China Kicks Off Production Of Solid-State Batteries

NOV 21 2018 BY MARK KANE 47

Solid-state battery production line (100 MWh/year) was launched in China

The Chinese start-up Qing Tao (Kunshan) Energy Development Co. Ltd launched its first production line of solid-state battery cells in the city of Kunshan, east China’s Jiangsu Province.

The company is led by Nan Cewen, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who founded the company with several Ph.D graduates from Tsinghua University in 2014.

Through the investment of 1 billion yuan ($144 million) the company has developed a production line good for 0.1 GWh (100 MWh) of cells annually, which is about 1,000 100 kWh packs. It’s not enough for the automotive industry, so the first cells will be utilized on “special equipment and high-end digital products”.

Qing Tao solid-state batteries have an energy density of more than 400 Wh/kg, which would be more than any state-of-the-art Tesla/Panasonic cells.

The company is in talks with car manufacturers with goal to begin production EV batteries by 2020. The production output is expected to increase by that time to 0.7 GWh (700 MWh) or 7,000 100 kWh packs.

Source: china.org.cn

Categories: Battery Tech, China

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47 Comments on "China Kicks Off Production Of Solid-State Batteries"

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Chris O

Pretty odd. All sorts of big names are trying to crack the solid state puzzle with little to show for so far and some unknown Chinese company is actually taking them into production. First major battery breakthrough since the invention of lithium ion back in the late eighties *if* this is for real. Which remains to be seen of course as with all battery breakthrough claims but obviously claims of actual production makes this one more interesting.

Not surprising that initial production should find its way into applications that can absorb (initial) high production cost better than EVs.

F150 Brian

I have seen videos of destructive testing of solid state batteries demonstrating their safety, so clearly companies are manufacturing prototypes for testing.
I think that means we are past the “cracking of the puzzle” and into the stage of preparing for production. A big part of that puzzle is scale and cost.
It does sound like Qing Tao Energy is going to target segments that have special needs and therefore can absorb higher costs.
Next I’d expect comsumer electronics (like phones) and then in a few years automotive.

Chris O

I think this is a tough nut to crack and I doubt anybody has managed it yet. For instance: Hyundai announced small scale production of solid state back in august 2017 but less than a year later it announced investment in solid state startup Ionic Materials indicating its tech wasn’t quite as promising as it thought earlier. Toyota has announced several target dates for solid state that came and went and now it seems to believe it’s at least a decade out. It would be no less than jaw dropping if any functional and cost effective solid state batteries came out of that Chinese factory short term.

Lou Grinzo
Agreed. There are MANY high and difficult hurdles between “Hey! Look what I made work once in a lab!” and “We’re selling boatloads of these things in every store/dealership imaginable!”. I think a lot of people, including some of my fellow plugheads, minimize those hurdles and overestimate how quickly products can make it to market and out-perform older technology. An example I always go back to is flat panel displays. There was a lot of talk about “color screens you can hang on the wall like a picture” in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with high expectations they would arrive RSN (real soon now). Well, RSN turned out to be not as soon as we hoped, even without vested interests and inept policymakers getting into the mix. Now that solid state screens have taken over the world it can be hard to remember just how long a trek it was from concept and lab to mass market products. I fully expect we’ll see batteries continue their steady march (sprint?) to lower prices, and we will more likely than not see a Big Battery Breakthrough, whether that’s a new lithium formulation or solid state, that delivers a sudden drop in… Read more »
Mark.ca

“Now that solid state screens have taken over the world …”
The old tv screens were solid too… šŸ™‚

antrik

Whereas most flat panels are LCD, and thus not solid state…

windbourne

exactly.
Chinese researchers and companies have a wide history over the last 30 years of lying about how things really are doing.

John Doe
When I studied, and later worked at the university we bought several test cells, and it was from universities and companies in Canada, USA, Germany, Korea and Japan. They all worked well, and I still use some for solar lights to this day, 5-11 years after we bought them. I can’t recall if there were huge differences between how much energy they could store, and stuff like that. I know for sure the price differed, and the aussie guy from the Canadian university stated their price was subsidized, since all the work and processes took a lot of time. These were hand made, and used different approaches. I’ve always found it hard to understand why it was so difficult to automated the processes AND get mass production. I remember we tested in class to hammer a nail through a standard lithium battery, and a solid state battery. One was clearly more fun to destroy then the other. We converted a small Peugeot car, so it could use a hydrogen fuel cell, using hydrogen gad generated by photovoltaic panels. The batteries we used was primitive (no money.. ) lead acid (gel) batteries that was heavy, was hard to find room for,… Read more »
Shaun

Lots of battery companies produce working prototype cells for lab testing, but still never make it to production. These cells typically have problems such as low cycle life that need to be solved before mass production, which is likely the case here.

antrik

Making them viable for true mass production — while keeping good values for all other parameters like energy density, power density (charge/discharge), temperature stability, cycle life — *is* the puzzle that nobody has managed to crack yet.

ffbj

I question this mainly since no else has a working solid state battery from which to steal the technology from.
China’s leadership has proclaimed they will be the leader in various cutting edge technologies, but simply stating something does not make it true. Propaganda only goes so far.

