According to the Energy Trends division of TrendForce, which is a market research organization, China’s demand for electric vehicle batteries has grown significantly in 2017 as automakers accelerate the production of electric vehicles. The global demand for electric vehicle batteries is expected to grow steadily from 2 billion in 2017 to 2.5 billion in 2018, an increase of 24%.
The rapidly expanding new energy market in China has prompted battery manufacturers to focus primarily on electric vehicle batteries, although their products were once the main market for battery supply. Therefore, the price of cobalt has been booming in the past year. Cobalt is a key raw material for battery cells. With rising costs and reduced government subsidies, China's new energy vehicle (NEV) market may face potential risks of future growth.
Duff Lu, research manager of EnergyTrend, said that due to the rapid development of the battery, the price of cobalt increase in 2017. Lu doesn’t want the cobalt price to continue to rise in 2018, but it is still a key issue in the supply chain. From the long sight, battery manufacturers and automakers will seek solutions such as vertical integration to ensure safe supply to prevent further price fluctuations, and hinder the development of the industry.
Increased energy density boosts the development of the NMC battery market
Before 2017, the demand for electric vehicle batteries in the Chinese market mainly came from fixed-line and large-size buses, and energy density was not the highest priority. Therefore, LFP batteries are mainly used for the balance between cost and battery life.
In contrast, logistics vehicles and passenger cars mostly use NMC batteries. With the introduction of supportive policies by the Chinese government, the market penetration of new energy passenger vehicles is expected to increase significantly in 2018, leading to a growing demand for NMC batteries. At present, the penetration rate of NMC batteries in passenger vehicles has increased from 50% in 2016 to 70% in 2017, indicating that its market share in the passenger car market is higher than that of LFP batteries.
Duff Lu said that as the battery energy density increases, the unit price of electric vehicles will decline. Therefore, the improvement of the price/performance ratio will further promote the development of the NMC battery market.
Increased penetration of new energy passenger vehicles and logistics vehicles has made it a key player in the Chinese market in 2018
Considering the convenience of setting up charging stations and maximizing the use of vehicles in the early stages of development of the Chinese NEV market, the introduction of NEV began with large buses and then expanded to smaller cars. At present, the penetration rate of small-size (6 to 8 meters in length) and medium-sized (8 to 10 meters in length) buses is 27%, while that of large buses (>10 meters in length) is 20%.
In contrast, the development of electric buses is still at an early stage, and its penetration rate is only about 3%, mainly due to the high prices of batteries and the initial development of charging facilities. In 2018, with the expected increase, logistics vehicles and passenger vehicles will become the main driver of the Chinese electric vehicle market, while the growth of new energy buses will tend to stabilize.