9月14日，Science杂志刊发题为A “technology-smart” battery policy strategy for Europe的文章，作者为瑞士苏黎世联邦理工学院Martin Beuse、Tobias S. Schmidt和Vanessa Wood，讨论欧洲在电动汽车用动力电池上应该采取的策略和措施。三位作者中Martin Beuse和Tobias S. Schmidt常年关注能源政治策略，Vanessa Wood则是锂离子电池领域的科学家。本文特翻译这篇文章，给大家带来欧洲学术界关于动力电池的的一些观点和看法。
A “technology-smart” battery policy strategy for Europe
Martin Beuse1, Tobias S. Schmidt1, Vanessa Wood2
1Energy Politics Group, ETH Zurich, Haldeneggsteig 4, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
2Materials and Device Engineering Group, ETH Zurich, Gloriastrasse 35, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The world market for battery and hybrid electric vehicles (EVs), including passenger cars, buses, and freight trucks, is growing rapidly. Currently, almost all lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cells for EVs are produced by East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) manufacturers. Meanwhile, the European automotive industry, among the largest in the world, generates 4% of European gross domestic product, and 12 million jobs; however, Europe houses less than 1% of the global Li-ion battery cell manufacturing capacity, and this production capability largely addresses niche markets. Manufacturing of batteries for EVs is thus at the center of industry policy discussions at the European Commission (EC), with calls for “European sovereignty” in Li-ion battery manufacturing. Here, we offer insights from battery research and innovation studies to suggest that catching up with East Asian companies is worthwhile, but can only be achieved step by step, by bringing competences to Europe through strategic global collaborations, supported by creation of an attractive European market for EVs.
EV batteries consist of cells packaged together and controlled by a battery management system. The cell makes up roughly 70% of the cost of an automotive battery, which currently amounts to more than 40% of the cost of a fully electric car. Bolstered by national industrial policies and the demands for Li-ion batteries in consumer electronics (with 2 billion cell phone batteries and 350 million tablet and laptop batteries manufactured in 2017), East Asian manufacturers have achieved continual improvements in terms of performance (e.g., lifetime, energy density) and cost of batteries. Recently, several East Asian players announced the construction of gigafactories in Europe (battery cell manufacturing factories with output capacity in excess of 1 GWh/year; e.g., CATL in Germany, LG Chem in Poland, Samsung and SK Innovation in Hungary).
High-level policy-makers in Europe have expressed the importance of the battery industry in ensuring Europe’s continued competitiveness in the automotive sector and have called for exclusively European-owned cell factories, an “Airbus for batteries.” For example, Maroš Šefcˇovicˇ, vice-president of the European Commission, stated: “By 2025, the European battery market could be…as large as the entire Danish economy. Do we want to leave this to our global competitors”?
欧洲的高层政策制定者已经表达了电池行业在确保欧洲汽车行业持续竞争力方面的重要性，并呼吁欧洲建立自己的电池工厂，即“电池空客”。例如，欧盟委员会副主席Maroš Šefcˇovicˇ就表示：“到2025年，欧洲电池市场可能……与整个丹麦经济一样大。 我们想把它留给我们的全球竞争对手吗？”
To seize this opportunity, the EC estimates an investment requirement of €20 billion, or 10 to 20 European gigafactories. To support these ambitions, the EC has developed a Strategic Action Plan together with representatives from industry and academia, outlining potential actions and funding opportunities (potentially up to several billion €) . In line with these ambitions, three consortia (led by Saft, TerraE, and Northvolt) have formed to build European-owned gigafactories, supported by the European Investment Bank (e.g., with a €52.5 million loan for Northvolt’s demonstration cell factory).
However, the European automotive industry is currently not financially invested in these consortia and has not yet indicated if and when they want to enter large-scale cell manufacturing themselves. The industry broadly acknowledges the relevance of understanding battery cells and has invested in various R&D activities; however, their views regarding cell manufacturing differ. Some automotive companies consider battery cells a commodity-like component, sourced from suppliers according to specification. These firms see added value primarily in downstream activities of the supply chain (see the figure). Other companies consider ownership in cell manufacturing worthwhile; however, they have not yet entered the arena and discuss leapfrogging to “next generation” technologies, such as solid-state batteries.
Given this current state of affairs, it is important for policy-makers, the automotive industry, and the cell manufacturing industry to consider three questions in order to determine a common strategy.
BATTERIES: A STRATEGIC COMPONENT?
Is the battery cell a commodity-like part or a core component of strategic value to the European automotive industry? Currently, we consider battery cells as core components for three reasons. First, they are at the center of an EV’s product architecture, meaning that their properties influence many other components (e.g., chassis material choice) and the overall vehicle design (e.g., through changed center of gravity). Second, the development of new cells is highly dynamic. For instance, the performance specifications of battery cells, such as the energy and voltage they can deliver at a certain current, depend on the materials used and their design. Each year, new cell designs evolve, providing opportunity for strategic differentiation of products among manufacturers.
