Tesla, the world’s leading electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, has announced its collaboration with BYD, a leading player in the EV and battery industry. The partnership involves Tesla incorporating BYD’s lithium iron phosphate (LFP) blade batteries into the rear-wheel-drive entry-level version of the Model Y, which will be produced at Tesla’s Berlin factory in Germany. Deliveries of this model are slated to commence in June 2023. Let’s delve into the significance of this collaboration from the perspectives of both Tesla and BYD.
Tesla’s Berlin factory has thus far been responsible for manufacturing the premium variant of the Model Y, equipped with Panasonic’s 21700 lithium-ion batteries. In contrast, the entry-level version of the Model Y had been imported from Tesla’s Gigafactory in Shanghai, China, with CATL’s LFP batteries installed.
With this collaboration, Tesla will now produce the entry-level Model Y directly at its Berlin factory, integrating BYD’s LFP blade batteries with a capacity of 55 kWh. This battery configuration will offer an approximate range of 440 kilometers. Although this variant features a reduced capacity of 5 kWh compared to the CATL battery-equipped Model Y, the BYD LFP blade batteries boast improved energy density. This enhancement results in an increased range per kilowatt-hour, from 7.6 km/kWh to 8 km/kWh.
Additionally, the adoption of BYD’s blade batteries provides Tesla with cost advantages. The blade batteries employ cobalt- and nickel-free battery materials, which are more affordable. Consequently, Tesla stands to save approximately $750 in battery pack costs when considering a battery cost of $150 per kilowatt-hour. Moreover, the square-shaped design of the blade batteries enables tighter and more efficient packaging, leading to higher energy density. This design also facilitates Tesla’s integration of Cell to Chassis (CTC) technology, which reduces packaging material usage and overall costs.
Considering these factors, the decision to utilize BYD’s blade batteries aligns with the cost-effective preferences of the entry-level Model Y’s target consumer group while fulfilling Elon Musk’s commitment to cost control.
In 2022, BYD overtook Tesla as the world’s largest EV manufacturer, boasting sales of 1.86 million electric vehicles. As a result, BYD’s market share in battery assembly has steadily increased, owing to its self-supply capabilities. As of the first quarter of 2023, BYD stands as the second-largest global supplier of power batteries, with a market share of 16.2%, surpassed only by CATL’s 35%.
Despite BYD’s remarkable growth in the electric vehicle sector, its battery production capacity initially struggled to keep pace. This resulted in a period during which BYD could only fulfill its own demand and was unable to export batteries, impeding the growth of its battery business in terms of customer quantity.
Apart from its use in BYD’s own EVs and the recent collaboration with Tesla for the Model Y, BYD’s batteries primarily find application in Changan Ford vehicles. Furthermore, a staggering 98% of BYD’s electric vehicle sales currently originate from the domestic Chinese market. This high market concentration poses the dual risks of relying excessively on a single market and a single customer for battery sales.
BYD’s inclusion in Tesla’s supply chain with its blade batteries marks a significant step toward diversifying sales risks. Nevertheless, for BYD to maintain its position as the second-largest battery supplier in the future, the company will need to adopt a proactive and diversified market strategy, expanding its presence in the supply chains of various automakers.
(Photo credit: Tesla)
After the Chinese holidays, solar-related materials continued to decline, with the exception of module prices which remained nearly flat. Prices for other materials such as cells, wafers, and polysilicon all decreased.
Polysilicon prices have continued to decline since the Labor Day holiday, with mono-Si compound feedings and mono-Si dense materials now priced at RMB 158/kg and RMB 155/kg, respectively. Downstream wafer businesses are trying to reduce their polysilicon inventory to avoid further losses from price drops. The increase in polysilicon output is weakening price protection for polysilicon companies, with some dumping their stocks, further accelerating the price drop. The ramp-up phase has resulted in lower quality polysilicon, creating an apparent price difference compared to high-quality polysilicon. The drop in prices is expected to continue.
