Adding manganese to power batteries is on the eve of making wealth丨36ke New Wind Direction lite

BoShi News 2022-08-04 16:04:13

Text | Zhou Youhui, Gao Ya

Editor | Peng Xiaoqiu

This is an era of power battery grabbing money.

As soon as the lithium battery enrichment movement started, a large wave of upstream companies' stock prices have risen to the sky. For example, the German nanometer, which is the second largest lithium iron phosphate material, has increased by 7 times, and the first ternary material, Rongbai Technology, has increased by 4 times.

So every technological change deserves attention. Compared with lithium iron phosphate, which is still in the mainstream, lithium iron manganese phosphate is already gaining momentum.

After interviewing various variables in the market, 36 Krypton Research found that the critical point for the commercialization of lithium iron manganese phosphate has indeed reached.

Every position in the industry chain is trying to seize business opportunities. For the power battery, which is a scarce innovation point, but showing upward demand, the race of speed and the passion brought by new materials should not be missed:

In July, Xinwangda, Yiwei Lithium Energy and Ningde Times have sent samples of lithium iron manganese phosphate batteries to car companies for testing;

Upstream material companies are trying to try new possibilities. For example, Dangsheng Technology, the leader of ternary materials, and Rongbai Technology have also launched lithium iron manganese phosphate batteries, which means that one foot has entered this market;

BYD, which is in the battery position, is rumored to be testing German Nano's B samples. CATL said that its self-developed battery M3P (lithium manganese iron phosphate-ternary blended battery) will be mass-produced at the end of this year as soon as possible.

The R&D and mass production of power batteries generally go through three stages of ABC. The delivery of B samples means that the battery R&D has reached the second stage, that is, the cell R&D verification has been completed, and the products are assembled into modules or battery packs.

In other words, it only takes about 1 to 2 years for the vehicle to be tested and finally mass-produced.

This undoubtedly makes practitioners looking for innovative possibilities in power batteries see a point of stimulation.

Because around the power battery, the innovation possibilities can be divided into three types: material innovation, structural innovation and fast charging technology. This is a marathon business with few alternatives and long-term investment. Therefore, lithium batteries are fierce "manganese", and a new round of competition The curtain has been drawn.

Manganese, with atomic number 25 on the periodic table, ranks first in iron, and exists only in ores formed from iron in nature.

In the past, the biggest use of manganese was as a material for stainless steel to prevent it from rusting or corroding. More than 95% of manganese was used in the iron and steel metallurgy industry. But just like phosphorus, which was originally only used as agricultural fertilizer, due to the rapid development of the power battery industry, manganese also shows the possibility of large-scale cross-border application in lithium batteries.

This wave is sweeping every participant in the industry chain, from manganese smelting chemical plants to cathode material manufacturers. The core thrust comes from power batteries and OEMs that are extremely eager for new technologies. The wealth-making movement seems to be on the way again. After interviewing a number of related companies and investment institutions, 36Kr tried to answer the following questions:

1. Why can manganese become the protagonist of power battery material innovation today? Why break through the critical point of commercialization at this moment?

2. Under the change of elements, who are the participants in this material change? In what position is the company more advantageous?

3. How big is the impact of manganese on the upstream industry? Will it become the fourth battery metal after lithium, nickel and cobalt in the future?

1. How did the era of manganese come now?

Lithium iron manganese phosphate, as the name suggests, is a certain proportion of manganese doped in lithium iron phosphate, which is a technology upgrade route with a clear consensus in the industry.

After mixing with manganese element, the voltage platform (4.1V) of lithium iron manganese phosphate is higher, which can increase the energy density by 15%-20% compared with lithium iron phosphate (3.4V). The energy density determines the battery life. According to the calculation of Bank of China Securities, the raw material cost of lithium iron manganese phosphate is about 28% lower than that of lithium iron phosphate (the ratio of manganese to iron is 7:3).

Performance comparison of lithium iron manganese phosphate and lithium iron phosphate

How to further understand the cost advantage of lithium iron manganese phosphate?

