The New York Times‘ motto is “All the news that’s fit to print.” Here at CleanTechnica, our motto is, “All the clean tech news that fits, we print.” There is a lot of EV battery news out there lately, so that will be the subject of today’s news blast.
CATL M3P Production
Last summer, we told our readers about a new battery chemistry from CATL, the world’s largest maker of lithium-ion batteries. Called M3P, the new batteries are said to be up to 15% more energy dense than LFP batteries, which would allow cars like the Tesla Model 3 to have a range in excess of 400 miles. Reuters reported last week that CATL is now ready to begin mass production of its M3P batteries. They will have greater energy density and perform better than lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) batteries and be less expensive than nickel- and cobalt-based batteries, Zeng Yuqun told an online investor briefing on Friday.
It’s not always possible to get exact information on what precise battery chemistries are being used by manufacturers. Such details are a jealously guarded trade secret. We do know there is such a thing as an LMFP battery, which adds manganese to the mix. The M3P batteries, on the other hand, replace the iron currently used in LFP batteries with a mix of magnesium, zinc, and aluminum, according to Autoevolution. Official data shows the energy density of M3P batteries will be about 15% higher than that of the 210 Wh/kg of current LFP batteries, which should translate into a 10% range improvement over the current LFP-powered cars built at Giga Shanghai, according to Sina Tech.
Zeng also has something interesting to say about solid-state batteries, which are supposed to be the Holy Grail of battery technology. The hope is that they will permit faster charging times while eliminating the possibility of battery fires that plague batteries made with semi-liquid — and flammable — materials. Toyota is pinning its hopes for joining the EV revolution on them, and Volkswagen has made a major investment in QuantumScape, a US company that is struggling to make solid-state batteries that are commercially viable.
Zeng told investors his company is finding it difficult to come up with a technologically feasible and competitive product based on solid-state battery technology. That’s not surprising. StoreDot also is working on bringing solid-state batteries to market but said last fall that it is at least a decade away from commercial production.
US DOE Battery Projections
The US Department Of Energy (DOE) said recently it expects US battery production in 2030 will be 20 times what it was in 2021. “A wave of new planned electric vehicle battery plants will increase North America’s battery manufacturing capacity from 55 Gigawatt-hours per year in 2021 to nearly 1,000 GWh/year by 2030. Most of the announced battery plant projects are scheduled to begin production between 2025 and 2030. By 2030, this production capacity will be capable of supporting the manufacture of roughly 10 to 13 million all electric vehicles per year.” And some people still believe the EV revolution is not happening!
“To optimize supply chain logistics, many battery plants will be co-located with automotive plants. Most of the planned projects in the United States are concentrated along a north-south band from Michigan to Alabama. Based on current plans, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Michigan will see the highest growth in battery manufacturing capacity.”
The prediction by DOE was prescient. Thanks in large part to the financial incentives provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, investments in battery factories are flooding into America. This week, LG Energy Solution announced what it says is the largest investment — $5.5 billion — in a US battery factory ever in Queen Creek, Arizona, which is southeast of Phoenix. The company says the new manufacturing facility will consist of two factories — one for cylindrical batteries for electric vehicles and another for lithium-iron-phosphate pouch-type batteries for energy storage systems. The production capacity for cylindrical cells will be four times greater than what the company expected when it first considered a new factory in Arizona a year ago.
Together, the two factories will produce 43 GWh of batteries annually — 27 GWh of cylindrical cells and 16 GWh of pouch cells. LG Energy Solution says the LFP factory will be the largest in the US dedicated to producing batteries solely for the energy storage market. Groundbreaking for the new manufacturing complex will take place later this year.
With the new battery factory in Arizona, LGES will boost its production capacity in major product segments, develop more cohesive partnerships with its customers in both EV and ESS sectors, and cut back on the logistics cost by bringing its new manufacturing facilities in close proximity to its customers.
Situating the new ESS battery facility in North America, the biggest ESS market globally, LGES aims to respond to the fast growing needs for locally manufactured batteries on the back of the IRA and further expedite clean energy transition in North America, the company says. It acknowledges that the size of its investment was very much influenced by the incentives made available by the IRA.
“Our decision to invest in Arizona demonstrates our strategic initiative to continue expanding our global production network, which is already the largest in the world, to further advance our innovative and top-quality products in scale and with speed,” said Youngsoo Kwon, CEO of LG Energy Solution. “We believe it’s the right move at the right time in order to empower clean energy transition in the U.S.”
The company’s new manufacturing facilities will utilize a state-of-the-art smart factory system that carries out all decision making on machine-produced data. By implementing this key measure to enhance product quality, the Arizona facilities will aim to increase yield, improve manufacturing processes, and boost productivity to better respond to the rising battery demands in the region.
The Inflation Reduction Act has opened the floodgates for new investments in manufacturing in America. It may succeed far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams at reshoring (that’s the magic buzzword of the year) jobs for Americans. At the same time, one has to wonder what kinds of batteries will be manufactured in all those new factories — NMC? LFP? LMFP? M3P? The battery industry is changing so rapidly there is a real possibility some of the batteries produced will be functionally obsolete before they get loaded onto pallets and shipped off to end users.
For EV and energy storage fans, it’s all good news, but we can foresee some of these new investments ending in tears for companies that decide to back the wrong horse in the battery technology sweepstakes. There are so many new developments coming, including sodium-ion batteries, that it would be easy for a company to find itself manufacturing battery cells that nobody wants.
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