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Quick Growth of The New Energy Vehicle Market Stimulates Related Materials Demand

A new change in the global scientific and technological landscape is that basic research has become prominent in seizing the commanding heights of international competition. In terms of trends, driven by technological revolution and industrial transformation, the focus of competition in the new energy vehicle industry has shifted to the front end of the R&D chain, and then to the upstream material field of the industry chain, that is, the R&D and production links of key materials.

Table of Contents

Role of materials in the new energy vehicle industry chain

Under the promotion of a new round of technological revolution in the world, traditional automobile technology has evolved from the initial mechanical power to the current advanced technology system of new energy vehicles marked by low-carbon energy, electrified power, and intelligent vehicles.

New energy vehicles refer to vehicles that adopt new power systems and rely entirely or mainly on new energy sources. According to the characteristics of their power systems, they can be roughly divided into three categories.

One is pure electric vehicle (EV), which adopts electric drive mode; the other is plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which adopts electric motor + internal combustion engine drive mode; the third is fuel cell vehicle (FCEV), which can be regarded as “self-contained hydrogen fuel Generator for electric car.

Due to the adoption of new power systems, new energy vehicles must surpass traditional vehicles in light weight, electrification and intelligence, and must strive for breakthroughs in their material technology.

For example, use lightweight materials to reduce energy consumption and improve performance; use drive motor materials to promote the transformation of new energy into vehicle driving force; use power battery materials to ensure the advantages of vehicle power storage, battery life, and safety and efficiency.

Role of materials in the new energy vehicle industry chain
Role of materials in the new energy vehicle industry chain

In the new energy vehicle industry chain, in addition to how to select the automobile PCB manufacturers, and the role and status of materials are extremely important. The industrial chain involved in materials is divided into three parts: downstream complete vehicles, midstream parts and materials, and upstream mineral resources. The key materials of new energy vehicles run through and penetrate almost every link of the entire industrial chain. For example, downstream complete vehicles are mainly automobile R&D and manufacturing, including lightweight materials.

The components and materials in the midstream are mainly the manufacturing and assembly of batteries, motors, and electronic controls. The battery industry chain is relatively complex, consisting of three links: batteries, BMS (battery management system), and battery packs. The battery cell is mainly composed of positive electrode, negative electrode, separator and electrolyte. The most important part of BMS is the battery thermal management system, which is directly related to the safety performance of the battery. We have collected the energy storage BMS companies, you can take a reference.

Upstream mineral resources are mineral resources related to the manufacture of various system components of new energy vehicles, mainly involving chromium, aluminum, germanium and other total 23 resources, among which six kinds of lithium, cobalt, nickel, platinum, rare earth and graphite are the most critical mineral resources for new energy vehicles.

Key materials become the focus of R&D of new energy vehicles

The key role of materials in the research and development of new energy vehicles has attracted great attention from the industry. At present, new energy vehicles are facing new problems in the research and development, innovation and industrial chain development of various key materials that meet the development requirements.

Compared with traditional vehicles, new energy vehicles have added motors and electronic components such as generators, inverters, and power batteries in terms of components, and reduced internal combustion engines, transmissions, fuel tanks, and exhaust pipes.

In terms of constituent materials, materials such as high-performance magnets, high-strength steel plates, lithium compounds, cobalt compounds, carbon, aluminum alloys, and resins used for new components will increase, and gradually become key materials.

(1) Power battery materials

The positive electrode materials of power batteries include lithium iron phosphate, lithium manganate, ternary materials (nickel-cobalt-manganese, nickel-cobalt-aluminum, etc.). The negative electrode materials are relatively stable, mainly graphite, and a small amount of lithium titanate is used as the negative electrode material; Zirconia fiber material. Among the mineral resources involved in power batteries, the application of rare metals occupies a certain proportion.

For example, rare earth storage alloy hydrogen has a broad market in the field of nickel-metal hydride batteries for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. In nickel-hydrogen batteries, nickel accounts for 3/5 of the battery cost; in lithium-ion batteries, electrolytes, positive electrode materials, Anode materials and separators each account for 1/4 of the cost. Hydrogen, the energy source of fuel cell vehicles, requires platinum group metals as catalysts to produce it.

