CATL starts focusing on safer battery cells

CATL starts focusing on safer battery cells
CATL cobalt-free LFP battery cell

In May, concerned about several fires in electric cars the MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) of the Chinese government issued new safety standards that will come into force on January 1, 2021.

 

One new rule for passenger electric cars requires that in case of thermal runaway of a battery cell, it should cause no fire or explosion for at least five minutes, giving drivers and passengers enough time to escape.

Ternary battery cells (NCM/NCA) make extremely hard for battery packs to comply with this safety rule, so it seems inevitable that most Chinese automakers will shift to safer chemistries – that are also cobalt-free -, such as LFP, LFMP or LNMO before this year ends.

 

 

Some important Chinese battery cell makers like BYD or Guoxuan were already focused on producing LFP (LiFePO4), now it’s time for CATL to do the same.

However, this doesn’t mean that CATL can’t keep producing NCM battery cells to supply foreign automakers such as PSA.

 

 

Anyway, now I’m curious to know what Tesla will do in China next year. Will it make all its electric cars cobalt-free with LFP batteries from CATL?

There’s the possibility that Tesla can keep selling its Model 3 LR with NCM 811 cells in China, because Tesla does have the ability of making safe battery packs with inherently unsafe cells by using a “steel and ceramic firewall between the battery pack and the passenger compartment.” The firewall could be enough to comply with MIIT’s new 5 minutes rule…

 

However, most Chinese automakers will probably move to LFP, instead of having the trouble of trying to make somewhat safe but extremely complex battery packs with NCM/NCA cells. Why complicate? There’s no future in EV batteries that use cobalt anyway…

 

 

More info:

https://roskill.com/news/batteries-the-true-drivers-behind-lfp-demand-new-safety-standards-costs-ip-rights-esg-simplified-battery-pack-designs/

https://www.argusmedia.com/en/news/2130049-lfp-battery-switch-drives-supply-chain-changes

http://autonews.gasgoo.com/new_energy/70017149.html

http://www.miit.gov.cn/n1146290/n1146402/n1146440/c7909341/content.html

https://sci-hub.se/https://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/RA/2018/C8RA06458J

Pedro Lima

My interest in electric transportation is mostly political. I’m tired of coups and wars for oil. My expectation is that the adoption of electric transportation will be a factor for peace and democracy all over the world.
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Andrés
Andrés
24 days ago

Veo con preocupación que se va como los cangrejos hacia atras……. Las celdas LFP son menos densas tanto volumetricamente como por masa que las NCM/NCA. Así no se avanza justo todo lo contrario. Los vehiculos FCEV lo van a tener muy facil cuando lleguen de forma masiva al mercado barreran del mapa a todos los EV obsoletos a batería.

JAYP
JAYP
24 days ago
Reply to  Andrés

LFP Cells are already better than Hydrogen in Safety, Range and Power, so who cares about an already dead technology.

#Nikola 😀

Famlin
Famlin
23 days ago
Reply to  Andrés

Are you working in nikola motors. where are fuel cell vehicles. how many models are being sold, how many hydrogen stations are there. but i will be happy if fuel cell vehicles are sold since they are much cleaner than ICE vehicles.

Leo B
Leo B
24 days ago

Pedro,
I think cobalt deserves a little more credit 😉

NCA/NCM batteries most likely accelerated the general acceptance of BEV’s by several years, probably even a decade.

Also:
-Cobalt-free batteries will not end the artisanal mining practices in Congo;
-Cobalt-free batteries will not mean cobalt-free cars. Electronics, paint, tyres and the internal combustion engine all (may) contain cobalt.

Currently the use of cobalt in batteries is mostly a trade-off between cost and performance. In the future new technologies may change the outcome, but for now almost every BEV buyer gets one for the first time. We urgently need BEV’s to become cheaper, but we also need the high performance (long range) cars to cover most use cases. So I wouldn’t write off NCA/NCM just yet.
In China the situation is maybe slightly different, with less long distance travel by car, so the adoption of LFP may go quicker and easier. By the way, from the quote of CATL CEO it’s unclear whether the non-flaming battery is LFP or “ternary”.

Pedro Lima
Pedro Lima
23 days ago
Reply to  Leo B

Hi Leo.

With CTP technology the energy density that matters (at the battery pack level) of LFP already matches NCM 523/662 and LFMP/LNMO can even surpass NCM 712/811.

Electric cars can’t compete with ICE cars in volume production and price if their batteries use rare raw materials.

Oliver Apitaph
Oliver Apitaph
23 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

And what is the reason behind NMC 532/ 622 cant be used in CTP? 811/NCA might be a safety concern.
We often seems to forget Wh/L.NMC is denser material than LFP.