Wafer prices have dropped for nearly two weeks, guided by leading wafer businesses. M10 and G12 now cost a respective mainstream price of RMB 5.4/pc and RMB 7.4/pc. Zhonghuan recently announced a more than 8% reduction in its wafer prices following LONGi’s announcement of an approximate 3% drop in wafer prices. The cautious attitude towards procurement in response to falling prices has led to sluggish market transactions. The cell segment’s reluctance to purchase has led to shipment difficulties and an inventory build-up. Combined with the ongoing decline in polysilicon prices, wafer prices are expected to continue to fall in the short term.
Cell prices have dropped slightly following the Labor Day holiday, with M10 and G12 cells now priced at RMB 1.04/W and RMB 1.1/W respectively. The reduction in upstream polysilicon and wafer prices, along with price suppression from downstream module makers, contributed to the decrease. However, the balanced supply and demand of cells prevented a significant drop, allowing cell businesses to maintain partial profitability. Further reductions in cell prices may occur due to ongoing cost reductions upstream and price pressure from module makers, but the equilibrium between upstream and downstream sectors could slow the decrease. M10 mono-Si TOPCon cell prices have increased due to a gradual rise in market transactions, now priced at RMB 1.18/W.
Module prices are holding steady in the short term, with 182 & 210 mono-Si single-sided PERC modules priced at RMB 1.67/W and RMB 1.68/W respectively, and 182 & 210 bifacial double-glass mono-Si PERC modules at RMB 1.69/W and RMB 1.7/W. Upstream price reductions have yet to affect the module segment due to the retention of profitability for the cell segment and the traditional peak season for the PV industry. Despite the price-suppressing approach from the end sector, first-tier module makers are stabilizing their prices, and overseas demand is strong. Overall, module prices are expected to remain sturdy in the short term. (Image credit: EnergyTrend)
Polysilicon prices had enlarged in reduction this week, where mono-Si compound feedings and mono-Si dense materials were concluded at a respective mainstream price of RMB 178/kg and RMB 175/kg under an average drop of roughly 7.8%. The drop of polysilicon prices had somewhat widened this week alongside the continuous release and ramp-up of polysilicon capacity, as well as the depleted procurement from crystal pulling plants.
Low-quality polysilicon continues to diverge in prices from mainstream products, and has been seeing a low level of purchases, while most businesses that are procuring frequently at small batches amidst the continuous reduction of polysilicon prices had contributed to the finalization of several new orders this week. Some businesses have started negotiating for their May orders, and prices are expected to continue fall with the arrival of the new round of order signing. An observation on the production and operation of the polysilicon segment this week indicates that two businesses are currently under overhaul. Polysilicon supply should continue to climb as businesses, including Daqo New Energy, GCL, Dongli, Runergy, and East Hope, release capacity and initiate production between May and June.
Wafer prices had slightly fluctuated this week, where M10 and G12 were concluded at a respective mainstream price of RMB 6.25/pc and RMB 8/pc. M10 mono-Si wafers had maintained a slow reduction due to insufficient demand, while G12 mono-Si wafers were largely stabilized in prices thanks to lingering support from demand.
The successive port arrival of imported quartz sand is able to fulfill full-load production among wafer businesses, though downstream cell businesses have not been aggressive in inventory pulls alongside the continuously rising level of wafer inventory, and are relatively resistant towards high-priced resources, which amplify the degree of wafer shipment on a continual basis, while second and third-tier businesses are also constantly lowering their prices in order to fight for orders.
Current mainstream concluded prices have fallen below that of prices previously announced by LONGi and Zhonghuan, and await the new round of prices that will soon be announced by leading businesses.
Cell prices were essentially stabilized this week, where M10 and G12 cells were concluded at a respective mainstream price of RMB 1.07/W and RMB 1.13/W. Supply and demand from upstream and downstream cell sectors have been relatively sturdy lately, with no significant changes to the level of overall inventory.
As demand for TOPCon cells increases, a segment of P-type production lines are currently being upgraded to N-type amidst continuous release and ramp-up of partial new capacity. The significantly risen supply of TOPCon cells could further widen the price difference between P-type and N-type cells. With upstream wafers dropping in prices and climbing in production, the cell segment has welcomed a recovery in profitability, though module makers are also amplifying in sentiment towards suppressing cell prices.