Comparing wafer manufacturing in the same industrial location, it can be found that more than 80% of CATL's cost structure is direct material costs, and there is little room for reducing labor and manufacturing costs, while SMIC's direct material costs are only 9%.

Differences in the cost-side structure of power batteries and wafer manufacturing Source: Tianfeng Securities

In the power battery, the cost of the positive electrode material accounts for more than 40%, so even if the energy density is increased by 15~20%, the comprehensive cost that can be reduced by lithium iron manganese phosphate will also be reduced in the case of the crazy rise in the price of upstream lithium ore. Quite impressive. The lithium iron phosphate battery that has been developed for several years will also reach the theoretical upper limit of energy density.

Horizontally comparing the cutting-edge technologies such as solid-state batteries, sodium ion and hydrogen energy, which have disruptive changes to the battery industry, lithium iron manganese phosphate as an upgrade route for lithium iron phosphate does not seem sexy, but wins will be commercialized faster in the short term. Can see the market prospects.

Because the power battery industry still belongs to the traditional electrochemical industry, the innovation speed is relatively slow, and the products need to be verified back and forth between the upstream and downstream.

In fact, lithium iron manganese phosphate is not a new technical system. As early as 2013, BYD disclosed this technology, claiming that it can increase the energy density of lithium iron phosphate batteries on the market from 90Wh/Kg to 150Wh/Kg, reaching the level of mainstream ternary materials.

The US chemical giant Dow Chemical also has an earlier layout. In 2008, Dow obtained the basic patent of lithium iron manganese phosphate through the acquisition of a Swiss company HPL. Later, 40 tons of lithium iron manganese phosphate were sold to AVIC Lithium Battery (the predecessor of AVIC), and samples were sent to battery factories or car companies in China and Japan, such as BYD, Toyota, Panasonic, and Hitachi.

However, the domestic policy environment at that time did not open the commercialization window of this technology. Because the mature lithium iron phosphate system is a sufficient and necessary condition for upgrading to lithium iron manganese phosphate, and the overall liquid battery technology is not yet mature at that time.

Before this, whether lithium iron phosphate was bought by the market was strongly related to subsidies. In 2014, the new energy subsidy policy favored high-energy-density batteries, and the loading volume of ternary materials with performance advantages gradually overwhelmed lithium iron phosphate.

At that time, due to subsidy changes, the installed capacity of lithium iron phosphate fell off a cliff, which made the lithium iron manganese phosphate technical solution dusty. Dow Chemical, BYD and other companies have withdrawn or terminated research and development in 2015 and 2016.

The inflection point of this technology path selection did not appear until 2020. BYD solved the problem of low energy density of lithium iron phosphate through the structural innovation of blade batteries and re-launched it to the market.

The blade battery increases the single energy density to 160Wh/Kg~180Wh/Kg, the cycle life exceeds 4500 times, and the life span is more than three times that of the ordinary ternary battery.

More importantly, the downstream market's demand for comprehensive performance of battery materials (such as safety, fast charging technology, and product cost) exceeds the single pursuit of cruising range. Therefore, with the ramping up of blade battery production capacity and the follow-up of a number of power battery manufacturers, the installed capacity of lithium iron phosphate has risen rapidly.

In the first half of 2022, lithium iron phosphate officially surpassed ternary, which made lithium iron manganese phosphate technology regain favor, attracting major manufacturers to follow up the layout.

This is the large-scale market feedback of upstream technological innovation and R&D investment in the downstream. Only after market verification can we see the standard answer of the technology path.

2015-2022M5 Lithium Iron Phosphate and Ternary Lithium Loadings

In addition, another core factor approaching the critical point of commercialization is the structural change of the new energy vehicle market.

For example, the M3P battery first launched by CATL is suitable for A-class and B-class cars, and the cruising range will exceed 700km. A-class vehicles are the most important segment of domestic passenger vehicles, accounting for 55%-60%, but pure electric vehicles will only account for 5.7% in 2021.

