh price is still about $2400. Plus I checked the price for Phostech batteries at PowerStream. It is $1583,3 kWh (e.g. 100Ah 48V cost $7600) and that is without cooling as needed for use in HEVs or PHEVs.)
** E-bikes: This market is a few millions in China right now using mostly NiMh batteries but I am sure it will be taken over completely by lithium batteries similar to a123 and Phostech. It will furthermore, explode in numbers because whereas many Chinese and other Asians can’t afford a car right now they have become rich enough to get electricity, cell phones and now e-bikes. Plus the obesity epidemic that sweeps the planet right now will motivate millions of others in the richer parts of the world to buy an e-bike because it appears more attractive than to go the full step from a car to a non-electric bike to exercise a little. I would not be surprised to see the annual global market for electric bikes grow to 200.000.000 per year in 2030. Assuming $500 kWh at that time that market would be worth $30 billion.
** HEV will be all lithium when the packs are ready and tested at $1200 per kWh and the production is scaled up to honour the demand. Andersons opinion that lithium will account for less than 5% by ultimo 2008 is likely to be true. However, after that I think it will go very fast and the market could be all lithium by 2012. At that time world production of HEV could easily be 2 million units. At $1000 per kWh packed for HEV use with cooling etc using 1,7 kWh per vehicle that market would be worth $3,4 billion in 2012.
** PHEV. In 25 years we will need to produce about 100.000.000 cars per year. If the price drops to $600 kWh with cooling I think the days of HEV will be gone and PHEVs will have taken over. At that time the market for PHEV batteries could be worth $480bill a year!

Time will tell. This year is definitely going to bring much more light to whether we will experience an energy revolution or not. The kWh price will be all that matters now that the technical restrictions of energy storage (power density, energy density and durability) very much seem to be satisfied.

Henrik: Do you see any reason to move off of NiHM batteries for HEVs. IMO they have the right characteristics for that job. (might be nice if they charged a little faster for regen ... but for that you could add a supercap)

We can hope lithium gets cheap enough. I would certainly prefer a good solid ev car or solid range. But I expect even as fast as they can manage we will be dealing with slip power ev cars for decades to come. Likely a combo of viofuled gensets h2 fuel cells.

I still think for many decades to come if you want power and performance in the end it will be h2 or ev. And of the 2 I expect BOTH will find solid markets.

How much of biofuels will get regulated off to the transport and plane and so on is unknowable but I suspect most of the biofuels of 2020 will be highly regulated ad reationed.

Neil: I don't think that NiHM will be able to compete with the a123 cells, because a123 have said that they will be able to deliver a battery pack that will weight far less, take up less space, and cost the same as NiHM. Plus it will be more durable. NiHM store about 60Wh/kg at the $1200 kWh price level for HEV use. You can get up to 80Wh/kg but then they cost more. The M1 cell by A123 is doing 108Wh/kg. It is easy to decide once the a123 cells have been tested thoroughly and a123 say they are ready to produce about 50.000 HEV packs a year through cobasys. That is when they will appear in a HEV probably from GM and I think it could happen as soon as early next year. They have already made a better cell than M1 that is dedicated for vehicle use as reported by MIT http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/18054/page2/. To quote “A123 is already producing millions of its batteries for use in professional power tools, and now it has developed a new, larger cell designed to be more rugged and hold more energy. The company has also modified the electrolyte to make the battery able to operate very well at -20 ˚F or temperatures up to 140 ˚F.” There is even a picture of that cell but no info on V and Ah. The combination of battery and supercaps will add to the costs and the complexity of the power electronics I don’t this it will pay off.

Henrik, I don't think A123 makes anywhere near 450,000 kWh of batteries per year. Even if you assume each DeWalt 36v customer buys 2 battery packs that's 3 million customer/year and perhaps $2 billion of annual 36v sales. That's too high by at least 10x. DeWalt's parent company, Black and Decker, has total sales of only $6b and when the 36v line started selling it was barely a blip in terms of BDK overall results. 45,000 kWh to DeWalt and another 5,000 kWh to hobbyists and such is more realistic. A123's manufacturing partner in China (CBAK) can ramp to those levels quickly as markets develop, but they're not there today.

Also note that CBAK's LiFePO sales were $8.5m in the 9/30/06 quarter. At $800/kWh that implies 42,500 kWh per year.

I think your cost estimates for regular li-ion cell are too high. One year ago CBAK expanded to produce 22 million cell phone batteries per month. Their total revenues around that time were only $10m/month, indicating a price of 50 cents per battery. Li-ion cells are about $400-500/kWh in quantity (a contributor here named Clett claims $250/kWh but I've not seen that). $2000/kWh might apply to certain speciality cells, but not mainstream designs.

Powerstream pricing: Look at 24v packs and the first entry says 8 pcs of 5Ah/3.2V in series - $160. That's $1250/kWh. That pricing holds for many of their packs, but some packs are higher for unknown reasons.

Neil, HEV designers are choosing advanced lithium over NiMH because of power density. Normal NiMH will give you about 400 W/kg, so you'd need a 100kg+ pack costing $5000+ to feed the Prius's 50 kW motor.

Toyota uses "high power" NiMH cells, which can now deliver 1300-1800 W/kg, making the battery pack smaller and cheaper (30kg and currently about $1500 for Prius). These cells are heavier (22 kg vs. 12 kg per kWh) and more expensive ($1200 vs. $500 per kWh) than normal NiMH but have represented the best compromise for HEVs to date.

Advanced lithium (LiFePO and other chemistries) promise 3000 W/kg or better so a Prius pack would only need to be 15 kg (A123 claims even smaller in off-the-cuff remarks). If lithium can trade off higher power density for lower energy density, like Toyota/Panasonic did with their "high power" NiMH, a 10 kg pack might be possible. Such a pack might only hold 0.8 kWh vs. 1.3 kWh for the current Prius battery, but control logic prevents the car from ever using more than about 0.4 kWh anyway. In mass production a 0.8 kWh advanced lithium pack might cost as little as $800. That's the promise at least; automakers are currently doing lots of tests to see if advanced lithium can deliver while meeting temperature, durability and other specs.

Henrik,

I agree with your conclusion that $/kWh is all that matters. So economies of scale play a big part in the picture, do you have any projections? That is, how many tonnes of LiFePO4 production would be required to get the price down to make the EV industry lift off and where do you think the price might floor?

I know these are nearly impossible questions to answer but given the sad history of the Photo Voltaics industry, I'd like to know what goal posts to look out for in the near future. Some more "wild guess"es would be appreciated, thanks!

Shaun: I am afraid that I don’t know how much this industry should be scaled to bring the price down to a level where PHEV and BEV are realistic for mass production. But as argued I believe it will happen if the price per kWh drops to $600 or below for the a123 type of batteries including packing and cooling. That compares to about $40 for the 36V DeWalt pack. I believe it can be done because we see a lot of intelligent people working hard to make it happen and because there is lots of money to be made in the $480 billion a year market for PHEV batteries that could exist if the price could be brought significantly down. Quoting from the MIT web: “At this point, cost may still be an issue. But that will change as more of the cells get made. "At the end of the day, it's a scale game," says Alan Mumby, CEO of a joint venture between Johnson Controls, in Milwaukee, WI, and Saft, in Paris, France. The venture has been awarded one of the two contracts for developing (PHEV) battery packs for GM.” See http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/18054/page2/. When these people say as they do then I get convinced that it will happen. But I will still be watching out for the pack price of the DeWalt battery just to be sure.

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