Key materials become the focus of R&D of new energy vehicles
Key materials become the focus of R&D of new energy vehicles

(2) Drive motor material

Rare earth elements are essential for new energy vehicle drive motors, and the demand is large. In order to ensure the endurance of new energy vehicles, the drive motors are required to have high power density, high efficiency and strong reliability.

Rare earth permanent magnet synchronous motor is the current mainstream technology. The main material is neodymium iron boron. Usually, a small amount of gallium and dysprosium, praseodymium, and terbium in rare earth elements are mixed to ensure the heat resistance of permanent magnet motors.

The conversion of direct current and alternating current realized by electronic power system requires certain metals such as palladium, gold, germanium, indium and silver to realize. At present, NdFeB is the most magnetic permanent magnet in the world, and the neodymium element in rare earth happens to be one of the key materials used to manufacture high-power light-weight magnets-NdFeB permanent magnets.

(3) Lightweight materials

Lightweight material technology is a key link that must be broken through in the development and innovation of new energy vehicles. New fiber composite materials, magnesium-aluminum alloys, chromium-containing high-strength steels, titanium alloys, and some non-metallic matrix composite materials have great application potential in the lightweight and safety of new energy vehicles.

Some studies have pointed out that the best way to reduce the weight of automobiles is to reduce energy consumption by 1/2. The application of aluminum alloy in the lightweight design of new energy vehicles can reduce the weight of the vehicle by 20%; magnesium alloy can be applied to seat frames, instrument panels, steering wheels, etc., with light weight, high specific strength, and easy processing features.

Strategic layout on related materials and improve competition capability
Strategic layout on related materials and improve competition capability

As an emerging field, new energy vehicles are still in their infancy in technology research and development and application. The application of new materials, especially key materials, often marks a breakthrough in the development and innovation of new energy vehicles. Countries gradually regard the key material technology of new energy vehicles as the commanding heights of industrial competition. To this end, China actively explores and promotes the deep integration of new materials and new energy vehicle development.

(1) Preferential policy

Governments focus on improving the performance and system reliability of new energy batteries, accelerate the research and industrialization of key supporting materials for power batteries, carry out research and development of key materials for new-generation products such as solid-state batteries, and promote breakthroughs in fuel cell basic materials and core technologies.

  • Power battery materials: accelerate the development of high-safety positive electrode materials, negative electrode materials, and ultra-high thermal stability lithium battery diaphragms for power lithium batteries; realize the market application of soft-packed aluminum-plastic composite films for power batteries.
  • Fuel cell materials: accelerate the development of perfluorosulfonic acid resins for fuel cell proton exchange membranes and research on film forming technology, speed up research and master the preparation technologies of basic materials such as low-platinum-loaded catalysts and high-performance carbon paper. 
  • Lightweight materials: promote the application of fiber-reinforced composite materials, high-strength corrosion-resistant aluminum heat transmission materials, aluminum alloys, magnesium alloys and aluminum-magnesium alloy materials.High-performance motor materials: improve the green level of materials such as high-performance electromagnetic wires, high magnetic induction and low-loss cold-rolled silicon steel sheets, and high-performance rare earth permanent magnets.
  • High-performance motor materials: improve the green level of materials such as high-performance electromagnetic wires, high magnetic induction and low-loss cold-rolled silicon steel sheets, and high-performance rare earth permanent magnets.

(2)Enterprise strategy layout

While the new energy automotive materials industry is developing at a high speed, some unbalanced and uncoordinated problems need to be dealt with by the upper, middle and lower reaches of the entire industrial chain to accelerate the upgrading of innovation and development.

Due to the sharp rise in the price of raw materials such as lithium resources, the cost of power batteries, which are the core components of electric vehicles, has increased sharply. At present, many Chinese battery manufacturers are cooperating with Sichuan, Qinghai, Jiangxi and other areas with abundant lithium resources to build a series of industrial clusters relying on resource mining, processing, battery production and recycling.

In addition to establishing a strong, long-term and stable cooperative relationship, capital is also used to go deep into the upstream industry chain, or directly control mineral resources, or participate in material production enterprises, or establish joint venture material companies, or build material factories by themselves. For example, CATL, BYD, EVE Lithium Energy, Honeycomb Energy, Sunwoda and other battery companies are participating in the development of domestic lithium mines and salt lake lithium resources through acquisitions, shareholdings, long-term associations or cooperation.

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