Joel

Considering that China has a strong infrastructure of technical education among it’s universities, it has transformed it’s system of patent law in recent years( most cases brought by both foreign and Chinese companies against Chinese companies in Chinese courts are now won by the litigants), and the world share of patents filed within China is rapidly growing, I see no reason why it should be unlikely that we would begin to see breakthroughs out of China first. They have the educational and even some financing infrastructure in place to support technical innovation, a growing and economically, at least, empowered middle class looking for the newest and best, and you can’t get where the government wants China to be by playing ‘follow the leader’.

Chris O

While I’m sure Chinese R&D has moved well beyond working the photocopiers at this point I seriously doubt it’s already in a place where it could beat major western tech companies in the solid state race. Don’t be too disappointed if this turns out to be a hoax.

antrik

All it needs to do world-class research is bright, well-educated people, and enough money to pay those people as well as any equipment they might need. China has both nowadays. If they can make top-notch photovoltaics, electronics etc., why shouldn’t they be able to make top-notch batteries?…

Pushmi-Pullyu

Because in general — and obviously there are some exceptions — Chinese researchers and Chinese industry have yet to demonstrate that they can actually innovate, rather than merely copy. Some recent analyses suggest China has been, and is, improving the situation; but I haven’t seen anything to suggest a consensus that they have put this problem behind them.

China is churning out huge volumes of patents, but a lot of industry watchers say most of them are mere trivial variations on existing patents. The sheer volume of Chinese patents is, arguably, quite misleading.

It’s certainly not impossible that a Chinese company is, or will be, the first to mass produce commercial solid-state batteries. But it would be surprising.

G2

PP; remember, we used to say that about the Japanese too, and look how that turned out.

scott

China probably stole the IP related to the solid-state batteries they are trying to produce.

windbourne

yeah. no.
China has a serious issue within academia. Not only are the universities still weak, but many of the academicians, esp in the science/engineering world, write papers that are total fabrication. When I was working in Comp.Sci and actively reading papers, I was amazed at how horrible their papers on computer engineering were. And some of these were from American universities by Chinese profs. The papers out of China were far far worse.

eject

The Chinese make the best monocrystaline solar panels and they hold key patents for underlying processes.

windbourne
E(V)quality

I guess the typical problems, as with any new technology, are the production tolerances. I guess they will need to do a lot more testing with each cell and will have much more “defective” ones. I also guess they can’t guarantee an especially good cycle life either.

The other big problem of solid state batteries, is that they tend to not have a very good power density. So you need to make the solid electrolyte very thin, but also very consistent.

But it’s only a matter of time, until those cells will replace the liquid electrolyte cells in EVs. They work in a greater temperature range and are not nearly as flammable as current li-ion cells. So aside from a lower cell weight, you can save a lot of additional weight and volume in fire prevention, crash protection and thermal management.

So when will we see the first ones used in EVs? That’s the hard question. But a few years back you couldn’t even buy SiC Mosfets and Diodes and suddenly after years of having to use Si MOSFETs, or IGBTs, now you can not only buy SiC devices, but also GaN HEMTs for 650V.

antrik

Actually, the specific problems differ from one solid state design to another. Many suffer from poor ionic conductivity. Some boast good conductivity, but suffer from other problems… The trick is coming up with a design that fares well on all important parameters.

Despite all the hype, it’s not really certain that solid state electrolytes will replace liquid ones. They offer a bunch of theoretical advantages, and are seen as a very promising path towards higher energy densities by enabling lithium metal anodes and high voltage cathodes — but they are not the only possible path towards these, and it’s perfectly possible that some other path turns out more viable in the end…

antrik

I think it’s misleading to call solid state electrolytes the biggest breakthrough since the invention of lithium-ion… Compared to the first commercial Li-Ion cells, current designs have at least double the energy density, much higher energy density and cycle life, orders of magnitude lower cost… The advances are much larger on most scores than what solid state electrolytes can hope to bring over current liquid electrolyte designs.

Also, Li-Ion was first commercialised in the nineties, not the eighties — unless you are talking about the early lithium metal polymer cells that never made it out of niche uses, and are not generally considered a proper member of the Li-Ion family…

(Some actually call these solid state — though that’s arguable, since during use the polymer in these needs to be heated to a point where it’s not really solid AIUI…)

ykhabins

It seems that current Tesla/Panasonic battery density is 207 Wh/kg, based on
https://insideevs.com/tesla-claims-model-3-battery-has-highest-energy-density-of-any-electric-car/

F150 Brian

An Isreali company (whose chief technology guy was involved with the creation of current lithium-ion batteries) claims they have a lithium-air prototype that is capable of 5kWh/kg.
Due to low density materials, it turns out that it is not smaller than current EV battery cell solutions.

