The development of the electric vehicle industry can be described as surging, and the automotive power battery as an important part of it has attracted the attention of the academic, investment and industrial circles. At present, the types of batteries that have been used in various vehicles include lead-acid batteries, nickel-metal hydride batteries and lithium-ion batteries. Due to the pollution of lead-acid batteries and the small capacity of gram batteries, their cost advantages are not sufficient to offset their disadvantages. In terms of vehicle dynamics, it has so far only been applied in small electric bicycles and other fields; nickel-metal hydride batteries are currently the main products used in the field of hybrid electric vehicles. Their manufacturing processes are mature, their acquisition and use costs are low, and they will continue to be hybrids in the short term. The first choice for automobiles, but its high self-discharge rate, small specific energy, memory effect and charging heat issues directly affect the use of the battery, the existence of these shortcomings may make nickel-metal hydride batteries may only exist as a transitional product; lithium ion The battery is a high-capacity rechargeable battery developed in the 1990s and can store more energy than a nickel-metal hydride battery. It has a higher specific energy, a longer cycle life, a smaller self-discharge rate, and no memory effect, and can satisfy volume, life, power, etc. The demand for higher demand for passenger cars has become an ideal product for future pure electric vehicle applications.
Lithium-ion batteries have many kinds of cathode materials. The main varieties are lithium cobaltate, lithium manganate, nickel manganese cobalt ternary materials and lithium iron phosphate, among which lithium cobalt oxide is the most industrialized and most mature technology in existing cathode materials. The largest variety of products is mainly used in small batteries such as mobile phones and digital products. However, due to the high prices of raw materials such as cobalt and nickel metals, the pollution is heavy, and there is a risk of overheating and explosion of batteries after the batteries are enlarged. Therefore, relatively speaking, lithium-ion batteries whose positive electrode materials are lithium manganate, ternary materials, and lithium iron phosphate have better safety performance and lower cost, so the current industrial investment mainly focuses on these materials. Among them, lithium iron phosphate has been favored by the industry because of its potential advantages in terms of cycle life and material cost that are not available in the other two materials, and represents the future development direction of positive materials for power batteries.
The main international manufacturers of lithium iron phosphate battery materials include Canada Phostech, Valence USA, A123 USA, Formosa Plastics Changyuan Energy Technology, Aleees etc. in Taiwan, among which, the top three companies hold relatively mature quantities. Production technology. In 2008, the global shipment of lithium iron phosphate was about 1,500 tons, of which US A123 company supplied 750 tons, which accounted for almost half of the share. The supply of domestic manufacturers was only a few hundred tons. In 2009, the global shipment of lithium iron phosphate was about 1600 Ton, global shipments of lithium iron phosphate in 2010 were around 1,370 tons.
According to statistics, currently there are more than 60 manufacturers of lithium iron phosphate cathode materials in China, and nearly 20 companies have achieved mass production. According to public statistics, the total lithium iron phosphate production capacity in the country is about 6,400 tons/year, but the actual output is far lower than the production capacity (less than 1/10 of the capacity).
In general, China's industrialization of lithium iron phosphate is basically synchronized with that of the international market. At present, the cost of some domestic products is lower than that of similar foreign products. The gap in performance and unit production capacity is not out of reach, but it should also be seen calmly. At present, there are no real leading companies in the country. The industry lacks original innovation technology, and the low-end follow-through has a more imitation of the atmosphere. As a whole, the lithium iron phosphate material industry is under the critical point of industrialization. In the future, with the continuous improvement of lithium iron phosphate production technology, the market prospects are still promising for the industry. Except for the electric vehicle, bicycle, scooter and power tool market, lithium iron phosphate batteries are used in wind power, solar energy storage devices, and miner's lamps. Power and implantable medical devices also have a wide range of applications.
According to the static calculation, it can be concluded that in the next 5 to 7 years, according to the penetration rate of 10% to 20% of the product, only four electric cars, electric tools, electric bicycles, and electric scooter will be used in domestic lithium iron phosphate batteries. The area has a market size of about 15 billion yuan, of which lithium iron phosphate material itself accounts for about 30% of the cost of the battery, corresponding to a market size of about 4.5 billion yuan, and the annual demand is expected to reach 30,000 tons.
Problems exist: 1. Patent patent infringement. A patent "kind of litigation" touched the nerves of the industry's people - the olivine structure of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) was born in the United States at the University of Texas, Texas University in 1997 for lithium iron phosphate crystal structure and chemical formula applied for The patent was later granted to the Canadian water company Hydro-Quebec (HQ) and its subsidiary company Phostech. In 2005, Black & Decker (B&D), the world's largest power tool manufacturer, introduced a cordless power tool using lithium iron phosphate batteries, which is hot in Europe and the United States. In September 2006, Texas University and Canada’s Phostech filed lawsuits against B&D and battery maker A123, alleging that it was not authorized to manufacture and sell infringing goods. A123 believes that its cathode materials have different crystal structures and chemical molecular formulae, and there are no patent infringement issues. The current case is still being heard, but the nature has changed from patent disputes in universities and enterprises to multinational patent litigation. As GM's Volt electric vehicles will use lithium iron phosphate batteries provided by A123, if A123 is infringed, it means that GM also constitutes infringement, so on a wider scale, the verdict will affect the US and even the global electric vehicle market. The pattern of development. Since then, there have been a number of related patent litigation events. The result was, without exception, the Canadian Phostech victory.
