China’s battery manufacturing industry is growing robustly amid the rapid growth of the electric vehicle market. Led by global leading EV battery giant CATL, Chinese battery manufacturers including BYD, Eve Energy, Guoxuan High-Tech, Higee Energy, and Lishen are also expanding. The differentiation between lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxides (NCM), lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxides (NCA) and lithium ion phosphate (LFP) is significant in energy storage, compared with the EV market. This was because EV batteries and energy storage batteries have different appeals. For instance, EV batteries favor high energy density and fast charging and discharging rates, whilst energy storage batteries are more concerned with safety, cycle life, and prices.
Tier-1 energy storage system integrators all attended the SNEC PV Power Expo 2021, such as Sungrow and Hyper Strong, China’s two largest integrators according to 2020 statistics from the China Energy Storage Alliance (CNESA). Huawei, Goodwe, Shanghai Electric, Clou Electronics, and Cubenergy Technology also participated in the exhibition. Products exhibited mostly use China-made LFP batteries, especially those from Eve Energy, which have been adopted by well-known businesses, such as Huawei, Goodwe, Cubenergy, and Sinexcel. This indicates the popularity of the safe and cheap LFP batteries in the Chinese market and showcased the outcome of China’s long-term dedication to LFP development.
China is currently focusing on front-the-meter storage, since its energy storage market is still in nascent stage and sees different geographical conditions from Europe, the U.S., Japan, and Australia. Therefore, most businesses develop utility-scale stationary storage, with capacity ranging from hundreds of kWh to 6 MWh and beyond for a single unit.
EV battery has always been a key product of battery makers, as automotive manufacturers seen urgent demand for which amid the rampant expansion of the EV market, and under the influence of product differentiations. Rising demand for energy storage has led to short supplies of lithium-ion batteries. This provides room for more battery manufacturers. For example, Samsung SDI took up the largest market share in the energy storage market, despite low EV battery production capacity. At the SNEC, besides CATL and BYD, cells of Eve Energy are widely adopted by businesses, whilst Higee Energy saw fair performances. InfoLink Consulting projects that energy storage will bring cell makers another wave of progress, completing lithium-ion battery supply chain and applied industries.
Several trends were discovered in products this year. First is the standardization of battery. At the SNEC, the most common cell capacity are 90 Ah and 280 Ah, with the first being applied to stationary energy storage in the tens to hundreds of kWh range or power-type energy-storage systems, and the later for MWh-scale energy storage. Modular lithium-ion batteries are not only convenient for expansions, but less restricted when choosing cell products. The second trend is safety concern. The Chinese market favored LFP cells comprehensively, partly because of supply chain and geographical factors, and partly owing to the industry’s doubt towards NCM/NCA battery, after a series of ESS fire took place in South Korea during 2018 and 2019. The third trend is stricter thermal control. Previously, inferior efficiency of air cooled systems led to low space use efficiency. As a result, liquid cooling emerged, with both Clou Electronics and Hyper Strong introducing liquid cooled energy storage systems. The fourth trend is related to product layout. Both front-the-meter and behind-the-meter markets have seen mature products, such as utility-scale ESS and residential systems with smaller scales, respectively. For instance, in addition to China, Sungrow actively developed utility-scale ground-mounted stations in overseas markets, including the U.S. and India. Goodwe eagerly extended into the residential sector in European and Australian markets.
With governmental promotions and the promulgation of relevant policies, energy storage in China has seen its prospects lay ahead, despite slower developments compared to Europe and the U.S. As senior ESS analyst Yuan Fang-wei of InfoLink Consulting projected, China’s cumulative installed electrochemistry energy storage capacity will reach 60 GWh by 2025, reaching the global market share taken by the U.S.
Energy storage is anticipated to follow the footstep of EVs, with impetuses such as policy supports and the awareness for energy transitions. Long being the country that secured the largest share in both battery and PV manufacturing industries, China is bound to see more energy storage-related businesses emerge, as the industry grows alongside.