Further analysis, the important reason why lithium iron phosphate can surpass ternary is the promotion of A00-class models. In 2021, the A00-class vehicle market will basically be occupied by new energy vehicles, and the electrification rate will reach 95%+, while the other classes will be 8%-20%, forming a great contrast. The ultra-low-priced Wuling Hongguang mini EV will contribute 426,000 units in 2021, second only to Tesla in sales.

Sales volume of new energy vehicles by grade from January 2021 to May 2022

It is foreseeable that, as the first choice for families, A-class and B-class vehicles (with a price of about 100,000-200,000 yuan) will become the main models for the penetration rate of new energy vehicles to continue to rise.

As shown in the figure above, from January to May 2022, A-class vehicles sold 580,000 units, a year-on-year increase of 157%; B-class vehicles sold 550,000 units, an increase of 112% year-on-year, and the growth rate exceeded that of A00-class vehicles. Therefore, the installed capacity of lithium iron manganese phosphate may greatly benefit from this trend change.

2. The giants have got tickets

As a technology that has been brought back to the forefront, there are very few startups related to lithium manganese iron phosphate.

The reason is that admission tickets are hard to get. At present, the most in-depth layout of lithium iron manganese phosphate is still the giant company, and its core advantage lies in the barriers to production. Because the preparation methods of lithium iron phosphate and lithium iron manganese phosphate are similar, the technology upgrade route is relatively smooth, and players with capital and customer resources have pulled the production capacity to the 10,000-ton level.

In other words, lithium iron phosphate faucets have a competitive first-mover advantage.

According to the market share of lithium iron phosphate materials in turn, the largest customers of cathode material companies such as Hunan Yuneng, Defang Nano, Changzhou Liyuan, Jiangxi Sublimation, and Rongtong Hi-Tech are CATL.

Lithium Iron Phosphate Market Pattern in 2021

In 2021, the installed capacity of Ningde era and BYD lithium iron phosphate power battery will be 42.9GWh and 25.2GWh respectively, and the two will take the vast majority of the lithium iron phosphate market share. The layout speed of the Ningde era is also the most advanced.

Taking the M3P battery announced by CATL as an example, M3P is a 30%-70% doped lithium iron manganese phosphate-ternary solution. According to the research and investigation of Zhongtai, the mass-produced battery is expected to be a 30% blending scheme with Chinese nickel ternary.

The important suppliers behind the Ningde era are German Nano and Jiangsu Litai Lithium Energy (Ningde era holds a 16% stake), both of which are companies in the industry with lithium iron manganese phosphate manufacturing patents and mature production lines. According to the company announcement, the planned production capacity of lithium iron manganese phosphate by German Nano has reached 440,000 tons, with a total investment of about 10 billion yuan.

So, what are the specific technical difficulties in mass production of products?

Litai Lithium Energy once held an internal technical exchange in September last year. The interviewed executives mentioned: Lithium iron phosphate is a semiconductor, and carbon can be added, but lithium iron manganese is an insulator, and the particles are still very small. The processing technology route is difficult. The technical route in the industry has not yet been unified.

Specifically, the preparation methods of lithium iron manganese phosphate can be divided into two types - solid phase method and liquid phase method. reaction.

The former is to grind the raw materials into powder and mix them directly, which is lower in cost but may not be uniformly mixed.

The mainstream preparation methods of lithium iron manganese phosphate solid-phase method and liquid-phase method

Litai Lithium Energy and Hunan Yuneng both use the solid-phase method, while Defang Nano is the leading company in the liquid-phase method. Based on the research information of Sinolink Securities, the investment required to produce 10,000 tons of lithium iron manganese phosphate per year is about 180-200 million if the semi-solid and semi-liquid method is used, which is similar to the production of lithium iron phosphate. If the liquid phase method is used The production will be 0.2-0.6 billion yuan higher.

High-input capacity investment and customer resources that take time to accumulate have also increased the ticket money for startups to enter the game.

Song Yu, managing director of Junsheng Investment, analyzed 36Kr, "The change of positive electrode materials for power batteries has been going on, but there is basically no opportunity for startups, because the improvement in this field is incremental, not transformative. Then The production capacity and R&D strength of these giants will crush startups.”

