LG Chem keeps losing ground to CATL
A few years ago, when Panasonic was Tesla’s sole battery cell supplier, the Japanese company was the world leader in battery cell production.
Then, more recently, LG Chem was able to surpass Panasonic by supplying battery cells to most legacy automakers when they came onboard with electric cars, but also by supplying cells to Tesla in China.
Now, it’s the Chinese battery cell maker CATL that is dominating world’s battery cell production, mostly thanks to the fact that its two most direct competitors don’t produce cobalt-free battery cells.
China is world’s biggest market for electric cars and is now focused on making them affordable. This requires a cobalt-free chemistry and that’s what CATL has to offer.
I’ve been “warning” for some time that Panasonic relying only on Tesla was bad for the company. The Japanese battery cell maker focused too much on cylindrical battery cells and left prismatic behind. Now, Panasonic is in a difficult position. It isn’t Tesla’s sole battery cell supplier anymore and its prismatic cells aren’t very appealing to other automakers. Panasonic is now trying to rise up with the help of Japanese automakers, but unfortunately for the company they aren’t very keen on making electric cars…
As for LG Chem, the South Korean battery cell maker produces great NCM 712 battery cells, which are affordable but not as much as the cobalt-free cells that CATL supplies. Betting on LFP (LiFePO4) is paying off for Chinese companies.
I know that some Korean battery researchers are focusing on LNMO, which is also cobalt-free but more energy dense than LFP (LiFePO4). The question is how long will it take for LG Chem to mass-produce cobalt-free battery cells and become an alternative to CATL. The more time it takes the more ground LG Chem loses to CATL.
Anyway, let’s see the data.
Global electric vehicle battery application in Q1 2021
- CATL: 15,1 GWh (31,5 %)
- LG Energy Solution: 9,8 GWh (20,5 %)
- Panasonic: 8 GWh (16,7 %)
- BYD: 3,2 GWh (6,8 %)
- Samsung SDI: 2,5 GWh (5,3 %)
- SK Innovation: 2,4 GWh (5,1 %)
- CALB: 1,3 GWh (2,7 %)
- AESC: 1 GWh (2,1 %)
- Guoxuan: 0,9 GWh (1,9 %)
- PEVE: 0,6 GWh (1,3 %)
AESC’s dependence on Nissan LEAF is also proving to be problematic, since sales of this veteran electric car have been dropping month by month.
Finally, in my opinion BYD and Guoxuan are the battery cell makers more likely to rise in the ranking next year, while Panasonic will drop the most.