At present, in the field of lithium iron phosphate batteries and materials, there are two core technology patents, one of which is carbon-coated technology and the other is carbon-thermal reduction technology. The former is owned exclusively by Canadian company Phostech and has already applied for a patent in China. The latter's patent rights are owned by the United States A123 company and have not yet applied for a patent in China. However, the United States A123 company has now established two companies in Suzhou, which are responsible for the production of lithium iron phosphate materials and battery manufacturing, respectively, along with companies such as A123. Accelerate the pace of market seizure, patent issues have been placed in front of domestic manufacturers.
In fact, the dispute over patent rights has no effect on domestic sales in China in the short term, but in the long run, it will become a huge hidden danger for the development of the industry. At present, most domestic manufacturers only possess lithium iron phosphate technology and processing technology, and there is no international patent. No matter which party wins the lawsuits of Texas University and A123 patent, domestic lithium iron phosphate companies may face high patent licensing fees in the future. . On June 12, 2010, the Intellectual Property Research Center of China University of Political Science and Law was entrusted by the China Battery Industry Association. It has filed a request for invalidation of the “Phosphoric-iron lithium battery” patent held by Phostech Corporation with the National Patent Reexamination Board. It has now been accepted. Although the lithium iron phosphate patent incident will continue for a long period of time before it becomes clear, the most important thing is that the industry should learn lessons from it, use R&D as the core, increase investment, accelerate domestic patent applications, and apply key technologies to Apply for a patent abroad.
2. The consistency problem must be solved. Domestic lithium iron phosphate cathode materials have different degrees of quality problems, which are mainly manifested in the quality consistency is difficult to guarantee and so on.
Previously, some domestic large-scale lithium-ion battery manufacturers had several domestic phosphates in terms of average particle size of lithium iron phosphate materials, electrode processability, electrode compaction density, actual specific capacity, cycle life, rate discharge, temperature characteristics, and safety. The materials provided by suppliers of iron and lithium materials and foreign suppliers such as Valence have conducted very systematic test evaluation. The test data objectively shows that domestic lithium iron phosphate products still have many gaps compared with foreign suppliers such as Valence, and The batch consistency of product quality provided by the same supplier is quite different and the repeatability is poor. The reason for this is that the technology is not fully understood. The sensitivity of lithium iron phosphate to the synthetic process conditions is far greater than other cathode materials currently used in industrialization. That is, the process conditions for synthesis must be strictly consistent to ensure batch stability. Domestic enterprises blindly produce under unappreciated technology, and their products naturally have “congenitally deficient” phenomenon; secondly, there is a convergence problem in the transformation of scientific research achievements, and there is a lack of process technology during the transition from scientific research results to pilot testing and from pilot to batch production. The concept of system engineering design; In addition, domestic material manufacturers have a low degree of fine-grained production process management, and lack of standardized, standardized technologies and management systems including procedures, operations, procurement, inspections, etc., also result in low product consistency. important reason.
3. Investment stimulates shuffling competition. Judging from the current situation, China's vehicle power batteries are basically in the R&D and test phase, and mass production has not yet been achieved. In the short term, power battery companies are unlikely to achieve profitability. Therefore, upstream material companies are producing more on-demand, and their scale is far behind. Not to the extent of scale production. However, the speculation of the industry concept has already ignited the enthusiasm for investment. The actual effective capacity shortage of lithium batteries for vehicles in China has become the best “breakthrough”. In addition, driven by local economic interests, the government has opened its green light, and private investment also seems to All of them are required, and there is a lot of “enclosure” suspicions. There are hundreds of millions of investment projects that are still happening everywhere. The industry has already shown signs of overcapacity. According to statistics, as of 2010, China’s power lithium battery capacity was 2 billion Ah, mainly located in the automobile industry gathering areas of the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta, the three eastern provinces, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Tangshan Autonomous Region. By 2015, the power lithium battery and its upstream materials Industrial investment will continue to move forward. It is expected that with a series of investment incentives, the production capacity of China's power lithium battery will reach 3.9 billion Ah in 2015, while the output of EV/PHEV passenger cars and electric commercial vehicles in China is expected to be about 120,000, and the consumption of lithium batteries will be about 900 million Ah. This only accounts for 23% of the production capacity of power lithium batteries. The multi-investment industry of lithium iron phosphate, like other emerging industries, will be reshuffled after a certain stage of development. Only companies that focus on technology accumulation, rational investment, refined management, and market operations will see gold escalating.