Under the imminent trend of commercialization of lithium iron manganese phosphate, the first company to roll out production capacity will undoubtedly get the first pot of gold. For example, Rongbai Technology (with a market value of 62.4 billion yuan), a leader in ternary materials, chose to use acquisitions to shorten the production capacity gap with its rivals.

On July 21, Rongbai Technology announced the acquisition of Tianjin Skoland at a price of 389 million yuan. The latter already has a production line with an annual capacity of 6,200 tons. Lithium iron phosphate batteries were flat. Bai Houshan, founder of Rongbai Technology, said that in the past, Rongbai has not participated in the competition of lithium iron phosphate, but now lithium iron manganese phosphate is a new opportunity, and will take this opportunity to step into the lithium iron phosphate camp.

At present, only Hengchuang Nano is the only lithium manganese iron phosphate startup company seen by 36 Krypton. Its founding team is from Dow Chemical and GE.

It is understood that Hengchuang Nano is building a lithium iron manganese phosphate production line with an annual output of 5,000 tons in Yancheng, which will be put into operation by the end of the year. In February this year, Hengchuang Nano obtained a pre-A round of financing of over 100 million yuan, led by Yueda Investment, followed by Hillhouse Ventures, Woyan Capital, Skyworth Group and other institutions.

"At present, the core technical barriers of other companies lie in the components and manufacturing patents, but we bought out all the core patents of Dow Chemical on lithium manganese iron phosphate, which is not available to many large manufacturers." Co-founder of Hengchuang Nano Dr. Lin Zhiqing told 36氪.

Among the lithium iron manganese phosphate component patents purchased by Hengchuang Nano, the Chinese patent covers the patent rights and interests of the manganese content of lithium iron manganese phosphate exceeding 70%, and the international patents cover the patent rights and interests of the manganese content more than 50%.

This means that in China, if the ratio of manganese to iron in the cathode material exceeds 7:3, it will need to pay a part of the patent fee. Based on the core component patents, Hengchuang Nano can directly improve the material properties from the basic chemical structure, and the technology iteration speed is faster.

3. The fourth battery metal?

In fact, the bigger variable brought about by lithium iron manganese phosphate is the manganese metal itself.

"Manganese is likely to become an important element in cathode materials in the future, and manganese is added to several material systems with high voltage platforms/high gram capacity." China Merchants Venture Capital Ding Lide told 36氪.

This is because, in addition to lithium manganese iron phosphate, there are also new battery technology routes such as lithium manganate, lithium-rich manganese-based, manganese-based high manganese Prussian white in sodium batteries, and nickel-manganese binary in solid-state batteries. Manganese is one of them. Essential battery metal.

Compared with lithium iron manganese phosphate, lithium manganate for two-wheeled vehicles has been applied on a large scale last year. In 2020, lithium manganate materials will rank first in the market for two-wheeled vehicle battery cell shipments, with a market share of 45%. At present, the most promising application market for sodium batteries is energy storage, which means that manganese will not be absent in the future development of power batteries and energy storage batteries.

Based on this, the CITIC Securities Research Report stated that with the increase in the penetration rate of new manganese-based cathode materials, the amount of manganese used in the lithium battery industry is expected to increase by more than 10 times between 2021 and 2035. Benefiting from the rapid growth in shipments of ternary cathode materials and lithium manganate materials, it is expected that the amount of manganese used in lithium battery cathode materials will exceed 300,000 tons in 2025, with a compound growth rate of 32% in 2021-2025.

In the upstream, the stock prices of the related domestic listed companies in the manganese industry, Red Star Development, Sinosteel Tianyuan and Xiangtan Electrochemical are all rising rapidly, and they all rose by about 50% in mid-July. The core logic of the rise is similar to that of phosphorus chemical companies - that is, when new energy is still in the seller's market, it directly changes from traditional chemical stocks to hot new energy targets by taking advantage of existing raw material advantages.

