What Changed In The EV Battery Market In November?

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    The battery market is one of the most interesting industries in the global economy. As part of our new “What Changed … ?” series, it seemed appropriate to include a thorough update of what changes in the EV battery market on a monthly basis. Below is a rundown of what changed in November.

It was revealed that SK Innovation, a major South Korean EV battery manufacturer, plans to invest 840.2 billion won (~$777 million) into an EV battery production facility in Hungary in early 2018.

Not that far away, BMW announced that it is planning to invest €200 million (~$237 million) into a new battery cell technology competence center over the course of the next 4 years. It will presumably be based in Germany.

Millions? Come on — get into the billions. China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL), one of the largest EV battery manufacturers in the world, is planning an IPO for mid-2018. It was revealed in November that the aim is to raise $2 billion for expansion, which would include two new production facilities to produce an additional 24 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of battery cells per year.

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While the investment wasn’t broken out between vehicle production and battery production, it was also announced that Daimler is investing 5 billion yuan (~$755 million) into its EV development in China, alongside joint-venture partner BAIC, the largest automaker in China. This is part of Daimler’s broader plan to invest €10 billion (~$11.74 billion) into EVs by 2025.

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Images by Palisade

 

As EV battery demand is growing in leaps and bounds, there’s huge pressure to make sure all of the key components keep up. Cobalt is one of those, perhaps the most controversial and challenging at the moment, and one place mining companies may find what they need is apparently a town called … Cobalt.

Highly relevant to cobalt and other battery ingredients, a coalition of auto manufacturers has agreed to source all EV minerals ethically. What precisely that means and how it will affect the industry in the future is a bit unclear at this point, but it sounds like good news.

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It’s just one car. And it’s just an announcement and prototype. But Tesla’s unveiling of a second-generation Roadster with a 200 kWh battery pack sets a new high-water mark. Based on announcements to date, it seems there won’t be another production car out there with a larger battery pack when the Roadster comes to market. That giant battery pack contributes significantly to the car’s projected 620 miles of range, 250 mph top speed, 0–60 mph time of just 1.9 seconds, 0–100 mph time of just 4.2 seconds, and quarter mile time of 8.9 seconds (all of which are records).

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The Tesla Semi prototype, revealed the same night, also implies a thing or two about Tesla’s current battery costs. No, we don’t have any precise numbers, but the Semi specs provided indicate that the batteries are far cheaper than major analysts were estimating, and electric semi trucks much more competitive than people had been expecting. Hence all the big pre-orders. It seems there must be some implications for other electric vehicles as well. 

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GM CEO Mary Barra, while announcing plans for a profitable line of fully electric vehicles by 2021, indicated that the company is targeting battery cell prices below $100/kWh by that time.

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One of the most interesting stories of the month for me was one indicating that Google and Volkswagen are working together in the use of quantum computers for a variety of purposes, including a variety of EV purposes, including to “simulate material structures for high-performance e-vehicle batteries and new materials.”

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Clearly, the biggest EV story at the moment is the Tesla Model 3. And the biggest story within that story has been production delays in recent months. Those delays have reportedly been due to problems with the battery pack production process. One piece of good news at the beginning of November was that Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga shared that the production bottleneck was “now understood” and would soon be resolved. “This process (for battery packs) will be soon automated, and then the number of vehicles to be produced will rise sharply,” he added.

For its part, Tesla included the following statements in its quarterly report on November 1st:

“We continue to make progress resolving early bottlenecks related to these issues, and there remain no fundamental problems with our supply chain or any of our production processes. …

“Model 3 has been designed for manufacturability, so the car itself is not difficult to build. …

“Model 3 production process will be vastly more automated than the production process of Model S, Model X, or almost any other car on the market today, and bringing this level of automation online is simply challenging in the early stages of the ramp. …

“We currently expect to achieve a production rate of 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week by late Q1 2018.”