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Ternary cathode process barrier high nickel material leader occupies C position


Among the production materials of lithium batteries, cathode materials have the highest added value, which is also a key factor to determine the energy density and safety of batteries. Among them, the shipment and sales volume of ternary cathode materials have been higher than that in recent yearslithium batteryOn average, in terms of market share, the cathode is relatively dispersed as a whole, while the leading market share of ternary cathode materials is higher. Ternary cathode is popular in battery materials. In addition to the development of downstream market and technical barriers such as high technology of ternary cathode materials, it is also the competitive advantage of ternary cathode against other materials.

Higher shipments of ternary cathode materials

Positive material, diaphragm and electrolyte areLithium ion batteryCore materials, accounting for 70% of the battery cost; Among them, the added value of cathode materials is the highest, accounting for about 30% of the cost of lithium batteries. The technological breakthroughs of these three core materials will play an important role in promoting the performance of lithium-ion power batteries.

According to the data, in 2019, the shipment of lithium battery cathode materials in China was 404000 tons, with a year-on-year increase of 32.5%. Among them, the shipment of ternary cathode materials was 192000 tons, with a year-on-year increase of 40.7%; The shipment of lithium iron phosphate materials was 88000 tons, with a year-on-year increase of 29.3%; Lithium cobalt oxide material shipments 66200 tons; The shipment volume of lithium manganate material is 57000 tons.

In terms of price trend, the overall price of cathode materials showed a downward trend in 2019. According to the analysis, the main reason is that the upstream raw materials such as lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide are not driven enough with the release of production capacity and terminal demand, resulting in the continuous decline of lithium salt prices, which in turn leads to the decline of the market prices of lithium manganate and lithium iron phosphate cathode materials; In addition, the cost of downstream customers is transferred. Affected by the transmission of terminal cost reduction pressure to the upstream, the cost pressure of the battery industry is transferred to the upstream, resulting in the price reduction of upstream cathode material enterprises.

From the perspective of the market competition pattern of cathode materials, the market share of TOP10 cathode materials enterprises in 2019 was 56%, an increase of 3 percentage points compared with 2018, and the market leading effect was not as significant as the other three key materials.

Among them, Xiamen tungsten industry benefited from the double growth of lithium cobalt oxide and ternary materials. In 2019, its cathode material shipments increased by more than 50% year-on-year; Tianjin BAMO benefited from the release of production capacity and the increase in the demand of end customers. Its ternary cathode material shipments increased significantly, and the total shipment market ranked second; Long term lithium, rongbai lithium, Zhenhua new materials and other enterprises have benefited from the increased demand for ternary materials in the power battery market, and their market rankings have increased to varying degrees.

The overall competition pattern of cathode is scattered, and the market share of high nickel ternary leading market is improved

In terms of market share, the cathode is relatively dispersed as a whole. According to the survey data, in 2017, from the perspective of global market share, the cathode material market was relatively scattered as a whole, with the market share ranking first, with a market share of 10%. The market shares of Hunan Shanshan, Sumitomo Metal, Nichia chemical and gsenergy were about 9%, 7%, 6% and 3% respectively, and CR3 and Cr5 were about 26% and 35% respectively. The market concentration was very low.

However, the market share of leading enterprises in the field of ternary cathode has improved significantly. In the segment market of ternary cathode materials, Sumitomo Metal has the largest market share in the world, with a market share of about 16%. The market shares of Umicore, Nichia chemical, Hunan Shanshan and gsenergy are about 13%, 9%, 6% and 6% respectively, and CR3 and Cr5 are 38% and 50% respectively. The market concentration has increased significantly, mainly due to the high technical threshold of ternary cathode materials and certain entry barriers. In the future, with the application of high nickel cathode, the market concentration will be further improved, and it is very likely to go out of the global leading enterprises.

Taking NCA in high nickel materials as an example, NCA has few mass-produced manufacturers and the industry pattern is highly centralized. Due to its high technical barriers, NCA has fewer enterprises that can produce on a large scale in the world. Sumitomo Metal ranks first in the global market share, which is exclusively supplied to Panasonic and finally used in Tesla electric vehicles. The global market share reached 54% in 2016 and 59.6% in 2017. Ecopro is the only NCA cathode material manufacturer in South Korea. Its main customers are Samsung SDI and Sony. Its global market share reached 33% in 2016 and 17.1% in 2017, ranking second in the world.

Ternary cathode has high process barrier and stronger customer stickiness

Ternary cathode is popular in battery materials. In addition to the development of downstream market, the technical barrier of ternary cathode material is also its competitive advantage against other materials. The technical barrier of ternary cathode material is mainly reflected in the process requirements. Taking NCA as an example, substituting Al for manganese in NCA material is actually modifying nickel cobalt lithium manganate by ion doping and surface coating. Ion doping can enhance the stability of the material and improve the cycling performance of the material. However, in the manufacturing process, Al is not easy to precipitate because it is an amphoteric metal. NCA batteries need pure oxygen environment and high processing cost. In the whole process of battery production, the humidity should be controlled below 10%, which poses great challenges to domestic enterprises.

Compared with ordinary cathode materials, the added value of high nickel ternary cathode is higher. Take rongbai technology, the leader of cathode materials that landed on the science and technology innovation board, as an example. With the gradual increase of the proportion of ternary cathode materials business, the company's gross profit margin showed an upward trend year by year. The prospectus showed that in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the company's main business gross profit margin was 12.09%, 14.86% and 16.92% respectively.

In addition to the manufacturing process threshold, ternary cathode material enterprises also need to face problems such as difficult research and development and long cycle, and major manufacturers have formed their own process technology. For example, the selection of raw materials, the proportion of various materials, the application of auxiliary materials and the setting of production processes all require years of technology and experience.

In recent years, ternary cathode materials have been developing towards high energy density, long life and high safety. The higher the energy density, the higher the technical barriers. In the current situation of rapid product upgrading, new entrants cannot break through key technologies in the short term and are difficult to form competitiveness.

Article source:Battery China

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