With the transformation of the global energy structure and the increasing demand for energy storage in industries such as new energy vehicles, the issue of battery life anxiety continues to push the boundaries of industry technology and calls for an upgrade in battery energy density. As one of the important technical routes for a new generation of power batteries, China's self-developed lithium metal battery has recently achieved large-scale mass production.
Industry insiders believe that China's battery industry is ushering in a drastic period, and the 500Wh/kg high-energy density lithium metal cell is gradually maturing in the field of electric aviation applications, and its future application in the new energy vehicle industry is also worth looking forward to.
1. Energy storage demand drives battery innovation
In the first half of this year, China's new energy vehicle market continued to boom, with sales of 2.59 million vehicles, a year-on-year increase of 117%. This has also brought about a year-on-year increase in the demand for power batteries. As of July, the cumulative installed capacity of China's power batteries during the year was 134.3GWh, a year-on-year increase of 110.6%. At the same time, the development of electrification in the fields of electronic products, power tools, and aviation has put forward higher requirements for the load weight, safety performance, and energy density of batteries.
Experts believe that solving the problem of energy storage is an important prerequisite for accelerating the utilization of new energy. In the future, the development of China's power batteries and related industries is of great significance for promoting China's energy transition and achieving carbon peaking and carbon neutrality goals. China's battery industry is ushering in a new era. In the past few decades, China's battery system has undergone many iterations. At present, ternary lithium batteries, lithium iron phosphate batteries, sodium ion batteries, fuel batteries, and lithium-metal batteries that have recently achieved large-scale mass production contend.
Each route focuses on the performance directions of low battery cost, high cycle life, charge and discharge efficiency, high safety, and high energy density. Relevant data show that in 2021, the energy densities of ternary lithium batteries and lithium iron phosphate batteries in China will reach an average of 280Wh/kg and 170Wh/kg, respectively. Compared with 2012, the energy density of power battery cells will increase by more than 220%. China's lithium battery materials are in sufficient supply in China and the supply chain is complete. Lithium batteries are still the dominant global battery system due to their excellent performance.
With the progress of the R&D investment of all resources in the field of lithium batteries, new technologies and materials such as lithium-metal batteries are gradually becoming industrialized. Experts believe that lithium is the lightest metal element in nature. In order to improve the energy density of lithium batteries, the negative electrode technology route will experience a development trend from graphite to silicon carbon, and then to metallic lithium.
Lithium metal batteries will be the ultimate goal of high energy density batteries. Lithium-metal batteries use pure metal lithium as the anode, which has ultra-high theoretical specific capacity and extremely low potential, which meets the new energy car battery voltage and energy density requirements. This makes lithium metal batteries expected to more than double the cruising range of electric vehicles, and is an important development direction for innovative breakthrough technologies in the current battery industry.
2. Continuous breakthroughs in lithium metal battery research and development
The activity of metal lithium is extremely strong, and as a battery anode, there are great technical challenges in terms of safety, resulting in the global research and development of lithium metal battery technology staying in the laboratory stage for a long time. It is reported that the energy density of a new generation of lithium-metal batteries independently developed by Monta Vista Energy has exceeded 550Wh/kg. The 450Wh/kg lithium-metal battery developed by the company also achieved commercial mass production and delivery two years ago.
Lithium metal cell is a battery technology route that uses lithium metal as the anode, which can greatly improve the battery performance, enhance the battery's power endurance, and greatly improve the economic benefits of power storage. From the perspective of industry insiders, with the gradual maturity of lithium metal batteries in aviation applications in the future, its promotion to the new energy vehicle industry is also worth looking forward to. It is understood that at present, in addition to Monta Vista Energy, many battery companies have released lithium metal battery-related technology products.
SES released the ApolloTM lithium metal battery with a capacity of up to 107Ah last year, which is the single lithium metal battery with the largest single capacity in the world and the first public display of more than 100Ah. Its energy density reaches 417Wh/kg, which is twice the energy density of existing lithium batteries. In July, ENPOWER also announced that it has successfully developed a 100Ah lithium metal battery.
The battery uses a self-developed special electrolyte/liquid for flame-retardant lithium metal batteries, and the energy density is as high as 479Wh/kg. ENPOWER expects to complete the construction of a GWh-level production line in 2024, and gradually realize the layout of a 200+GWh-level global industrial base by 2030.
3. Market actively deploys lithium metal batteries
Industry insiders generally believe that whoever masters the next-generation battery technology will have the opportunity to take the lead in the future electric vehicle market. At present, the major lithium battery companies in the world and locomotive manufacturers are actively deploying automotive power batteries. Experts said that in the future, China's power battery innovation should gradually develop from battery structure innovation to material system innovation. In the next 10 years, the battery system will undergo many technological changes, and by 2035, the next-generation battery with an energy density of 500Wh/kg will be produced on a large scale.
Industry professionals also said that lithium metal batteries are lighter in weight, higher in energy and have longer battery life. As it gradually matures in aviation applications, the requirements for general aviation and new energy vehicle battery technical indicators will also converge. It is expected that in the next 5 to 10 years, lithium metal batteries can be maturely used in short- and medium-distance commercial electric aviation, and it is also worth looking forward to the application of new energy vehicles.