Revolutionizing China's Electric Vehicle Industry: Insights from the 2023 Conference

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Hosted by the China Electric Vehicle 100 People’s Assembly and co-organized by Tsinghua University, China Automotive Engineering Society, China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, China Automotive Technology and Research Center, and China Automotive Engineering Research Institute, the China Electric Vehicle 100 People’s Assembly Forum (2023) opened in Beijing.

The forum invited representatives from government departments and industry organizations in automotive, energy, transportation, urban, and communication sectors, as well as leading companies, to have in-depth discussions on topics such as the global automotive industry development situation, high-quality development path of new energy vehicles, China’s intelligent connected vehicle development strategy, power battery and other core industry chain supply chain development trends, new generation automotive consumption transformation trends, automotive and energy coordinated development strategies, new transportation energy security system, commercial vehicle transformation direction, automotive aftermarket innovation path, and digital and intelligent automotive manufacturing models.

At the 2023 China Electric Vehicle 100 People’s Assembly Forum, Wang Yu touched on the following points in his speech:

  1. In the short term, for economy models, a “sodium-ion battery” solution will be provided for vehicles with a range of 300 kilometers or less; for practical models, a “lithium iron phosphate” solution will be available for vehicles with a range of about 500 kilometers; for other models, a “ternary” solution will be offered.
  2. The ultimate solution is to replace all batteries with sodium batteries, while performance models will use ternary batteries.
  3. To transition from “existence” to “quality”, problems such as low range, slow charging, high prices, and resource constraints must be addressed.

How to go from “existence” to “quality”: a. Increase range; b. Eliminate charging anxiety, achieve a 400-kilometer charge in 10 minutes; c. Keep battery prices at 100 US dollars per kilowatt-hour; d. Reduce dependence on cobalt and lithium resources.

  1. Wang Yu called for: a. Supporting the intensification of lithium, nickel, and cobalt resource surveys and rational, orderly development and utilization; b. Accelerating the construction of the sodium battery industry chain and supporting the research and development of next-generation sodium battery materials; c. Having battery companies as the primary entities for the recycling and reuse of retired power batteries; d. Implementing a phase-out system for electric vehicles to reduce risk.

The following is the original text of the speech:

Leaders, guests, entrepreneurs, good morning, I am Wang Yu, and I greatly appreciate the organizing committee’s invitation, giving me the opportunity to exchange views on lithium batteries with you all.

In 2022, the production and sales of new energy vehicles reached 6.88 million units, a year-on-year increase of 90%, and electric vehicles reached 5.36 million units, a year-on-year increase of 80%. By 2022, the total number of vehicles had reached 13.1 million units, with a share of 4.1%, and it will soon enter the 5% threshold, meaning that electric vehicles have entered the mature phase. It is estimated that by 2023, the number can reach 9 million units, a year-on-year growth of 30%, but this estimate was last year’s prediction, and I hope that we can achieve 9 million units this year.Electric vehicles have transitioned from “nonexistent” to “existent,” and now we are moving into the next phase: achieving “good.” We have also advanced from “presence or absence” to “quality” in terms of electric batteries. How far are we from “good”? I’ve identified two areas. First, limited range and slow charging: for example, a vehicle advertised as having a 500 km range only achieves approximately 350-400 km in practice, with even worse performance in winter. This is particularly true for lithium iron phosphate batteries, which experience 50% to 60% reductions in range during winter months, resulting in numerous complaints. Furthermore, charging times are excessive; most vehicles require approximately 40 minutes for a fast charge to 70% and 8-9 hours for a full slow charge. These constraints have limited the development of new energy vehicles. Why? The range of a new energy vehicle depends on two factors: the amount of battery capacity (akin to gasoline) and the vehicle’s energy consumption.

Looking at the statistics on the right, most vehicles’ energy consumption falls between 10 kWh/100 km and 20 kWh/100 km. Compact models and sedans have energy consumption rates from 15 kWh/100 km to 18 kWh/100 km, while SUVs range from 16 kWh/100 km to 20 kWh/100 km. Based on these consumption rates, achieving a 500 km range necessitates a 60 kWh battery, but even then real-world performance is closer to 350-400 km, with even lower ranges in winter. Why not install more batteries? The limitations lie in battery energy density and available installation capacity. In recent years, manufacturers have focused on reducing costs, with many models transitioning from ternary batteries to lithium iron phosphate. Under current conditions, achieving longer ranges is difficult, and regardless of battery type, charging times remain problematic.

