Revealing the Secrets of Condensed State Batteries

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Revealing the Secrets of Condensed State Batteries, solid-state batteries
Unveiling "Condensed State": Not a Semi-Solid Battery, Nor a Transitional Product

Riding the tide of the energy transition, China has transformed from a follower to a leader in many fields. Especially in recent years, the development speed of the new energy industry is astonishing. This is inseparable from the continuous innovation of battery technology, following the pioneering CTP technology, sodium-ion batteries, M3P, and Kirin batteries, on April 19th, CATL (300750) once again illuminated the new tree of technology - condensed state batteries. This is not only a long-awaited major innovation but also a milestone breakthrough that meets all-round requirements for electrification.

What does the "condensed state moment" of new energy mean?
Unveiling "Condensed State": Not a Semi-Solid Battery, Nor a Transitional Product

    The origin of condensed state batteries The continuous progress of battery technology has significantly improved the range and charging efficiency. In the past decade, the energy density of power batteries has increased by 2-3 times, and the range of passenger vehicles has exceeded 1000 kilometers from the initial 100 kilometers. From taxis to short-distance delivery trucks, city buses, and heavy-duty trucks, we can see the trend of electrification is becoming more and more profound. After a period of rapid development, from the actual development of battery technology, the rate of increase in energy density of lithium-ion batteries has begun to slow down and approach the theoretical limit. The conventional battery upgrade route faces significant challenges in terms of technology and manufacturing processes. However, the pursuit of high range and high energy density is still an industry trend. To achieve comprehensive electrification and carbon neutrality goals, there are no shortcuts. The industry must find more advanced electrochemical material systems to achieve breakthroughs in higher energy density. However, high energy density and safety are often irreconcilable. This is because the higher the energy density of the battery, the more active its material system is, and the more stringent requirements are placed on its safety. This has always been the core obstacle that restricts the breakthrough of battery technology. Sometimes industry practitioners may fall into self-doubt. After over 30 years since the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries, will battery technology enter a long-term bottleneck period for research and innovation upgrades? Is there a solution that can achieve both high energy density and high safety, finding an exquisite balance point between the two? The answer lies in CATL's condensed state battery.

2. The Core Technology of Condensed State Batteries As a research institution that has been tracking the development of new energy for a long time, we were greatly excited when we first heard about condensed state batteries. CATL publicly stated that it was researching condensed state batteries as early as June last year. At that time, CATL Chairman Zeng Yuqun revealed at the Chongqing Auto Show, "CATL is working on everything from all-solid-state batteries, semi-solid-state batteries, to condensed state batteries that you have never heard of." After less than a year of waiting, we finally saw the mysterious veil of condensed state batteries unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show. The most concerning indicator is undoubtedly energy density. One of the main advantages of condensed state batteries is their high energy density, with a single-cell energy density of up to 500Wh/kg, breaking through the ceiling of the current mainstream material system. What does 500Wh/kg mean? It is equivalent to nearly twice the capacity of Panasonic's 2170 cylindrical battery and nearly three times the capacity of blade batteries. The release of condensed state batteries marks an industry innovation in the battery field, indicating that it has not yet entered a bottleneck period. The second most concerning indicator is safety. How to ensure battery safety with such high energy density becomes the core focus. As mentioned earlier, the higher the energy density of the battery, the more active its material system is, and the more difficult it is to ensure safety. Can condensed state batteries break through this seesaw effect? We, like everyone else, want to explore the truth. Specifically, CATL uses high-power biomimetic condensed electrolytes to address changes in electrochemical reactions caused by ultra-high specific energy materials. In other words, the internal structure of CATL's condensed state battery is not a traditional liquid electrolyte but an upgraded condensed electrolyte. Compared with liquid electrolytes, condensed electrolytes are less flammable and volatile, significantly improving the thermal stability of the battery. Of course, simply changing the electrolyte is far from enough to achieve high energy density.

  As CATL's Chief Scientist Wu Kai said, "Batteries have a characteristic that they have N performance indicators, but they are strongly coupled with each other. If one performance indicator improves, often other quantitative indicators will decline." CATL's innovation lies in building a micro-level adaptive mesh structure to adjust the inter-chain interaction force, enhancing the structural stability while improving the battery's dynamic performance and lithium-ion transport efficiency. In electrochemistry, the safety performance of a battery and the specific energy density of the positive and negative electrode materials are strongly related. Condensed state batteries significantly improve the safety performance of batteries and have high safety even when ensuring high specific energy. Currently, CATL has developed condensed state batteries from series 6 to series 9, which can avoid ignition or explosion even when the battery cell is disassembled. More importantly, condensed state batteries also integrate a series of innovative technologies such as high-specific-energy positives, new negatives, and separators, rather than the semi-solid-state battery concept that people imagine. In the end, condensed state batteries achieve high energy density while having high safety and excellent charge-discharge performance through changes in formula, structure, and manufacturing processes. In short, we see a trend towards the high-end of batteries through the innovation of condensed state batteries. As the saying goes, "a good horse should be paired with a good saddle." The upgrading trend of high-end new energy vehicles first brings about the demand for long-range and high-performance power batteries. According to the press conference, the mass production version of the condensed state battery will be available this year. That is to say, it is expected that mass-produced models of condensed state batteries will land this year, helping new energy vehicle companies reach new heights in high-end upgrades. In summary, the advent of CATL's condensed state battery breaks through the ceiling that has long restricted the development of the battery industry, will activate a new electric scene with high safety and lightweight as its core demands. Currently, CATL is even cooperating in the development of civilian electric passenger aircraft projects, implementing aviation-level standards and testing to meet the safety and quality requirements of aviation level, which may not only be an innovative battery but also a milestone in CATL's innovation system, opening up the next round of innovation rhythm and achieving zero-carbon goals.