Pedro Lima
Pedro Lima
23 days ago
Reply to  Oliver Apitaph

You can use CTP with NCM 523/622 cells, but it needs adaptions, at least some metal plates between the cells to serve as firewall if a cell starts burning or explodes.

The cell-to-pack ratio is always higher with safer LFP/LFMP/LNMO battery cells, NCM/NCA cells require more passive material to keep them somewhat safe, which makes battery packs even more expensive than they already are.

Right now the average energy density of NCM 523/622 battery packs in Europe is around 140 Wh/kg.

https://pushevs.com/2020/04/04/comparison-of-different-ev-batteries-in-2020/

In China some LFP battery packs already surpass 160 Wh/kg.

https://pushevs.com/2020/06/21/most-energy-dense-cobalt-free-batteries/

Guoxuan aims to reach 180 Wh/kg later this year. With LFMP and LNMO cells this can be even higher (above 200 Wh/kg).

I really see no future for ternary batteries in electric cars.

Leo B
Leo B
23 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

Well, the Chinese +160 Wh/kg LFP packs are all large packs (300 kWh or more) for buses. I think there’s little discussion that LFP is the preferred solution for that purpose.

Chinese passenger car LFP packs are about 125-140 Wh/kg most of the time, while ternary packs are 160-170 Wh/kg. Some CATL NCM 811 packs are close to 180 Wh/kg and didn’t you do an article about the Arcfox lately, that has a SK Innovation NCM 811 (CTP, I believe) pack of almost 195 Wh/kg?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of LFP batteries, but I think there will be a future for ternary batteries as well.

Pedro Lima
Pedro Lima
22 days ago
Reply to  Leo B

That’s true Leo, Chinese ternary battery packs have the highest energy densities, but I think that it will end now.

Now that Chinese automakers have to add more complex and heavy safety equipment (such as more sensors, thicker cables, stronger cases and metal plates) to their ternary battery packs, the energy density of those packs will drop a lot (to the levels we have in Europe and North America).

Until now most Chinese automakers have been focused almost solely on increasing the energy dense of their battery packs, not caring about safety. This happened not only for marketing reasons, but also because of subsidies.
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Most electric cars sold in Europe wouldn’t be eligible to the maximum subsidy in China since their average energy density is around 140 Wh/kg.

Leo B
Leo B
22 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

What I wonder, is there a definition of “battery pack”? Since the Chinese base their incentives on it, there must be. Would a protective bottom plate be part of it or not? (By the way, I would like a bottom protection on a LFP car as well 😉 ) And what about cell-to-chassis batteries, like CATL and Tesla are proposing?

Chinese manufacturers have used prismatic cells on mixed platforms mainly. Western manufacturers use mixed platforms as well, but dedicated platforms are on the rise. Most of them use pouch cells (and Tesla cylindrical of course) with many modules and some structural reinforcements. Could it be that in western cars the definition of the pack is slightly different?

Pedro Lima
Pedro Lima
22 days ago
Reply to  Leo B

Good question Leo.

I’ll try to find out.

Famlin
Famlin
23 days ago

Tesla has already started selling Model 3 SR+ MIC with LFP batteries. Their LR models with NCM/NCA are also very safe with the type of packing.

Is the chinese government trying to move completely into LFP and getting rid of any other chemistry. By any means a BEV with any battery is better than ICE vehicles and thats what they should try to get rid of. It seems like their government is trying to discourage foreign battery makers from selling there and promoting their battery companies. Unfair trade.

Pajda
Pajda
23 days ago
Reply to  Famlin

I think that there is something to be said. Firstly the recent China electric vehicle battery standards was far more benevolent than EU and US ones, so they basically with their new standards only catching the actual world standards. And so they give instructions on how to accomplish this. By use of inherently safe chemistry like LFP or use NMC/NCA with robust safety battery pack design. I also think that it has nothing do with CATL problems, which I believe are marginal to recent problems of Chinese noname “below 5000 USD” electric vehicle manufacturers.

Rodri
Rodri
23 days ago
Reply to  Famlin

I thought the same. Big impact for foreign battery makers and EV imports. Economic war?
1) Will it apply only to new vehicles being homologated after Jan2021 or to any vehicle sold?
2) If applied to every vehicle is almost impossible to comply by 2021. Impossible to shift battery production from ternary to LFP in months. So short term solution is redesign the pack improving the firewall if needed.
3) Why gas cars doesn’t have this requirement? It is unfair for EVs, should apply also to ICE vehicles.
4) TBH any car should be able to give you a few minutes to abandon it. But if you are trapped or unconscious it is not going to be enough.