In terms of process flow, lithium iron phosphate is mainly composed of lithium carbonate and iron phosphate. The production chain of iron phosphate is phosphate rock-high-purity phosphoric acid/industrial monoammonium phosphate-iron phosphate. Both phosphorus chemical and titanium dioxide companies have the ability to produce iron phosphate at low cost, and there is almost no threshold for entering lithium iron phosphate.

Figure: Overview of Phosphate Rock-Lithium Iron Phosphate Industry Chain Source: Founder Securities

After the explosion of lithium iron phosphate, a number of upstream phosphorus chemical giants such as Chuanheng Co., Ltd., China Nuclear Titanium Dioxide and Xingfa Group, based on the advantages of raw material sources, processing technology, and cost control, also cooperated with downstream lithium battery manufacturers, or acquired shares. Related companies and other methods, cut into lithium iron phosphate cathode material.

Among them, in February last year, China Nuclear Titanium planned to invest 12.1 billion yuan to put into production a 500,000-ton lithium iron phosphate project, and then its market value rose from 15 billion yuan to 39.4 billion yuan.

Compared with the development of phosphorus chemical industry, the large-scale application of manganese metal will also bring opportunities for upstream materials to enter the game. The products extracted from manganese ore are mainly divided into electrolytic manganese dioxide and high-purity manganese sulfate, both of which are important raw materials for the downstream battery industry.

Taking Xiangtan Electrochemical as an example, its current annual production capacity of electrolytic manganese dioxide has reached 122,000 tons, and its annual production capacity of high-purity manganese sulfate has reached 10,000 tons. It is understood that Xiangtan Electrochemical's high-purity manganese sulfate has entered the supply chain of the Ningde era.

Another example is the layered oxide route, one of the three routes of sodium batteries, the transition metal manganese raw materials used are manganese dioxide and manganese sulfate. An important player in this route, Zhongke Haina, has put into operation the world's first sodium battery production line in Fuyang on July 28, with a production capacity of 1GWh. The second and third largest shareholders of Zhongke Haina are Shanxi Huayang and Huawei Hubble Investments.

It is worth mentioning that Xiangtan Electrochemical Co., Ltd. participated in the establishment of the cathode material company Hunan Yuneng in 2016. Tan Xinqiao, the current chairman of the latter, has served as the chairman of Xiangtan Electrochemical for more than eight years. As a start-up company, Hunan Yuneng acquired the key technology of cathode materials through equity swap twice in only five years, and achieved the first place in the lithium iron phosphate camp. These operations are precisely from the handwriting of the senior management team of Xiangtan Electrochemical.

Yuneng, as a cathode material supplier bound to CATL and BYD, has accelerated the commercialization of lithium iron manganese phosphate, which will undoubtedly transfer layers to Xiangtan Electrochemical.

As far as the current commercialization capability has been verified, lithium iron manganese phosphate can not only be used purely, but also completely replace lithium iron phosphate as the positive electrode material of power batteries, and it can also be used in combination with ternary materials to reduce the dependence on rare metals such as cobalt. , thereby improving certain security and cost advantages.

However, any chemical has advantages and disadvantages.

On the disadvantage, the increase of manganese content will increase the amount of manganese in the electrolyte, which will cause the dissolution of manganese in the charge-discharge cycle, thus affecting the cycle times of the battery, which temporarily limits the pure use route of lithium manganese iron phosphate.

Relatively speaking, the second route has lower manganese content and more mature related technologies. Lin Zhiqing told 36氪: “The high-voltage platform of lithium iron manganese phosphate fits perfectly with the ternary, and under the condition of mixing 20%, it has little effect on the decrease of energy density. In addition, due to the good heat resistance of lithium iron manganese phosphate, it can suppress the ternary Oxygen release under extreme conditions can significantly improve the safety of ternary materials."

Therefore, many power battery manufacturers are the first to launch the cathode material solutions of lithium manganese iron phosphate and ternary mixture. But this is still a transitional plan. After this wave of market trends, whether manganese metal can truly become the "fourth battery metal" and allow larger companies to grow in the industrial chain remains to be tested by time.

Reprinted: 36 krypton South China

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