Report: Chinese battery separator market ripe for competition

Lithium-ion battery sales are expected to grow substantially in China over the next few years. Separators are currently manufactured by three Chinese firms, and three other firms outside China.

Eldib Engineering & Research (Berkeley Heights, N.J., USA) has issued a report on the lithium-ion battery and battery separators industry in China that suggests the demand for quality separators will outstrip supply over the next several years.

Lithium-ion battery technology is widely used in portable electronic products, such as cell phones, camcorders and portable computers. At present, this technology is gaining worldwide attention as a preferred battery option for transportation applications, including electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), and electric bikes and scooters especially in Asia. Many of these batteries, especially when used for transportation, are made up of multiple cells that use common separators.

The separators compromise about 5 percent of the weight of the cells used in these applications. The separator content within the cells has remained at this level for the last five years and is projected to remain at this level even though the power stored for the same size has nearly doubled.

Especially for the large lithium-ion batteries needed in EVs and PHEVs, separator, technology and quality is of primary importance. In addition to battery life expectancy and safety, the separator needs to be porous yet strong, withstand high shock, high temperature, and be able to accept rapid charge and discharge.

China has only three big manufacturers of lithium-ion battery separators. The estimated current volume of separator sheets made in China is 12 million m2/129.2 million ft2. In the next year, China’s production capacity of separators is expected to increase to 62 million m2/667.4 ft2.

Other than three separators makers in China, there are three in the world — one in the United States and two in Japan. There are several companies now entering the separator market including DuPont in the U.S. and Freudenberg in Germany.

The three Chinese separators manufacturers are:

  • Shenzhen Senior Technology
  • Foshan Jin Hui Hi-Tech Optoelectronics Co.
  • Linyi Gelon New Battery Materials Co. Ltd.

All three big separator makers are located in Guandong Province located in the southeast part of China bordering on the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea bordering on North Korea and South Korea.

The cost of lithium-ion batteries for automobiles depends on government subsidies. Predictions for battery prices for 2015 vary from $450/Kwhr down to $300/Kwhr with government subsidies.

The Eldib study says that a fall in battery cost, in the USA, Korea, Japan and in China will reduce the price of electric vehicles, hybrid electric and plug-in-hybrid electric vehicles. Currently, for EVs, the lithium-ion battery approximates about 40 percent of the cost of the car for a four-passenger sedan. If the battery cost falls to $300/Kwhr, the cost of the EV would fall about $7,000.This would thereby increase the sales of electric cars, their batteries and contained separators.

Some Western and Japanese Companies are setting up joint ventures and or partnerships with Chinese battery manufacturing because of the widespread incentives available to Chinese companies from Chinese governments.

For more information about the study, contact Eldib at eldiber@comcast.net.