Lithium batteries charged by strong global demand for electric vehicles

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China's lithium batteries are gaining increasing favor among overseas buyers with advancing technologies and improving services, as well as surging demand for electric vehicles worldwide, experts said.

In the first three months, China's lithium battery exports reached 109.79 billion yuan ($17.2 billion), a yearly growth of 94.3 percent, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.

The export surge took place throughout last year. China's total lithium battery exports in 2022 amounted to 342.65 billion yuan, an increase of 86.7 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Li Xingqian, director-general of the department of foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said at a recent news conference that China's high-tech and high value-added products, as well as products that lead to green transformation, such as electric vehicles, photovoltaic products and lithium batteries, have become new growth points for exports.

"The notable increase in China's lithium battery exports can be attributed to several factors, including increasing production capacity of lithium batteries, technological advancements in lithium battery manufacturing, and rising demand from major consumer countries for renewable energy and new energy vehicles," said Zhou Mi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing.

Lyu Daliang, a Customs spokesperson, said at a recent news conference that in the past few years, the global community has witnessed growing recognition of the importance of new energy and low-carbon development, and has seen rising demand for green products, which buoys the export growth of Chinese green and low-carbon products.

"China's lithium battery manufacturers have advantages over others in terms of scale, efficiency and service. Chinese companies are capable of supplying large quantities, and their products can meet the diverse needs of different types of lithium battery users due to accumulated experience and increased production volume," said Zhou.

"In addition, Chinese companies have a clear advantage in coordination with related equipment manufacturers in the upstream and downstream segments of the supply chain compared to other competitors. They also have advantages in pricing due to the increased production capacity and volume, and the ability to supply sustainably," he said.

According to a report by Chuancai Securities, from 2017 to 2020, China's lithium battery exports increased steadily at a rate of 20-35 percent per year. In 2021 and 2022, they experienced explosive growth of 66.5 percent and 86.7 percent, respectively.

Zhou attributed the explosive growth to the diversified application scenarios of new energy in the past two years. "Use of new energies is slowly entering the main market as compared to the past when it was often seen as a supplement to traditional energies."

Experts said the growth in lithium battery exports reflected the increasing international recognition of Chinese battery manufacturers. According to data released by South Korean battery market research firm SNE Research, in 2022, Chinese enterprises accounted for 60.4 percent of the market share of the top 10 global battery companies in terms of capacity.

Chinese battery manufacturers are also ramping up production with a focus on technological advancement.

Battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd recently unveiled its condensed battery and said it would soon be mass-produced. The company said the new battery has an energy density of up to 500 watt hours per kilogram and can achieve high energy density and high safety levels at the same time.

In March, another battery maker — Gotion High-Tech — cooperated with Japanese battery maker Edison Power Co Ltd to explore more opportunities in Japan's power storage industry, and help Gotion High-Tech increase its presence in Japan.

Zhao Weijun, president of the China branch of battery maker Envision AESC Group Ltd, which is headquartered in Shanghai, said at a recent forum that there will be an estimated 400 gigawatt-hours of capacity demand for batteries in overseas markets by 2026.

Zhang Xiaocong, vice-president of sales at battery maker Rept Battero Energy Co Ltd, said at the forum that companies need to pay attention to technological innovation, patent applications and supply chain management to achieve commercial success in overseas markets.

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