Chris O

Are you new to this? Trust me, battery breakthrough claims are a dime a dozen yet nothing ever came to fruition in the past decades. The only reason I even bothered to read this article is because of the claims of actual production rather than some questionable prototype and I’m pretty sure even this will turn out to be a dud.

antrik

Actually, a lot of breakthroughs have come to fruition: NMC cathodes probably being the most prominent one…

Pushmi-Pullyu

I’d say that is the only breakthru which has “come to fruition” in the past 10 years.

I’ve been following breathless claims of breakthru battery tech since 2008, when regulars on the (now defunct) TheEEStory forum used to track such claims.

Since 2008, the only battery chemistry breakthrough which has actually appeared in EVs is the one used by LG Chem to offer a substantially cheaper battery, and one with higher usable capacity. As I understand it, using NMC cathodes was the breakthru which allowed that.

That’s not to say there haven’t been other improvements; there has been pretty steady improvement in energy density and lower cost ever since commercial li-ion batteries appeared on the market. But use of NMC cathodes is, so far as I know, the only thing which can be called a true “breakthrough” in the past decade.

Chris O

So what breakthroughs causing a substantial jump in energy density (say 50%) have there been since litium ion was invented in the late eighties? What sort of increase did NMC cause?

There has definitely been steady improvement of energy density since lithium ion was invented but not the sort of sudden leaps that would warrant the term “breakthrough”AFAIK.

Joe

The 207 Wh/kg figure is at the module level, according to your URL reference. The 400 Wh/kg figure here clearly is at the cell level.

Micke Larsson

More like 270 Wh/kg or so at cell level, which is the only interesting thing.

Benz

Solid State battery technology is something that belongs to the next decade.

Don’t expect anything to happen in the current decade.

antrik

Supposedly it already exists in niche uses. Though it’s very likely true that we won’t see any larger deployment until years from now… Especially not in cost-sensitive applications like EVs.

Shaun

Iā€™m guessing these cells have severe cycle life limitations, which is why they are focusing on applications where users might be willing to put up with this in exchange for energy density.

Doggydogworld

Cycle life and/or power density. They’re probably very expensive as well. $144m is a lot of investment for 0.1 GWh/year.

SolidEnergy’s 450 Wh/kg cells only last 125 cycles, if I recall. Those have lithium metal anodes and a “semi-solid” electrolyte. They are in (very limited) production and they publish spec sheets. Qing Tao talks like they have a fully solid electrolyte, but without a spec sheet we can only guess.

DS

Depends if that is a capital cost for production assets; in which case it will drop pretty dramatically with each passing year.

MoMac

“$144m is a lot of investment for 0.1 GWh/year.”

You think the $144m was all for production and the development cost was free somehow? Or did you not read the part of the article where they plan to increase production to 700 MWh / year by 2020 (and hopefully increase it more from there)?

John Doe

Or they are very expensive, and only economical to use in high end phones, professional power tools and other high prices goods.

antrik

Aerial drones are usually cited as the first application.

phEVfan

Lacking any spec’s other than 400Wh/kg leaves me a bit skeptical. Charge/discharge rates? Wh/l? # of cycles? Cell size? If they are gearing up production, they should have all of these nailed down. Just too much missing in this picture.

antrik

Well, higher gravimetric energy density *is* the most important promise of solid state batteries — so it makes sense that this would be the one they’d tout…

I totally agree though that this still sound very experimental — just like what other solid state battery start-ups are doing…

Ocean Railroader

The best way I would test this is have a battery made that is 12volts and to the same dimensions to the lead acid battery that runs my fish tank during power outages.

If the lead acid battery can run the 25 watt fish pump 8 hours with 144 watts of capacity with a 12volt 12ah battery then this thing should run the pump for 24 to 36 hours.

antrik

How can a 144 Wh battery run a 25 W pump for 8 hours? Something doesn’t add up here šŸ™‚

Get Real

Maybe they used beer math?

Happy Holidays fellow EVers!

Pushmi-Pullyu

No surprise to see these batteries won’t be used in EVs. It was pretty much a lead pipe cinch that the first generation of solid-state batteries would be much too expensive for use in EVs. Specialized and high-end products, and later consumer electronics such as cell phones and laptop computers, is where we can expect to see these used first.

* * * * *

If “Qing Tao (Kunshan) Energy Development Co. Ltd” really has put practical solid-state batteries into mass production before any other company, then kudos to them!

However, an extremely high percentage of claims from startup high-tech battery companies turn out to be complete and utter B.S., I think it would be prudent to see reports from customers actually using this product, before we pronounce this claim both real and successful.

Milfan

China has more population than North America, South America and West Europe combined and that’s true with # of engineers as well. With their national government putting full effort on motor and battery technology, its possible that their company could have come up with a working battery fit for mass production.

This is a game changer and I hope this will challenge the current Lithium battery technology. Lets see whether someone could buy it in retail market or at least open their cellphone / laptop to such a solid state battery. Things are moving in right direction.

Chris O

It’s not about numbers of people, it’s about culture. Look at India: Loads of people that between the billion+ of them have achieve very little in building up their country. The question is to what extend China’s corrupt just steel any ideas you need culture fosters creativity.