Another challenge is price and resource constraints, a topic that has generated considerable debate, particularly following the rise in the price of lithium carbonate last year. It was predicted that electric vehicle adoption would surge once costs reached $100 per kWh in 2022. Though 2022 has now passed, and the costs have fallen from $198 to around $140 per kWh, our target is still within reach. Many now anticipate this equilibrium to be achieved in 2023. However, the sudden rise in the price of lithium carbonate shattered these hopes and aspirations. In 2018, a similar tenfold spike in cobalt prices occurred, followed by a second wave of speculation surrounding lithium metal last year. Based on initial estimates, costs rose from ¥50,000-60,000 to nearly ¥500,000, a roughly tenfold increase, resulting in cost increases of ¥0.2 per kWh for lithium-based power batteries. The entire industry, including automakers and electric vehicle manufacturers, contributed approximately ¥100 billion in profits to the lithium industry. Another concern is resource availability, as cobalt constraints initially impacted the industry, and now lithium limitations pose additional challenges. To progress from “existent” to “good” in the electric vehicle sector, these bottlenecks must be resolved.To progress from “available” to “excellent” in EVs, four aspects must be considered. First, achieve a longer driving range by increasing the battery capacity by 25%, ensuring a superb user experience. Second, alleviate charging anxiety with a goal of replenishing 400 kilometers of driving distance within 10 minutes. Third, maintain battery pack prices at 100 USD per kilowatt-hour. Fourth, reduce the dependence on cobalt and lithium resources to further promote EV development and achieve dual carbon targets.

To accomplish an impressive and reliable driving range, it’s necessary to consider both material and product design. Despite our efforts in design, it cannot fully solve the fundamental range issue. Real solutions require research in new materials. To eliminate charging anxiety, tackle ion conduction and electronic conduction issues, reducing impedance. To address cost concerns, comprehensively resolve issues from the aspects of materials, design, manufacturing, and recycling. Costs depend not only on materials but also on battery design. In the past, integrating batteries into the PACK represented innovative design and manufacturing. Additionally, we aim to develop lithium and cobalt-free batteries.

Zenergy Tech’s solution for overcoming these challenges is the development of a new platform called the SPS (Super Soft Pack Solution). It is a comprehensive solution that encompasses materials, design, processes, equipment, and recycling. Its purpose is to help automakers and EVs address the challenges of transitioning from “available” to “excellent.” Based on large soft pack batteries, SPS is directly integrated into vehicles. This system is compatible with ternary and lithium iron phosphate batteries, as well as liquid and solid-state batteries. It significantly improves power performance, energy density, and driving range. The utilization of this technology reduces the cost of the entire PACK by 33%. An 80-kilowatt-hour battery can now achieve approximately 600-700 kilometers of driving range. With the SPS, without changing the materials, we can integrate up to 100 kilowatt-hours of capacity. If adopting Zenergy’s ternary silicon-carbon system, this can be increased to 120 kilowatt-hours. In summary, our battery packs can achieve a volume and weight equivalent of 120 kilowatt-hours by employing 80 kilowatt-hours, eliminating the constraints of driving range. Using large soft pack batteries significantly improves power and charging performance, achieving a 400-kilometer charge within 10 minutes. We have designed different charging options for automakers: vehicles with a 500-kilometer range can obtain 80% charge in 10 minutes, while those with a 1000-kilometer range can still gain 400 kilometers in the same amount of time. This entirely resolves the issues of charging duration and range anxiety. Taking energy density into account, reducing the weight by 100 kilograms may result in approximately 15 kilometers of increased range. The SPS solution reduces fixed asset investments by half, factory area by 50%, manufacturing costs by 50%, and greatly lowers costs overall.Regarding the resource issue, in 2018, we were affected by cobalt, and we were determined to eliminate cobalt. Today, I would like to report that we have completely solved the cobalt problem. The cobalt content in ternary materials has been reduced to below 5%, and if necessary, we can completely remove cobalt, no longer restricted by cobalt. Today’s issue is lithium, and we have put the de-lithiation plan on our agenda, entering the process of de-lithiation. In 2022, our sodium batteries will be industrialized, aiming at completely resolving the problems of lithium resources and lithium constraints on the development of the industry.

As for the future, our XFC solutions for vehicle manufacturers will provide sodium solutions for economy models with a range of less than 300 kilometers in the short term, lithium iron phosphate solutions for practical models with a range of about 500 kilometers, and ternary solutions for system models. Eventually, all will be replaced with sodium batteries, while ternary solutions will be used for performance models.

Lastly, I would like to call on the entire industry and the government to support and intensify the exploration of lithium, nickel, and cobalt resources for reasonable and orderly development and utilization. Double carbon commitment requires global collaboration to ensure sustainable human and energy development as the most significant global issue. The industry’s progress should not be hindered by individual metal resource or pricing concerns. Secondly, I call upon the government and academia to accelerate the construction of the sodium battery industry chain and support research and development of next-generation sodium battery materials. Thirdly, battery companies should be the main driver for recycling and reusing retired power batteries. Ternary batteries can be more affordable than lithium iron phosphate batteries, giving rise to various business models, vehicles with longer range, and better battery life. Finally, I recommend implementing a term-limited retirement system for electric vehicles, such as requiring all electric vehicles to exit the market after 10 or 15 years, to avoid potential risks from uncontrolled power batteries, such as fires or other hazards.

That concludes my report, thank you everyone!

This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email