Who is NIO’s Solid State Battery Supplier? Qingtao is Out, So it Comes Down to CATL or Prologium
Author: KOU Jiandong/CLS
After NIO revealed 360 Wh/kg, 1,000 km range solid state battery on NIO Day last weekend, the market started to speculate on NIO’s solid state battery supplier.
Laboratory tests have reached technical requirements, but market speculations are not correct. We have a very close cooperation with solid state battery supplier. It is a leading company in the industry, but we cannot disclose its name at the moment, NIO founder and CEO told CLS reporter.
Potential NIO solid state battery suppliers include previously rumored Qingtao, Prologium that signed cooperation agreement with NIO and NIO’s current partner, CATL. Even the name of Great Wall’s battery arm, Fengchao, came up.
Qingtao Out, Prologium In
Qingtao is essentially out. Earlier, Qingtao GM told his friends on its social media account that Qingtao has no such plans (to work with NIO), so cooperation with either Prologium or CATL is possible, an insider familiar with EV batteries told our reporter.
In August 2018, NIO signed cooperation agreement with Prologium. Based on the agreement, short-term goal is to jointly build prototype carrying MAB solid-state battery and as the prototype rolls off production line, a cooperation on solid state battery pack production would be further discussed.
Based on Prologium’s official website, MAB solid state battery pack uses BiPolar+ (direct inner serial and parallel inside one cell), S-Inlay (simultaneous inlay stacking) and Logi-Pack (in-built monitoring system) technology to develop a new type of packaging method aimed at highly safe solid state battery with high heat dissipation capacity. Without sacrificing safety, the company plans to create economically feasible high-density battery pack with the range equal to ICEVs by 2022, which is also the year when NIO plans to start delivering its 150 kWh solid state battery.
However, it is worth reminding that Prologium’s MAB is just a packaging method to increase cell formation efficiency, to a certain extent it is similar to what we have seen in CATL’s CTP and BYD’s blade battery. At the same time, Prologium’s solid state battery in true sense of the word is lithium oxide ceramic battery, while what NIO announced was semi-solid state battery with in-situ solidification hybrid electrolyte.
The core of any solid state battery is electrolyte. Currently, all solid state battery electrolytes rely on three technology systems, i.e. organic polymer electrolytes and inorganic ceramic oxide or sulfide electrolytes. NIO did not reveal which electrolyte is used in its battery.
NIO CEO said that the battery the company uses is not full solid state battery and that it still uses liquid (electrolyte).
Full solid state battery mass production is still far away, because the demand for the solid state batteries is really low, CEO explained.
Locked on CATL?
Based on NIO CEO description of solid state battery partner as “leading company in the market”, CATL might also become its solid state battery supplier as it already supplies NIO with its batteries.
Judging from what NIO revealed about its battery during NIO Day, beside above mentioned “in-situ solidification hybrid electrolyte”, presentation also mentioned “inorganic pre-lithium SiC composite anode” and “nano coating nickel ultra rich cathode” techniques, which are two techniques that CATL already mastered.
In March 2019, CATL said its R&D team made a breakthrough in rich-nickel ternary materials and silicon carbon anode materials by developing battery samples with 304 Wh/kg density.
Also, SAIC high-end smart EV brand announced last year that its model will carry silicon doped lithium cell that is being developed with CATL. Although its density is 240 Wh/kg, range reaches 1,000 km. It has it all — silicon anode, lithium cathode. CATL inside source once explained silicon doped lithium technique — currently, pre-lithation usually disperses lithium powder over anode. This technique is demanding on process and equipment.
CATL has this technology, Merchant Bank International researcher told CLS.
From this we can see that CATL has a mature silicon carbon anode and rich nickel cathode technology.
However, as part of experts warned, whether it is a genuine solid state battery or NIO announced semi-solid state battery, commercial application will take some time.
Entire industrial chain does not have large-scale supply capacities, while the products need to go through an adequate verification process, J-Bang Capital partner said.