Module prices continued to maintain stability this week, where 182 and 210 mono-Si single-sided PERC modules were respectively concluded at RMB 1.67/W and RMB 1.68/W, while 182 and 210 bifacial double-glass mono-Si PERC modules sat on RMB 1.69/W and RMB 1.7/W respectively.
The continuous price drop from the upstream polysilicon and wafer segments has yet to be effectively transmitted to the module segment, and the end sector remains relatively anticipative towards dropping module prices, where some businesses of integrated production are generating orders by offering lower prices in order to bring up their shares in the domestic market. Integrated module makers are likely to carry on with their increase of demand during May, while the transmittance of price reduction from midstream and upstream sectors are also expected to further pull up end demand.
In terms of auxiliary materials, glass prices were seen with robustness this week, where 3.2mm and 2.0mm were respectively priced at RMB 26/㎡ and roughly RMB 18.5/㎡. As the new round of centralized order signing arrives soon, some module makers have been comparatively cautious on procurement by adequately digesting their previously accumulated inventory, and had thus led to a marginal drop of glass shipment this week compared to that of last week.
Sodium-ion batteries are burgeoning as a popular alternative to lithium-ion batteries, thanks to the efforts of Chinese automakers who are pushing for its mainstream adoption.
Leading Chinese companies like CATL and BYD are ramping up the production of sodium-ion batteries. In mid-April, CATL and Chery unveiled their new battery brand, “ENER-Q”, which includes full product lines including sodium-ion, iron phosphate lithium, and ternary lithium batteries. Chery’s new energy vehicles will be the first to use CATL’s sodium-ion batteries.
Following CATL, BYD is rumored to start mass production of its sodium-ion batteries in the second half of this year, which will be used in its compact hatchback, the Seagull series. Both the moves have once again sparked discussions about battery technology in the market.
Geopolitical risks fuels Sodium-ion Batteries
Considering market supply and technical stability, lithium-ion batteries and iron phosphate lithium batteries are still the most popular types of batteries for electric vehicles. The former has a higher energy density but contains cobalt and nickel, which drives up costs. The latter has a lower cost but a lower energy density.
Sodium-ion batteries, on the other hand, have been overlooked due to their low energy density compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries.
So, why are companies like CATL and BYD turning to sodium-ion batteries?
Geopolitical risk is a major factor. Most lithium mines are located in countries like the US, Australia, and Canada. In today’s anti-China political climate, these materials could be used as bargaining chips to curb China’s electric vehicle industry. China won’t want to be at the mercy of other countries when it comes to the fate of its EV industry, so developing new technological routes is crucial.
From a mass production perspective, sodium is a more abundant element in the Earth’s crust than nickel, cobalt, or lithium carbonate, with a distribution that’s more evenly spread out. As such, sodium could be a better fit as a positive electrode material in batteries in the long run. Industry experts predict that sodium-ion batteries could even cost 20% less than iron phosphate lithium batteries once it reaches economies of scale.
The Supporting Actor in EV Batteries
However, a closer look into the pros and cons of both the materials may reveal that it’s not a zero-sum game. Instead, their characteristics can complement each other and help to accelerate battery technology development.
CATL’s new sodium-ion battery has an energy density of up to 160Wh/kg, which is comparable to the iron phosphate lithium battery in its Kirin battery system, but still lags behind the 255Wh/kg of ternary lithium batteries.
As a result, CATL is mixing sodium-ion and ternary lithium batteries in Chery’s new energy vehicles to balance cost and performance.
BYD is also expected to use a mix of sodium-ion and iron phosphate lithium batteries. Assuming this is true, it will echo the market’s assumption that sodium-ion batteries are not overturning the battery industry, but rather helping battery manufacturers maintain flexible product portfolios that cater to different market segmentations.
To give an example, CATL’s lithium iron phosphate batteries have been utilized in heavy-duty vehicles like 120-ton ore trucks and marine service vessels since 2022, where charging efficiency and cost take precedence over high energy density.
