China is making “vast progress” in lithium-ion battery manufacturing technology, according to a review published earlier this year by Argonne National Laboratory under the sponsorship of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Vehicle Technologies (OVT).
The scope of the study, by Pandit G. Patil, was (1) to determine the state of the art and current production of lithium-ion batteries in China and (2) to develop recommendations for DOE with respect to battery benchmarking and testing of candidate batteries for use in hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
China is the largest country in the world, and its economy is growing rapidly. Because of the demand for world oil supplies, the United States is interested in the capabilities of Chinese manufacturers of motor vehicles to produce and use state-of-the-art, energy-efficient vehicles.
Although there are significant issues of competitive concern, there are also reasons to hope that multiple nations will have the ability to produce high-quality, interchangeable battery packs for future plug-in hybrid vehicles. The Chinese government is developing its industry and universities to carry out the research and development (R&D) in lithium-ion battery technology for portable and electric vehicle applications. An estimated 400 organizations in China are involved in battery development or manufacturing; however, manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries represent an unknown fraction of this total.
Among the findings of the report on the state of the Li-ion industry in China are:
From 2001 to 2004, the number of battery companies in China increased from 455 to 613; accordingly, the number of employees in those industries also increased from 140,000 in 2001 to 250,000 in 2004. The total output reached 63.416 billion Yuan ($8.1 billion) in 2004, which is an increase of 52.58% over 2001.
In the past three to four years, companies outside of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) have been bringing advanced battery technologies to the PRC and setting up partnerships and/or joint ventures to manufacture batteries for these and other applications (such as electric bikes, EVs, and HEVs) to take advantage of low labor cost and incentives provided by the Chinese government. Companies in the PRC are very aggressive in developing manufacturing processes for the batteries export market.
The sales of large-scale companies in the battery industry was 59.818 billion Yuan ($7.65 billion) in 2004—an increase of 52.85% in comparison with 2003, an increase of 105.32% in comparison with 2002, and an increase of 160.93% in comparison with 2001.
This growth is attributed to the growth of large companies. In the last four years, the debt-to-asset ratio of China’s battery industry has been fluctuating between 54 and 59%. The most commonly used battery industry standards in China for testing and evaluating battery technologies are those from the International Electrical Commission (IEC).
Along with the rapid growth of lithium-ion battery manufacturers in China, companies like the BYD Company Limited; Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint- Stock Co., Ltd.; Shenzhen BAK Battery Co., Ltd.; and Shenzhen B&K Technology Co., Ltd., are increasing their share of the market. In 2004, the domestic and overseas markets for lithium-ion batteries were flourishing—the export volume was 189 million units, with an increase of 16.3% in sales. As a result of the rapid increase in domestic demand, the import volume of lithium-ion batteries was 550 million units, with an increase of 23.43% in sales in 2004.
At present, Chinese lithium-ion battery manufacturing companies are relatively well developed. Such manufacturers as the BYD Company Limited; Shenzhen BAK Battery Co., Ltd.; and Shenzhen B&K Technology Co., Ltd., enjoy a large share of the global battery market.
During 2003–2004, the Chinese lithium-ion battery industry developed dramatically. The production of cobalt acid lithium and nickel acid lithium and the invention of new manufacturing techniques to extract lithium from salty lakes will drastically reduce the need to import anode materials for lithium batteries from abroad.
Most Chinese companies are producing lithium-ion batteries for portable applications. Large companies have undertaken research and development with the help of joint ventures and/or partnerships with companies from Japan, Europe, and the United States. These companies, which include BYD Company Limited; EMB; GBP; Suzhou Phylion Battery Co., Ltd.; Xingheng; Tianjin Lantian; Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Co., Ltd.; Beijing Green Power; and CITIC Guoan MGL, are developing lithium-ion batteries for e-bike, EV, and HEV applications—with particular focus on EVs and e-bikes. E-bikes have been by far the most successful battery electric vehicle application in history, with an estimated cumulative production of ~30 million by 2007.
Lithium resources are abundant in China. As of 2000, China was the second largest producer of lithium in the world, and in 2004, it produced 18,000 metric tons.
