Cathode materials market

The cathode market for EVs is evolving. This raises several questions: what cathode chemistry will dominate the market in 2030? What’s the future of LNMO, and what applications can it be most useful for? Who are the key suppliers of cathode materials? How are the cathode and battery cell markets influenced by increasing competition on subsidies between the EU, the US and China? This Market Intelligence Report aims to answer these questions. It presents leading battery cathode chemistries, compares their properties, and analyses their market dynamics.

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Cathode chemistries Classification

A Li-ion battery uses the movement of lithium ions between the anode and cathode to generate electrical energy. During discharge, lithium ions move from the positively charged cathode to the negatively charged anode through the electrolyte, generating a flow of electrical current. During charging, the reverse reaction occurs, and the lithium ions move back to the cathode.

Schematic view of battery cell charging process
Source: Key technical, policy and market developments influencing the electric vehicle battery landscape | Bax & Company

Each Li-ion battery cathode consists of a lithium transition metal oxide, like LCO or NMC. Lithium usually accounts for approximately 5-10% of the cathode’s mass, while oxides of other elements such as nickel, manganese, cobalt, iron, and phosphorus constitute the rest.

Production of cathode materials

Factories producing battery cells receive cathode-active materials in the form of powders. To synthesise these powders, precursor materials are usually mixed in a specific ratio, milled to produce a homogenous mixture, calcinated to obtain the desired crystal structure, characterised, and enhanced through coating. There are several methods differing mainly in how the mixing and calcination are performed. Each method requires different conditions and influences the properties of the material.

Table showing the comparison of synthesis methods
Source: Key technical, policy and market developments influencing the electric vehicle battery landscape | Bax & Company

Cathode market analysis

Cathodes are responsible for several key properties of battery cells.

– Volumetric energy density expresses how many watthours of electrical energy can be stored per volume of battery cells.

– Power density is the amount of power that can be delivered per unit of weight or volume. A higher power density means a battery that can deliver more power for a given size. 

– Cycle life is the number of charge-discharge cycles a battery can undergo before it reaches its end of life. 

– The safety of the battery includes its stability under different conditions and its resistance to thermal runaway.

– The cost of batteries is usually expressed in US dollars per kilowatt-hour and is mainly influenced by market prices of raw materials, manufacturing processes used, and the scale of production.

Comparison of SoTa Li-Ion chemistry properties on a cell level
Source: Key technical, policy and market developments influencing the electric vehicle battery landscape | Bax & Company

Suitability for applications

In the past, Li-ion batteries were used mostly in consumer electronics. With the growing necessities of the energy transition, increasing performance and production costs going down, the applications range has grown. Presently, 71% of produced batteries power electric vehicles, 15% are used in consumer electronics, 4% in stationary energy storage systems, and 10% in other applications. By 2030, the automotive sector is expected to constitute 89% of the market share.

Battery applications: chemistry fit and market
Source: Key technical, policy and market developments influencing the electric vehicle battery landscape | Bax & Company

Demand for cathode materials

There are several factors that will determine the future demand for cathode materials: market size for battery applications, chemistry-application suitability, performance development, environmental/ethical concerns about the use of critical raw materials, and political dynamics connected with the domestication of supply chains.

Key players in the manufacturing of cathode materials 

China currently produces 68% of the global supply, making it the largest manufacturer of battery cathodes, covering each chemistry. The second largest producers are Japan and South Korea, each covering approximately 15% of the market.

Read the full report for a complete update on all market and policy developments influencing the EV battery landscape.

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Reported by Bax & Company

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