In mid-August, it was reported that China’s largest lithium-ion battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) plans to launch NCM 811 battery cells from 2019. The NCM 811 refers to the nickel-rich layered cathode materials with 8:1:1 proportion of nickel, cobalt and manganese respectively. The NCM811 technology offers both higher energy density and lower cost. CATL has not yet officially announced the plan, but a presentation given by CATL’s chief technology officer showed that CATL plans to produce battery cells with energy density of at least 230Wh/kg in 2019, which is in line with the specification of NCM 811 batteries.
In 2017, both SK Innovation and LG Chem announced that they would start production of NCM 811 battery cells during this year. In August 2018, SK Innovation postponed the release of NCM 811 battery cells to 2019. LG Chem will produce NCM 811 but only in cylindrical format for electric buses.
Roskill view: CATL holds strategic agreements with carmakers including SAIC Motor, Geely and Yutong. The battery maker also plans to build its first European production plant in Germany, aiming to become the main supplier to the country’s major automakers, including BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler.
The rise in NCM 811 technology has been stimulated, mainly, by NEV subsidy changes in China and high cobalt prices. A number of battery makers have announced their plans for NCM811 batteries, such as SK Innovation, LG Chem, Samsung SDI, CATL and BYD. The industry is not fully confident, however, in the new NCM811 technology. In order to greatly improve battery energy density, CATL has been using “NCM 523 + high voltage” battery cell technology, which is comparable to the energy density of most NCM 622 products. Many battery producers like CATL, who plan to step straight into NCM811 from NCM523 without the transition of NCM622, will likely experience some technical difficulties, such as high alkalinity, oxidation and instability. NCM 811 technology is expected to become the mainstream of the battery market by late 2019 or early 2020.