Rok
Rok
22 days ago
Reply to  Rodri

I believe it is only positive to apply stricter safety regulations on cars even though only to EVs. EVs will prevail in the next few years over ICE cars so it will come to all cars in any case.

Kris
Kris
23 days ago

Maybe they should apply a similar rule to ICE cars? No fire or explosion for at least 5 minutes…

Benedetto
Benedetto
20 days ago

“Why complicate? There’s no future in EV batteries that use cobalt anyway…”

Weren’t the NCMA (which DO use cobalt as the “C” in the chemistry reminds us) supposed to be the future for EV batteries according to the author just 1 year ago?

Just asking to understand the contradiction, not maliciously intended.

Pedro Lima
Pedro Lima
20 days ago
Reply to  Benedetto

Hi Benedetto. Things evolved quite fast in the last months.

CTP (cell-to-pack) battery packs with LFMP or LNMO cells is now the most promising combination to help electric cars achieve high volume production.

NCMA might still be an option for more expensive electric cars.

Benedetto
Benedetto
20 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

I see.

Anyway LFP and LFMP seems to be preferred by most readers (me included) for being cobalt free and most of all to be cheaper 😂

I must say that this blog is very informative and I indeed learned a lot about batteries chemistry.

That said and given the availability of such technology and the cost of an average LFP battery one may think that lot of automakers are keeping EV car prices high artificially.

One exception may be the future Dacia Spring to be announced soon. I have a lot of hopes in this EV.

Lex
Lex
19 days ago

Lima This is a little off topic, and I really appreciate expert advice from people in this forum.

I was wondering, why is the price of battery storage systems so high. Grid storage specifically.
Tesla Powerwall is expensive ok. But even the Tesla Megapack cost around USD550/kWh (4h storage, i.e. power 250kW, capacity 1000 kWh)

Tesvolt price was even higher. Their website calculator (https://www.tesvolt.com/en/service/calculate-energy-storage.html) was aiming for USD800/kWh (3.5h storage). I think Tesvolt uses Samsung SDI cells.

Even with NCM/NCA chemistries it seems expensive? Inverters in (4h storage) configuration should be about the same costs as battery pack, which together could be around 250USD/kWh. Battery storage inverters included. Some extra costs for R&D, shipping container, additional power electronics, cost of assembly. This could be 300-400USD/kWh perhaps?

Maybe those Tesla, Tesvolt costs include installation, grid connections, engineering work, getting permissions. Although I am not sure about this part. The Megapack should make this easier and cheaper, and it doesn’t seem to decrease cost much in comparison to Hornsdale battery, consisting of PowerPacks.

For LFP I have seen some quotes for battery storage for 5G stations in China, and it was stunningly low.

What am I missing here? It must be something big. (Apart from LFP’s are not widely available yet and/or geographically)

Thank you very much for all the responses

Lex

Pedro Lima
Pedro Lima
19 days ago
Reply to  Lex

Hi Lex.

That’s an interesting question.

It seems that Tesla will move away from NCM for its ESS (Energy Storage System) products and adopt cobalt-free LFP/LFMP cells for the Megapack and cobalt-free LNMO cells for the Powerwall.

Adopting cobalt-free batteries will enable higher volume production and lower prices.
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I’m not sure, but I think that Tesla uses in its ESS products the same 2170 NCM cells of the Tesla Model 3 and Y. Therefore Tesla needs to choose which products to prioritize, and right now it’s electric cars.

I would like to see BYD put its Blade Battery cells in ESS products.

https://en.byd.com/energy/

Lex
Lex
18 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

Thank you for your reply and great content you put on this blog Pedro.
I will have a look at BYD ESS. Yes, CTP ESS would be sweet.

Yes, as you say, the plan is to move to LFP/LFMP, even for Tesla in ESS.

The thing with ESS is quite strange still. We should be close in price(or lower) to the car battery systems(no matter NCA/NCM/LFMPO/LMNO) with inverters, heat management, on board charger(4-8h charging time), other power electronics. All necessary for a car, in a similar configuration, i.e. 3-4h storage. (car 150-250kW motor, 80-100kWh battery)

Why are the prices for ESS so sky high? I.e. in multiples of car battery systems. It doesn’t make sense.

I mean, the price of Model3 LR in US, 47000USD, 74kWh. That’s 635USD/kWh. For the whole car! The Tesvolt calculator 800USD/kWh, Tesla Megapack 550-600USD/kWh

How can price of ESS ONLY be in the same range? It is outrageous.

If you have some other good sources, I would like to know more. Or during your next research, if you stumble upon some facts connecting to ESS, it would be interesting extension of the articles :). Thank you