Comprehensive Sustainable Development is No Longer Far Away

1. Pushing Innovation to the Limits

Independent innovation is the source of enterprise development, and many great enterprises have rapidly grown on the basis of continuous innovation. So what is true innovation? The recent AI wave has given us the most vivid answer: revolutionary and disruptive innovation is the most awe-inspiring. In the manufacturing field, we have also observed more examples of similar innovative breakthroughs.

To leverage clean and efficient electric power systems, replace fixed and mobile energy systems mainly powered by traditional fossil fuels, and achieve electrification in more scenarios, CATL has successively pioneered technologies such as sodium-ion batteries, M3P, and Kirin batteries, all of which have been industrialized:

In 2021, CATL broke through resource bottlenecks and released its first-generation sodium-ion battery, with a single-cell energy density of up to 160Wh/kg, capable of charging to over 80% in 15 minutes at room temperature and maintaining over 90% discharge retention even in low-temperature environments at -20 degrees Celsius. Now, it is being applied to Chery's new energy vehicle models and will become a high cost-effective choice in the mainstream market. CATL has achieved downward compatibility.

In June 2022, the Kirin battery was officially released as CATL's third-generation CTP technology. By completely eliminating the module design and optimizing cooling structures, the Kirin battery further improves battery safety, lifespan, fast-charging performance, and specific energy density, with a volume utilization rate surpassing 72%, setting a new global record for system integration.

Currently, the longest-range pure electric MPV, the Jike 009 ME edition, has started delivery, and the thousand-mile range Jike 001 will also be launched by the end of April. On April 18th, Ideal Motors announced that its first pure electric vehicle will become the world's first mass-produced model equipped with 4C Kirin batteries, achieving a charging time of 10 minutes and a range of 400 kilometers, making charging as convenient as refueling. CATL has achieved horizontal expansion.

As the latest technological achievement in CATL's materials, condensed state batteries break through the constraints of material and structural systems and expand to more extreme application scenarios, achieving upward breakthroughs.

What is the secret behind completing systematic innovation time and time again? We believe that future industrial innovation is not limited to any one link, but is all-encompassing, breaking boundaries and barriers. In the words of CATL Chairman Zeng Yuqun, innovations in power battery chemistry systems, structures, manufacturing, and business models need to be integrated to drive the development of the new energy industry.

In the eyes of the public, CATL is undoubtedly the culmination of technological innovation: wherever scientific leadership is headed, it continues to climb without stopping. If Tencent is good at turning market advantages into technological advantages, CATL is the opposite, turning technological advantages into market advantages through research and innovation. For example:

To address the weakness of low energy density in sodium-ion batteries, CATL innovatively developed AB hybrid battery technology, which can achieve sodium-lithium mixing to help achieve a range of 500 kilometers.

To address the weakness of iron phosphate in low-temperature environments, CATL solved the problem of poor performance of iron phosphate batteries in such environments by using a mixture of iron phosphate and ternary materials.

In terms of battery safety, the Jike 009 Kirin edition is equipped with CATL's latest NP 2.0 technology, which pioneered smoke and high-voltage active isolation design, completely eliminating the hidden danger of high-voltage arc ignition that may be caused by high-temperature smoke.

In terms of battery thermal management systems, the Kirin battery improved the liquid cooling plate design of the battery, placing the water-cooled functional parts traditionally located at the bottom between the battery cells, increasing the heat exchange area fourfold and allowing the battery cells to cool rapidly in extreme situations, effectively blocking abnormal heat transfer between the battery cells.

2. Innovation Driving Zero-Carbon Strategy

Looking at the leading companies around the world, more and more names are joining the "zero-carbon" army. So what is Ningde Times' new idea for its zero-carbon strategy?

Facing the carbon-neutral era, being a leader not only means achieving battery performance and manufacturing limits but also includes being "carbon-leading."

On April 18th, Ningde Times released its zero-carbon strategy. According to the strategic plan, Ningde Times will achieve core operational carbon neutrality by 2025 and value chain carbon neutrality by 2035.

