China’s leading domestic cathode supplier Easpring has been aggressively courting partners across the lithium battery supply chain. A new member has been added to its group of strategic partners that include SK Group, Huayou Cobalt, Lishen, and WeLion. On July 16, Easpring signed a strategic cooperation agreement for 2022-2025 with QingTao (Kunshan) Energy Development. The event was then formally announced on the next day.
Under this comprehensive, multi-level agreement, both parties will expand their collaborations on the development of technologies and products for the global NEV power battery market, especially those related to cathode materials for all-solid-state and semi-solid-state batteries. Together, they will also set up production capacity worldwide, conduct fundraising, etc.
QingTao as Strategic Partner
QingTao is an entity established under the leadership of Nan Cewen, who is the Dean of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Tsinghua University. QingTao develops and commercializes advanced materials used in new energy applications. Through its own innovations with respect to key materials and manufacturing equipment, QingTao has significantly optimized the process for the mass production of lithium batteries. It has also become the first in China to commercialize a solid-state battery technology and set up the first solid-state battery production line in the country. QingTao has full control of a large portfolio of critical and relevant patents.
QingTao is currently building an industry chain and ecosystem. The industry chain for the solid-state batteries is going to encompass materials, battery design, automated manufacturing equipment, integrated resource utilization, R&D, and commercialization platform. At the same time, QingTao has formed long-term partnerships with several major carmakers.
In terms of fundraising, QingTao completed its E+, E++, and F++ rounds in May 2020, August 2020, and January 2022 respectively. These rounds brought a total of RMB 1.2 billion. The main investors included SAIC Motor, BAIC Capital, BOCG Investment, and Frees Fund.
With regard to capacity planning, QingTao is building a mega base for manufacturing solid-state batteries in the Kunshan ETDZ (China’s Jiangsu Province). The base, which broke ground this February and is scheduled for completion in 2024, will span an area of around 300 mu and have a production capacity of 10GWh per year. The total investment in the Kunshan base is estimated around RMB 5 billion. Earlier, QingTao also established a smaller base for manufacturing solid-state batteries in the city of Yichun (China’s Jiangxi Province). This project, which entails an estimated investment of RMB 550 million, will span an area of 100 mu and have a production capacity of 1GWh per year. The first-phase section of the Yichun base is currently in operation.
Also, on July 6 this year, SAIC Motor, which was one of the investors in the previous two rounds of fundraising, inked a joint-venture agreement with QingTao. Named “SAIC-QingTao Solid-State Battery Lab”, the new entity will be focusing on the development of solid-state NEV power batteries and 4C fast-charging technology. Its goal is to create battery technologies that offer a higher safety level, a higher efficiency level, and a longer cycle life.
Besides the market for NEV power batteries, QingTao has also expanded into the market for special energy storage solutions. In particular, the company is working on solid-state batteries that can operate safely and reliably under various extreme conditions. Currently, these solutions are purposed for applications related to civil engineering. Their scales range from 0.5kWh to the MWh-level. According to the company, these solutions are being adopted at venues such as banks and oil distribution centers.
Easpring and QingTao Together Will Hasten Progress on Mass Production and Sales of Cathode Materials Used in Solid-State Batteries
In recent years, Easpring and QingTao have been collaborating in the area of cathode materials for solid-state batteries. Presently, Easpring is supplying substantial quantities of products to QingTao.
With this latest strategic cooperation agreement, both parties will be broadening and deepening their collaborations on the development of supporting solutions sold in the global market for NEV power batteries. QingTao is using Easpring’s materials to develop batteries for NEVs and other new and innovative applications. Moreover, both parties are exchanging R&D expertise with respect to the development of critical materials used in Li-ion solid-state batteries and ternary cathodes that are rich in lithium and manganese.
Under the agreement, QingTao will make Easpring its first-choice supplier for cathode materials used in solid-state batteries. In other words, QingTao will give priority to Easpring when it comes to procurements and payments. Also, the agreement stipulates that QingTao will procure no less than 30,000 tons of cathode materials used in solid-state batteries during the period from 2022 to 2025. Exactly how much QingTao will procure will be negotiated under the framework annual contracts. At the same time, Easpring guarantees that QingTao as a priority customer will have a stable flow of supply for cathode materials, and that preferential pricing will be applied to its orders. In sum, both parties expect the agreement to create a win-win situation.
As for other joint projects related to power batteries and cathode materials, both parties will discuss the concrete details in later time. To ensure the stability of the supply-demand relationship between the parties and enable global market expansion, efforts will be made to ramp up investment activities in China and elsewhere. Such investment activities could involve fundraising, linkages with domestic and foreign sources of capital, mergers and acquisitions, other kinds of capital operations, etc. All in all, QingTao and Easpring together will be pushing for further capitalization and financialization. However, joint projects will proceed in accordance with both parties’ needs and strategies.
Easpring said that the strategic cooperation agreement with QingTao will accelerate its efforts in the development, mass production, and sales of cathode materials used in solid-state batteries purposed for various applications. Easpring will be able to grow its presence and attain a firm leading position in the market for Li-ion solid-state batteries.
This article is a translation of a Chinese article written by Marry at TrendForce. It contains information that is either sourced from other news outlets or accessible in the public domain. Some Chinese names are transcribed into English using Hanyu Pinyin.