According to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China on the 18th, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of this year increased by 4.8% year-on-year. In the first quarter, the added value of China’s industries above designated size increased by 6.5% year-on-year. A spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics said that the rapid growth of industrial production was not only driven by the recovery of the domestic economy and the recovery of the world economy, but also driven by industrial innovation. The factors that continue to drive the upgrade are also the role of the strengthening of market supply and the rapid growth of related industries. At the previous press conference on the national import and export situation in the first quarter, Li Kuiwen, spokesman of the General Administration of Customs of China, repeatedly mentioned the export of electric vehicle industry chain products, especially the export of lithium batteries. According to the data, the export of lithium batteries in the first quarter increased by 53.7% year-on-year, especially the export of lithium batteries from China to the EU increased by 1.4 times year-on-year.
Lithium battery exports continue to be hot
Data released on the website of the China Chemical and Physical Power Industry Association shows that since 2016, China’s lithium battery export volume and export value have continued to expand. In 2021, China will export a total of 3.428 billion lithium batteries, a year-on-year increase of 54.34%, and the export value will expand to US$28.428 billion, a year-on-year increase of 78.34%. “There is no exact latest statistical data yet, but China’s lithium battery exports are definitely in a leading position in the world.” Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Transport Association, said in an interview with a reporter from the Global Times that the European new energy vehicle industry is developing rapidly, and Tesla European factories also started production in the first quarter. A combination of factors contributed to the increase in China’s lithium battery exports to Europe.
Mo Ke, chief analyst of True Lithium Research, told reporters that lithium batteries can be roughly divided into two categories, one is used in consumer electronics such as notebooks and mobile phones, and the other is power batteries used in electric vehicles. In the field of consumer electronics, China’s production and export of lithium batteries has a relatively obvious advantage in the world. In the export of power batteries, Japanese and Korean companies are very strong in the international market. But this situation is beginning to change due to the rise of Chinese companies. EU electric vehicle companies are increasingly inclined to purchase power batteries from Chinese companies.
Professionals told reporters that China is the country with the strongest and largest lithium ore processing capacity in the world. At the same time, there is no shortage of lithium resources in China, but China’s lithium resources have high mineral quality and extraction costs. Therefore, most of the lithium resources needed by the lithium battery industry are imported from abroad. Leading companies in the domestic lithium battery industry have gone overseas to deploy lithium ore resources, such as Ganfeng Lithium and Tianqi Lithium, which have acquired some overseas lithium mines. A large number of overseas lithium ore resources arrived in China and began to be processed.
Help European electric vehicles “start”
With the acceleration of electrification transformation, Europe has become the second largest electric vehicle market in the world after China. By 2035, all new cars on the European market could be electric. “German automakers rely on Chinese batteries”, Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that traditional German automakers are rapidly launching a variety of electric models, requiring a large number of battery components, mainly lithium-ion batteries containing nickel, manganese and cobalt. The above battery materials and battery products are mainly imported from China. A previous industry study by the German auto industry concluded that the current pace of development of the German electric vehicle market depends largely on the speed of deliveries from Chinese battery makers. German car companies have been buying foreign lithium batteries for many years, and car manufacturers are responsible for parts assembly, battery loading, charging, temperature management and other processes. German carmakers have abandoned battery production, and Chinese companies now have an edge in the market.
The EU Battery Alliance was established in 2017 to promote and develop battery cell production, involving 14 EU member states as well as the European Investment Bank and 500 companies and scientific research institutions. In the next few years, the EU will produce enough power batteries to meet the output of 8 million electric vehicles every year, which will require billions of dollars of investment. Currently, there are nearly 40 gigafactories under construction or planned in Europe, including 6 for Volkswagen alone.
In this regard, the German “Business Daily” believes that even if the super battery factories built in Europe can be self-sufficient, they are still inseparable from China’s battery industry chain. The electric vehicle industry requires extremely high quantities of lithium batteries, and by 2030, the demand for lithium in Europe may increase by 18 times, and by 2050, it may even increase by 60 times. Of the 30 raw materials defined as “critical” in Europe, 19 are mainly supplied by China.