The gap narrows: BYD could overtake CATL as the largest battery manufacturer

CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology) is currently the largest battery manufacturer of the world. According to a report published in May by SNE Research, with 33.3 GWh of production in the first quarter of the year, CATL has a market share of 35% of the total, which is 95.1 GWh. However, the existing market share gap with its main competitor, BYD, has been significantly reduced in China, 6.1% specifically in the month of April 2022.Does this mean the beginning of a change? The technologies that both companies have developed for their new batteries and the destiny that they will have will make the difference.

CATL BYD manufacturers electric car batteries china-interior
China market share of electric vehicle battery manufacturers. Source: CNEV Post.

Kirin batteries without modules and various CATL chemistries

In the year 2020, Robin Zeng, president of CATL anticipated that cell-to-pack technology (batteries without modules) would allow the production cost of a battery-powered vehicle to be brought closer to those of combustion. In addition to the many technologies that CATL is developing, it is in the integration of cells on the chassis that vehicle manufacturers outperform battery manufacturers.

In March, the manufacturer announced the production of the third generation of CTP batteries, which allows Kirin batteries to provide up to 13% more energy than batteries made up of Tesla 4680 cells, using the same chemistry, the same format and the same same size ratio.

CATL markets these batteries with two different chemistries. With the LFP (Lithium Ferrophosphate) version it offers a gravimetric energy density of 160 Wh/kg and a volumetric energy density of 290 Wh/l. The NCM (Nickel Cobalt Manganese Oxide) variant offers a high specific energy while being very stable at the same time. For this version, the gravimetric and volumetric density values ​​are 250 Wh/kg and 450 Wh/l, respectively.

Last year, CATL also introduced its first-generation sodium-ion batteries along with a AB hybrid pack that integrates sodium and lithium cells in the same package. In this way it take advantage of the advantages of both technologies: The high power and energy density of lithium is coupled with the recharge speed and ability to maintain performance at low temperatures of sodium.

third generation cells without catll-interior modules
The third generation of CTP batteries enables Kirin batteries to provide up to 13% more power than Tesla’s 4680 cell batteries, using the same chemistry, form factor and size ratio.

Blade batteries from BYD, without modules and without cobalt

BYD Blade battery technology has been in development for several years. Its main characteristic is that the chemistry of its cathode does not depend on elements as unstable as cobalt, since it uses lithium iron phosphate instead of the usual triple (NMC nickel, manganese, cobalt).

It is also important to highlight its architecture and its packaging. Battery dispenses with the usual modules in which the cells meet and then, once connected to each other, create a complete battery. In this way it saves a great amount of space in connectors and control systems, increasing the space available for the active material in a fifty %always according to what BYD indicates.

Its four key advantages are its low heat generation, high initial temperature for exothermic reactions, slow release of that heat, and the ability not to release oxygen during a breakdown.

BYD Blade Batteries for Tesla
BYD Blade batteries use lithium iron phosphate (LFP) as cathode chemistry instead of the usual trio (NMC nickel, manganese, cobalt) and in their architecture and packaging they dispense with the usual modules.

Who is the winner?

By becoming a supplier to Tesla, CATL may have found an advantage that may also become a drawback. His dependence on a single client, as is the case with the Californian manufacturer, may turn against him. As a precedent is the case of Panasonic, which began its decline in the market when it ceased to be the sole supplier of Tesla.

In the case of BYD, being also a manufacturer of electric vehicles, all your batteries already have a predetermined destination therefore, it does not depend on third parties to anticipate and coordinate its production. This may also have consequences on the location of battery production plants, as it is convenient to be close to the location where vehicles are assembled.

A third party in contention: SVOLT

The Web opens the range to a third battery manufacturer, also Chinese, a subsidiary of the automotive giant Great Wall, which presented in 2020 a new lithium-ion battery with LFP and LNMO chemicals whose cells removed cobalt from the cathode. The company says power guarantee a service life of 15 years and 1.2 million kilometers without undergoing appreciable degradation. The technology employs a special arrangement of single crystal cells with a coating made up of nano elements that increase structural safety.

The LFP cells, available in two nominal capacities, 115 Ah and 226 Ah, will have an energy density of 245 Wh/kg (up to 600 kilometers) of autonomy and 240 Wh/kg and (up to 880 kilometers of autonomy).

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