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Taiwan pushing into next-generation EV battery development
Ninelu Tu, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

As electric vehicle (EV) development becomes a global effort, batteries that play a vital role to EVs' cost-performance ratios are a focus to manufacturers with ambitions to expand in the EV market. Both traditional and new automakers have considered battery technology development and production capacity to be importance to their overall planning. Automakers across Europe, America, Japan, Korea and China are actively engaging in battery solution research and production line build-up.

Taiwan's ICT foundation

Taiwan's battery industry may not be backed by well-known brands and abundant natural resources. Nevertheless, a large part of Taiwan-based battery suppliers have been assembling battery modules for Taiwan's ICT industry. For example, Simplo, Dynapack and Celxpert with a long-term focus on manufacturing battery modules for consumer electronics such as notebook only started to set foot in EV battery solutions in recent years.

Aside from battery module assemblers, Taiwan also has upstream suppliers of anode and cathode materials including CoreMax, Mechema, Aleees, E-One Moli and Formosa Lithium Iron Oxide Corporation for supplying anode materials and China Steel Chemical and Chang Chun Group for cathode ones.

Although these suppliers may provide materials to customers producing batteries based on different technologies, their materials are mainly used in ternary lithium-ion batteries and lithium iron phosphate batteries that use LFP and LFPO for anode.

Tesla's rising popularity has spurred a wave of demand for ternary lithium-ion batteries, while the company's decision to adopt LFP batteries for its EVs for China has also surprised the supply chain. However, these are all "current" developments of the battery industry.

Batteries for future EV applications are expected to feature higher energy density, faster charging and discharging time, lighter weight and friendlier costs. Whether lithium-ion batteries and LFP batteries can maintain their leading positions at the moment in the EV market still remains to be seen.

The battery of next generation

It has been about 30 years since the world's first lithium-ion battery was commercialized. Based on past experience, the battery industry sees a new generation of core technology about every 30 years. As such, both market newcomers and industry veterans that are eyeing EV opportunities are closely watching the direction of next-generation battery development.

Most manufacturers have high hopes for solid-state batteries to replace lithium-ion batteries. Solid-state batteries use solid electrolyte instead of liquid one to significantly reduce the risks of short circuits and accidents. By packing higher-power anode and cathode, solid-state batteries also enable higher energy density, allowing them to outperform ternary lithium-ion batteries in terms of charging time, working temperature and cell longevity.

In view of the multiple benefits of solid-state batteries, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan and GM are all engaging in the development of solid-state batteries. Foxconn, the initiator of the MIH Open Platform Alliance, reiterated its plans to introduce demo solid-state battery products by year-end 2021 and launch commercialized solid-state batteries by 2024.

ProLogium, another Taiwan-based supplier that is pushing development of solid-state batteries, is already working with China-based FAW Group, Enovate Motors, NIO and Aiways.

Some manufacturers pointed out that it is rather late for Taiwan that lacks natural resources to invest in lithium-ion battery development at this moment and believe Taiwan should establish its presence in the EV sector via effort toward developing next-generation batteries.

It will be difficult to catch up with or compete against international manufacturers that have long been devoted to lithium-ion battery development if Taiwan only now starts to build its own patent portfolio from scratch. Taiwan should also seek joint development opportunities from international manufacturers. By leveraging Taiwan's accumulated experience and technological strength in the ICT sector to help expand the applications for solid-state batteries, Taiwan-based battery suppliers still have a shot at establishing market presence.

Comparison of different EV batteries

Battery type

Energy density (Wh/kg)

Power density (W/kg)

Safety

Longevity (Cycles)

Costs (US$/kWh)

Ternary

230~260

Medium

Medium

1,000

Low

LTO

80~100

High

High

8,000

High

LFP

150~170

High

High

2,000

Low

Resin solid state

300~320

Medium

High

1,500

Low

Lithium-metal

350~400

Low

Low

<300

Medium

Source: ITRI, compiled by Digitimes, April 2021

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