This means that by 2025, all of Ningde Times' battery factories will become zero-carbon factories, achieving carbon neutrality in the production and manufacturing fields. By 2035, all batteries produced by Ningde Times will be zero-carbon batteries, achieving carbon neutrality throughout the entire value chain from mineral resources to battery systems.

This is currently the largest-scale carbon-neutral action in the lithium-ion industry, and the difficulty can be imagined. But after further understanding, we found its confidence in being the first in the industry to announce a zero-carbon strategy - technology.

To achieve the zero-carbon strategy, Ningde Times will use four innovation systems to achieve technological decarbonization in five critical nodes: mineral sands, bulk raw materials, battery raw materials, battery cells, and systems. Technological innovation will be the main driving force to promote the zero-carbon strategy.

One of the most inspiring points is that while mainstream players are still concerned about whether new energy vehicles can reduce carbon emissions, industry leaders are already considering electric planes.

According to the International Energy Agency, in 2019, the carbon emissions of the global aviation industry accounted for 2.8% of the total global carbon emissions. In China, the carbon dioxide emissions of civil aviation account for 12% of the carbon emissions in the transportation sector, second only to road transportation. If effective measures are not taken to control it, by 2050, the carbon emissions of the aviation industry will account for 25% of the total global carbon emissions.

At the end of 2021, the Civil Aviation Administration of China issued the "14th Five-Year Plan" Special Plan for Green Development of Civil Aviation, which clearly stated that it is necessary to comprehensively consider the country's long-term low-carbon development goals and the high-quality development requirements of civil aviation, and orderly promote the construction of market-based emission reduction mechanisms for civil aviation.

However, the aviation industry is known for being a "difficult decarbonization case," and the technical challenges of reducing emissions are very severe.

Currently, most countries see sustainable aviation biofuels and synthetic fuels as a breakthrough point for emission reduction in the aviation industry. However, most sustainable aviation fuels cannot reduce carbon emissions to zero, and they may still generate pollution when burned. Additionally, sustainable aviation fuel prices are about 2-4 times higher than those of ordinary aviation fuel, and replacing traditional fossil fuels with synthetic fuels is currently uneconomical.

The above methods are just patchwork using traditional technology rather than fundamental innovation. Can we be bolder and make planes into new energy sources?

Of course, the technological difficulty of this dream is extremely high.

The aviation field not only requires a substantial breakthrough in battery energy density but also requires lightweight batteries. For fuel-powered aircraft, the weight of fuel decreases as flight time increases, but the weight of batteries is constant. At the same time, airplanes operate in high-altitude and cold areas, where batteries need to have excellent discharge performance even in low-temperature environments. (When flying at an altitude of ten thousand meters, the outside temperature of the cabin drops to around minus 50 degrees Celsius.)

At Tesla's Battery Day on March 1st, Musk proposed five parts of achieving complete sustainability, one of which is sustainable fuel for airplanes and ships. Musk also suggested that electric plane and ship transport can consider using lithium iron phosphate batteries as power sources, but the energy density needs to reach a high level.

As a leader in the industry, Ningde Times' Chief Scientist Wu Kai stated that Ningde Times is collaborating on the development of electric manned aircraft projects with condensed-state batteries, implementing aviation-grade standards and testing to meet aviation-grade safety and quality requirements. By then, electric planes using clean power systems can achieve true zero emissions.

In this sense, the advent of condensed-state batteries has opened up a new era of electrification in the aviation field and will have a positive and far-reaching impact on carbon neutrality. This is the latest footnote of technology driving zero-carbon strategies.

In Ningde Times' strategy, zero carbon is both responsibility and ability. Many companies have to spend huge sums of money to buy carbon credits to achieve government targets. (Tesla alone made $1.58 billion selling carbon credits in 2020.)

In recent years, Ningde Times has continuously practiced green and low-carbon development. In 2019, it was the first in the industry to use blockchain technology for raw material traceability. For example, the battery passport of Ningde Times records multiple contents such as battery information, raw material information, ESG evaluation, and supply chain data, contributing to the traceability management and circular recycling of batteries throughout their lifecycle.

In 2021, Ningde Times' Yibin base became the first zero-carbon battery factory in the industry and completed its carbon-neutral certification for 2022. In 2022, Ningde Times promoted over 400 energy-saving projects, reducing carbon emissions by a total of 450,000 tons and increasing the proportion of green electricity usage to 26.6%.

Furthermore, if Ningde Times achieves value chain carbon neutrality by 2035, it will bring significant changes to the entire power battery industry and even the new energy industry.

The advent of condensed-state batteries not only opens up the era of universal electrification on land, sea, and air but also provides rich imagination space for industrial development. Industry leaders have already sounded the call for the zero-carbon revolution. Are you ready in this era of innovation?

This item was added to our catalog on Thursday 04 May, 2023.

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