The South Korean battery cell maker, SK Innovation announced that its new NCM 811 cells will be available this December. First for battery storage systems, then in third quarter of 2018, for electric vehicles.
Currently, SK Innovation battery cells are NCM 622, which means that besides lithium the cathode contains nickel, cobalt and manganese in a composition ratio of 6:2:2. Regarding the anode, it’s mostly graphite mixed with a bit of silicon to improve energy density.
The new NCM 811 battery cells not only have better energy density, they are also cheaper to produce, especially since they require less cobalt.
You can see from the diagram below that less cobalt (Co) means lower cost.
It’s a well known fact that cobalt is expensive and most comes from mines in Republic of Congo that use child labor. For plenty of reasons, the less cobalt is used the better. To give you an idea, see the costs below:
As you can see, cobalt is much more expensive than nickel or manganese. As expected, less production costs make production easier to increase and this is what will happen.
According to The Korea Herald:
“The batteries will be manufactured at SK Innovation’s battery production facilities in Seosan, where the company is constructing its fifth and sixth battery production lines to secure a total 3.9 gigawatt hours of battery production capacity.”
Nevertheless, the 3,9 GWh figure is just the beginning, SK Innovation wants to increase production even more and is now looking for a place to build its battery cell plant in Europe. Rumors say that it will be located in Poland, Hungary or Czech Republic. The company wants to reach the 10 GWh figure in 2020, enough for 200.000 EV battery packs with 50 kWh each.
Back to the NCM 811 battery cells.
Lee Jon-ha, researcher at the SK battery R&D center said that:
“NCM 811 batteries will help extend the driving range of EVs up to 500 kilometers. The company will also develop new batteries that can provide a range of more than 700 kilometers by 2020”.
SK Innovation considers that their old battery cells were enough to provide a 400 km range, while the new cells represent a 25 percent increase (100 km) to 500 km. We’ll probably see these new battery cells used in the upcoming electric SUV from Mercedes-Benz, based on the Concept EQ by 2018.
By the way, do you want to know when to expect this kind of battery technology incorporated by other automakers? Just look at BMW’s roadmap below…
As you can see, only in 2018 we’ll have NCM 622 battery cells in the BMW i3. Those are the 120 Ah cells that Samsung SDI have been showing us for years – since January 2015 at NAIAS – and are no longer top notch… Furthermore, only by 2021 BMW will finally use the best battery technology we have today, bravo!
To sum up, battery technology in electric cars advances as fast as automakers want it. SK Innovation is doing the smart thing, by making mid and big NCM 811 pouch battery cells already available in energy storage systems – instead of waiting for automakers to finally decide (are forced) to use them. It would be great if LG Chem and Samsung SDI followed the same strategy, because I know they are also eager to see their best technology being used today.