Therefore, sodium-ion batteries are likely to become a complimentary choice for lithium iron phosphate batteries, as they offer advantages such as high-rate charging, low cost, and high safety. This will definitely give car makers more flexibility in their future product strategies.
TrendForce, the independent new energy research agency, forecasts that capacity for 210mm products will reach 57% in 2023. The penetration of 600W+ high-power modules is clearly accelerating, setting a distinct direction for both the industry chain and market.
As technology iteration is an essential force in driving industry development, an increasing number of module makers are now producing 210mm modules, marching into the 600W+ era.
More than 80% of module makers deploy 210mm technology as 600W+ high-power modules become a global standard
The 600W+ is now dominating major PV exhibitions around the world. 75% of the 600W+ products showcased by mainstream module makers at RE+2022 were fitted with 210mm wafers, demonstrating the advantage of the 210mm technology, and 30 companies had more than 40 600W products on display at Intersolar South America at the end of August. A similar pattern was seen at Intersolar Europe and SNEC.
According to TrendForce, more than 52 module makers (>80%) worldwide can now produce 210mm products. As indicated by TrendForce, capacity of large-sized modules has continued to expand this year, and new capacity is compatible with sizes of up to 210mm. Because of the extensive compatibility of 210mm cell and module technology, cutting-edge technologies such as TOPCon and HJT could be adopted, and module power output is likely to reach 700W+ soon.
Trina Solar, as the first mover of 210mm modules, recently put 210mm n-type capacity into mass production, reinforcing the company’s competitiveness with next-generation n-type cell technology. The refinement in 210mm products and n-type technology will further improve efficiency and cut costs.
Accumulated shipment of 210mm modules reached 50GW in first nine months of 2022
The production of 210mm modules is growing rapidly as the downstream high-power module market flourishes. In the first nine months of the year 50GW of 210mm cell modules were shipped. More than 76GW of such modules has been shipped as of third quarter 2022, and shipments were expected to accelerate in the last three months of 2022.
210mm module capacity to reach 57% by 2023
As indicated by TrendForce, large-sized modules (182mm and 210mm) are estimated to account for 512GW of capacity during 2022 at a ratio of 83%, of which 210mm capacity accounts for 287GW at 46%, representing year-on-year growth of 16%. Large-sized modules (182mm and 210mm), with their successive completion in capacity deployment next year, will occupy 89% of ratio then, and 210mm modules are likely to dominate, with estimated capacity of 466GW at 57%.
TrendForce forecasts that capacity of 210mm modules will continue to surge in 2023 and reach 66.04% by 2025, when 182mm module capacity will fall to 30%. In terms of wafers and cells, shipments of large-sized variations will continue to climb and dominate the market. New highs in global shipments of 210mm can be expected in the near future.
600W+ modules supreme in all-scenario for both utility and non-utility plants
High-power modules are widely used because of their superior LCOE and BOS costs. According to TrendForce, 600W+ high-power modules are becoming the trend in power stations, with 210mm technology seen as the first choice in making their 600W+ modules, which can reduce LCOE by up to 4.1%.
600W+ modules are yielding compatible solutions by adapting to different installation environments and projects that include ground-mounted power stations and distributed settings.
600W+ high-power modules lead the way as they deliver low LCOE
Low LCOE has been an ultimate target for the industry chain, and 600W+ modules that are equipped with high power, high efficiency, high energy yield, and high reliability can effectively reduce LCOE. Comparing 600W+ modules and 500W+ modules, the former have increased power output by 125-130W and increased module efficiency by 0.3-0.5%. 600W+ modules are also superior in energy yield, evidenced in test by their increase of 1.51~2.1% in single watt power generation. In addition, in five rigorous tests, 600W+ modules were proven to retain their highly reliable performance even in extreme climates.
Trina Solar, a pioneer in 210mm cell technology, has demonstrated to the market its solid strength and capability in the 600W+ field. As of third quarter 2022, Trina Solar has shipped 40GW 210mm modules, ranking first in the industry, with a total of 120GW of global modules shipments since its foundation.