Battery manufacturers are developing 4680 batteries - will all future power batteries be cylindrical

Battery manufacturers are developing 4680 batteries - will all future power batteries be cylindrical?

Northvolt successfully developed 21700 cylindrical batteries

On July 18, it was reported that Northvolt, a Swedish battery manufacturer, announced that it had successfully developed cylindrical 21700 battery and was ready for mass production, which meant that it would join the competition with LG and Samsung SDI cylindrical batteries. According to the report, Northvolt developed cylindrical batteries at the request of Volkswagen. Volkswagen is considering using cylindrical batteries from 2025, and Northvolt may become one of the main suppliers of cylindrical batteries of Volkswagen.

Founded in 2016, Northvolt is a leading manufacturer in the battery industry in Europe. In June last year, Northvolt received a private equity investment of up to $2.75 billion. Its customers include Volkswagen, BMW, Volvo and other automotive companies. The mass production of 2170 cylindrical batteries will help European automobile companies reduce their dependence on Asian power battery manufacturers.

However, in the view of South Korean insiders, Northvolt’s mass production of 2170 cylindrical battery is difficult to shake the market share of LG, Samsung SDI and Panasonic. According to the data, in 2021, the cylindrical battery shipments of Panasonic, LG and Samsung SDI accounted for 80% of the global share, with a highly centralized pattern.

Battery manufacturers in China, Japan and South Korea lead the development of 4680 batteries

In terms of 4680 battery development and market development, Chinese, Japanese and Korean battery manufacturers have been at the forefront of the industry. LG Energy Solution announced that it would invest 580 billion KRW to build a 4680 battery production line in its Aochang plant in South Korea, with a planned annual capacity of 9GWh.

It is expected to be put into production in the second half of 2023, hoping to obtain TESLA’s first 4680 battery order. Samsung SDI is establishing a 4680 battery test production line for TESLA in Tian’an, South Korea. The first batch of equipment has been ordered, with a planned annual capacity of 1 GWH. If the test is successful, Samsung SDI will mass produce 4680 batteries in its Malaysian factory with a planned capacity of 8-12GWH.

The mainstream route of power battery in China is dominated by square batteries

It is worth noting that Samsung SDI is also developing 4695 and 46120 batteries, indicating that Samsung SDI is expanding its 46 series battery product matrix to meet the needs of other international customers. In China, odm lithium ion battery pack manufacturer including EVE、Bak、CATL、GOTION HIGH-TECH、SVOLT、Lishen, etc. are also developing cylindrical batteries. Among them, EVE announced the project of expanding the production of 20GWh 4680 batteries for passenger cars in November 2021, and deployed 4680 and 4695 batteries.

 It is planned to form an annual production capacity of 20GWh 4680 series batteries by 2023.The mainstream route in China is mainly square batteries, with a market share of about 80%. The industrial chain that meets the production process of cylindrical batteries is small, and the supporting cost of the supply chain is relatively high. At the same time, at present, few automobile manufacturers choose to take the cylindrical technology route. The future supporting development space is uncertain. 

In addition, in terms of technological progressiveness, the three major technological routes have their own merits. CATL recently announced that CTP3.0 Kirin battery is a kind of square battery. Under the same chemical system and the same battery pack size, the power of Kirin battery pack is 13% higher than that of 4680 system. At present, Li Auto Inc、NETA、AVATR、Lotus and other automotive companies have confirmed that they will cooperate with CATL.

Improve the efficiency of battery grouping, and then improve the energy density of battery

Many international battery manufacturers raise the quota of 4680 batteries

According to the report, Britishvolt, a British battery manufacturer, announced that it was developing 4690 batteries. Britishvolt plans to develop 4690 cell prototypes at its acquisition of the German battery manufacturer EAS factory, and then carry out mass production at its battery plant in Northumberland, England. It believes that compared with 21700 batteries, larger cells help improve the efficiency of battery packs and reduce manufacturing costs. Britishvolt aims to customize batteries according to customers’ specific requirements, and has the ability to develop and produce 4690 batteries.

As early as 2017, TESLA and Panasonic have jointly developed and launched 2170 batteries to be applied to model 3. At present, head power battery manufacturers are more focused on the research, development and mass production of 4680 cylindrical batteries with a further increase in battery diameter. Compared with the 2170 cylindrical battery, the 4680 cylindrical battery developed by TESLA not only reduces the production cost, but also reduces the internal resistance by an order of magnitude, making it possible for safer and higher capacity cells.

At present, TESLA’s factories in California and Texas have begun mass production of 4680 batteries. TESLA CEO Maske predicts that by the end of 2021, the company’s 4680 battery capacity will reach 100GWh per year, which can meet the use of more than 1.3 million electric vehicles. Under the TESLA effect, more and more international car manufacturers follow the 4680 technology route, attracting many international battery manufacturers to raise the quota of cylindrical batteries.

According to the report, Rimac, a Croatian electric supercar manufacturer, is developing a battery module based on 46 series batteries to improve the energy density of its future battery packs. Rimac aims to supply no less than 40000 battery packs by 2023 and no less than 200000 battery packs by 2028. It plans to launch a new battery pack using 46 batteries by 2025. Its purpose of introducing 4680 battery is to reduce the weight of battery pack, improve the efficiency of battery grouping, and then improve the battery energy density and vehicle endurance mileage, which is consistent with the purpose of TESLA to develop 4680 battery.

In addition to TESLA, BMW announced that it would launch a new cylindrical battery on its new generation electric platform Neue Klasse (new class) in 2025. BMW said that the technical solution can reduce its battery cost by 30%, and the energy density is higher than the battery currently used by TESLA. It is speculated that the new cylindrical battery used by BMW in the new platform is likely to be the 4680 battery of 46 series. In May this year, it was reported that CATL had received the “Designated Notice” from BMW and would provide cylindrical batteries for new BMW electric vehicles.

To meet the market demand for 4680 batteries, Panasonic plans to invest $4billion to build its second electric vehicle battery factory in Kansas, USA, to produce 4680 batteries for TESLA; LG will expand its 4680 battery capacity of 9 GWH in South Korea and is expected to start mass production in the second half of 2023; Samsung SDI has established a 4680 battery test production line in South Korea, and the relevant test work will be completed this year.

The global power battery still mainly takes the two routes of square and pouch

Among Chinese power battery manufacturers, EVE and StoreDot, an Israeli start-up focusing on fast charging, jointly developed 4680 and 4695 cylindrical batteries, and built 20GWh 4680 battery capacity, which is expected to be officially mass produced in 2023; Bak also expects mass production in 2023; CATL, the leading manufacturer of square batteries, has also planned a 12GWh capacity of 4680 batteries, which is expected to start mass production in 2024.

Industry insiders said that compared with the current mainstream square shape and soft package shape in the market, some battery manufacturers choose to take the cylindrical route. On the one hand, there is room for supporting TESLA increment; On the other hand, head manufacturers such as CATL and BYD have accumulated a deep accumulation of square batteries, and other manufacturers want to provide certain differentiated technology options.It should be noted that global power batteries still mainly follow the two routes of square and soft packaging in terms of morphology. 

Cylindrical batteries belong to a niche market, which does not represent the future development trend. In fact, cylindrical batteries have occupied a place in the power battery market with their product standardization and low cost advantages. TESLA, BMW, Volkswagen and other head engine manufacturers released the market demand for 4680 batteries in the future, which also provided good development opportunities and guarantees for many battery manufacturers with the development and production capacity of 4680 batteries.

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