The rechargeable lithium battery is a new technology in the energy field supported greatly by the Chinese government. Since the initiation of China’s “863 Program” in 1987, the Ministry of Science and Technology has organized the research and development of the key materials and technologies for NiMH and lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are produced on a large scale, particularly for export.
In its new five-year plan (2006–2010), the Chinese government outlines steps to boost efficiency and reduce pollution. A number of clear targets for increasing energy efficiency are set (e.g., to increase total energy efficiency by 20% and to achieve an energy mix of at least 20% renewable energy by 2020).
On the whole, the PRC is making vast progress in manufacturing lithium-ion battery technology. The government has a national program in place to attract foreign companies to set up joint ventures and/or partnerships with Chinese companies. The Chinese government offers large incentives to Chinese companies that produce batteries for export. The Chinese government also gives Chinese-owned companies additional incentives to conduct research and provides capital for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for all applications.
Specific companies and organizations highlighted in the report include:
CITIC Guoan MGL. MGL is China’s largest manufacturer of the conventional cathode material LiCoO2, and it will be the first to market the new cathode materials LiMn2O4 and LiCoO0.2Ni0.8O2.
MGL emphasizes quality control, and has passed the certification of both New and Hi-Tech Enterprise standards and IS09001:2000. With its own synthesis method, MGL claims it produces cathode materials of superior performance and reliability in an environmentally friendly way.
Besides cathode materials, MGL also produces lithium-ion secondary batteries of high energy density and high capacity for power and energy storage—the capacity ranges from several ampere-hours to several hundred ampere-hours. As China’s first power battery manufacturer, MGL leads in marketing high-capacity lithium-ion secondary batteries, which are used in the Beijing Municipality’s trial electric bus fleet.
Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Co., Ltd., was established in 1998. Lishen has a capitalization of 600 million Ren Min Bi (RMB) ($80.00 million), and a total investment of 1.5 billion RMB ($200.00 million). The production of lithium cells is completely automatic—representing the most automated production line for lithium-ion batteries in China. The production equipment is imported from Japan.
Suzhou Phylion Battery Co., Ltd., is a battery technology corporation set up by Legend Capital Co., Ltd.; the Institute of Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and Chengdu Diao Group. Suzhou Phylion Battery Co., Ltd., has 82 million RMB ($10.93 million) and a staff of more than 400. The company specializes in manufacturing and selling lithium-ion cells with high capacity and current. Its technology is primarily used in defense, electric bicycles, lighting, portable electronics, medical equipment, and battery-operated tools.
Tianjin Institute of Power Sources. Established in 1985, the institute is one of the two national laboratories involved in battery testing and evaluation activities and programs. It is considered the largest, most comprehensive, most authoritative, independent quality-testing center for chemical and physical power sources.
Tongji University, School of Automotive Engineering. Tongji University has world-class facilities to integrate advanced batteries and fuel cells in vehicles and to conduct basic and applied research for the automotive industry. These testing capabilities cover research, testing, and evaluation. The school is collaborating research with lithium battery development companies, fuel cell development companies, and domestic and foreign automobile companies.
GRINM. The General Research Institute for Nonferrous Metals (GRINM) is the largest research and development (R&D) institution in the field of nonferrous metals industry in China. GRINM is conducting basic research on the materials needs and requirements for high-energy and high-power lithium-ion battery technology.
GRINM has focused on nanotechnology and LiMn2O4 materials for the cathode, graphite for the anode, and PC+DC+DMC+1m LiPF6 liquid electrolyte and polypropylene/polyethylene/polypropylene separator for the development of a lithium-ion battery cell. GRINM developed all materials in-house except for the separator, which GRINM imports from Japan and the United States.
Patil concludes the review with recommendations for a morethoroughh first-hand review by the DOE, and to make arrangements for benchmarking Chinese battery technology in the United States.
Chinese companies have expressed a strong interest in making battery technology available for benchmarking. The timing is right, and interest in working with the United States is very strong.
Pandit G. Patil (2008) Developments in Lithium-Ion Battery Technology in The Peoples Republic of China (ANL/ESD/08-1)