Toyota Nio races for 1,000 km


Zhang Donmei


"A charge of 10 minutes or less can reach 1,200 kilometers." The global auto industry has been rocked by Toyota's announcement of a major breakthrough in its research into solid-state batteries. Some voices in the industry believe that this breakthrough will threaten China's king position in the global power battery market.


At the same time, NIO recently updated the user manual, including the new ES6, ET7 and other six model manuals have added information about the 150kWh battery pack, which also means that NIO's semi-solid state battery mass production is imminent. Saic also revealed at the media communication meeting on July 20 that the solid-state battery, which is highly concerned by the industry, is expected to land in the "Zhiji" brand products in 2024.


■ Scuffles between Chinese and foreign enterprises


At present, solid-state batteries are regarded by the industry as the next generation of battery technology, and semi-solid-state batteries are the transition solution between liquid batteries and all-solid-state batteries. It is worth noting that SAIC, NiO and other Chinese companies intend to mass-produce solid-state batteries in the past two years, which are actually semi-solid-state batteries, while Toyota, Nissan and other Japanese companies focus on all-solid-state batteries, and the mass production time is concentrated around 2028.


Nio's updated user manual shows that information about the 150kWh battery pack has been added to the manuals of the new ES6, ET7, ES7, ET5, EC7 and ET5 Travel versions. Nio 150kWh battery pack is a semi-solid battery, and the battery cell is provided by Weilan New Energy, using solid-liquid mixed electrolyte, silicon carbon composite negative electrode material and ultra-high nickel positive electrode material. In terms of battery life, Li Bin, CEO of NIO, previously revealed that the new battery pack can allow the ET7 to last more than 1,000 kilometers, and even the SUV ES6 can reach 930 kilometers.


Saic also previously cooperated with Qingtao Energy to set up a solid-state battery joint laboratory. According to the information revealed at the media communication meeting on July 20, SAIC plans to take the lead in 2024 to carry solid-state batteries on the "Zhiji" brand models, which are of course semi-solid-state batteries.


In addition, Ningde Times, Guoxun High-tech, Funeng Technology, Beehive Energy, BYD and other companies are also actively laying out the semi-solid state battery field. In May this year, Funeng Technology said on the investor interactive platform that the first generation of semi-solid state batteries independently developed by the company has been successfully mass-produced and installed. Also in May this year, Ganfeng Lithium announced that its first generation of solid-state batteries has begun mass production, the safety performance of the second generation of solid-state batteries has fully met the requirements of vehicle regulations, and the cycle performance of the research and development of sample batteries has met the requirements of car companies.


Compared with Chinese companies in the field of semi-solid state batteries, Japanese and South Korean companies have devoted themselves to the research and development of all-solid state batteries, especially Toyota motor patents. According to the data of Patent Result, a Japanese patent analysis company, from 2000 to the end of March 2022, the number of all-solid-state battery patents that have been disclosed in the world is Toyota, holding 1331 patents; In second place is Panasonic with 445 patents. Six of the top 10 companies are Japanese, while the other four are South Korean: Samsung Electronics, LG Chem, Hyundai Motor and LG New Energy.


In early July this year, Toyota announced a major breakthrough in its all-solid-state battery research. Keiji Kaida, president of Toyota's carbon neutral research and development center, said that Toyota has found a new way to make a solid-state battery that can travel 1,200 kilometers on a 10-minute charge, and can be half the size, weight and price of existing batteries.


Toyota says it will mass-produce all-solid-state batteries by 2027 or 2028. Nissan's plan is to launch the first production model with all-solid-state batteries in 2028, while Honda plans to launch a demonstration line of all-solid-state batteries in 2024, and the batteries produced will be used for models launched in the "second half of the 2020s."


Some industry insiders believe that if Japan successfully realizes the commercialization of all-solid-state batteries, it will completely subvert the current market pattern dominated by China and South Korea. Japanese financial media have also expressed similar views, that Japan may overtake the curve, with solid-state battery products to catch up with Chinese companies.


■ Solid state battery "path resistance and long"



Toyota's official announcement of a technological breakthrough has sparked heated discussion in the industry. At the 2023 China Automotive Forum in early July, in response to Toyota's statement, Wu Kai, chief scientist of Ningde Times, said that there are still some core problems in the industry that need to be solved. "If Toyota says that today's energy production of all-solid-state batteries, I am skeptical, at present, no one in the industry has the ability to mass-produce all-solid-state batteries." As for whether it will be mass-produced by 2027, as a technician, it is difficult for me to say exactly." 'he said.


Technology is a big hurdle. At the 2023 World Power Battery Conference in June this year, Sun Xueliang, a foreign academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, academician of the Royal Canadian Academy of Sciences, and academician of the National Academy of Engineering of Canada, also admitted that the current physical, chemical and mechanical properties of the positive electrode, electrolyte and negative electrode of the all-solid-state battery still need to be improved, and the compatibility between materials and the interface stability still need to be improved. The overall safety management strategy and engineering preparation technology of the battery are not mature, which are still difficult to break through.


At the same time, the cost is also a difficult hurdle to cross. According to China Post Securities estimates, the current cost of solid-state batteries is more than 30% higher than that of liquid batteries, and it is expected that the cost of semi-solid-state batteries after large-scale production is 10% to 20% higher than that of liquid lithium batteries. In fact, this estimate may be biased towards optimism before it is measured on a large scale.


Qin Lihong, co-founder and president of NIO, previously said that the cost of the 150kWh battery pack is very high, equivalent to an ET5, and the price of a 75kWh battery version of an ET5 is 328,000 yuan, and the lease is 258,000 yuan. Nio users can choose battery rental services if they do not want to bear the high cost of batteries. At the NIO 2023 "Energy Day" event on July 20, Qin Lihong said when talking about the 150kWh battery pack that the research and development and verification of the 150kWh battery pack is longer than expected, and the listing time may be delayed.


In terms of cost, Nissan aims to reduce the cost of all-solid-state batteries to $75 /kWh (about 536 yuan /kWh) by fiscal 2028, and further reduce to $65 /kWh in the future. If calculated according to $75 /kWh, the cost of the 150kWh battery pack is about 80,000 yuan, and the cost reduction space is quite large.


In addition, for Toyota's proposed cost halving target, Wu Kai believes that if it can be done, it is absolutely disruptive for the entire industry, but it is difficult, even if solid-state batteries do not need electrolyte and diaphragm, the cost can not be reduced by half, "so I do not know what the denominator of their cost halving is."


However, in any case, this requires our attention. Ouyang Minggao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a professor at Tsinghua University, has publicly said that in order to achieve the energy density target of 500Wh/kg by 2030, a breakthrough at the solid electrolyte level is the only way that has to be taken. Dong Yang, chairman of the China Automotive power Battery Industry Innovation Alliance, also believes that the new generation of power batteries represented by solid-state batteries is an important field of competition in the future, "we need to eat the bowl and look at the pot, give enough attention."


Originally published by China Automotive News on July 26, 2023