Third, cells are complex to design, involving a multitude of trade-off decisions. Cells may be optimized for applications with high energy or power requirements, for cycle life, or for cost. For example, decreasing cost and cobalt dependence through increasing the nickel content in the cathode might enable higher cell voltage but decrease cell life. To manage these trade-offs and make smart design decisions, close interaction between the cell manufacturer and automaker is important. In other words, manufacturing close to markets fosters innovation. Local ownership (e.g., through equity joint ventures) further increases transfer and exchange of tacit knowledge and intellectual property. Given the cell’s centrality, dynamic development, and complexity, policies that aim at localizing cell manufacturing industry can thus result in a competitive advantage. Conversely, simply sourcing battery cells from foreign players will lead to strong dependence on their performance.
Is it possible for the European battery industry to leapfrog East Asian suppliers with the next generation of battery cell technology? Leapfrogging current market leaders is difficult, if not impossible because, even for incumbents, production of high-performing cells at continuous quality levels is challenging, largely due to the dually complex nature of battery cell technologies (complex in both design and manufacturing, with interplay between both). Changes in one cell manufacturing step require adjustments in other steps and most likely in the design of the cell as well. Likewise, changing cell design requires adjustments not only in other design features, but also to the manufacturing. For example, to obtain a cell that discharges faster, a manufacturer might change the size of the materials that store the Li. This will require reformulation of the slurry and changes to the slurry mixing. In turn, this may require changes to the slurry coating and drying parameters (which are used to get the active materials onto the foils that are stacked or wound into the cell), the additives added into the liquid electrolyte, and the formation protocol (i.e., how the cell is cycled prior to shipping to ensure stability).
The ability to improve upon existing dually complex technology relies heavily on tacit knowledge, which is gained by experience with the product and the manufacturing process and which is not easily copied or transferred. In the battery field, the move from laboratory experiments or pilotscale demonstrations to full-scale manufacturing requires knowledge gained from direct experience with full-scale production. Dual complexity also increases the need for interaction among actors along the supply chain, making a technology harder to replicate. For batteries, knowledge is spread across multiple domains, from materials processing to manufacturing and integration. Incumbent firms can leverage not only their assets, but also their accumulated tacit knowledge and long-term partnerships across the value chain to evolve with a technology’s trajectory.
The last decades of battery research indicate that future cell generations will draw heavily from knowledge gained through designing and manufacturing current-generation cells at large scale. Li-ion batteries are on a clear trajectory, with several future developments already on the horizon (e.g., high-voltage cathodes, high-capacity anodes, and solid electrolytes) that will evolve sequentially, building on existing but often tacit design and manufacturing knowledge. The process of discovering new battery materials to actually commercializing a battery cell with these materials is very time consuming and can take up to 20 years. Literature on catching up suggests that technological discontinuities in dually complex technologies, like the emergence of the next-generation battery technology, do not necessarily help new entrants overtake incumbents, but rather strengthen the position of incumbents, who can leverage their cumulative knowledge base. High entry barriers are also exemplified by multiple accounts of battery technology startups failing in the past. Therefore, a leapfrogging strategy does not seem promising. If Europe wants to successfully compete in battery cell manufacturing, it will have to catch up step by step.
Is it a realistic policy strategy to build a European battery cell industry? History has shown that catching-up in Li-ion battery manufacturing is possible. Korea caught up to Japan, and China, with the announcement of multiple gigafactories, is set to triple the rest of the world’s combined capacity.
To catch up in a dually complex product like batteries, it is necessary to transfer tacit knowledge (in manufacturing equipment integration and product design), as well as enable interactive learning up- and downstream of cell manufacturing.
A starting point for transferring capital goods can be to acquire existing equipment or an entire factory from an established player. For example, leading Chinese companies purchase their battery manufacturing lines from Japanese and Korean companies. However, it is not sufficient to focus on individual parts of the value chain, as most tacit knowledge is gained from interactions across the value chain.
For successful catching up, it is paramount that the tacit knowledge be accessible and that domestic companies develop the capability to learn. Korean firms have leveraged licenses from Japanese producers and hired retired Japanese engineers to transfer their product design knowledge. Chinese firms entered R&D and production partnerships with Japanese and Korean firms. China’s CATL, the world’s fastest growing cell manufacturer, evolved from ATL, a subsidiary of Japanese TDK that produces consumer electronics batteries. Tesla cooperates with Panasonic (Japan) for cell manufacturing in a gigafactory in Nevada, USA, and pursues the pack assembly and software design itself. This partnership was enabled, among other factors, by the huge scale envisioned, making the partnership interesting to an incumbent cell manufacturer like Panasonic. In other words, a substantial market is an important factor in catching up.
Europe seems to be an attractive location for cell manufacturing, as demonstrated by the announcements of East Asian firms to build gigafactories. In addition, Europe is not starting from zero. It can build upon strong research facilities and downstream activities, as well as specialized cell manufacturing know-how. If Europe wants to tap this potential and build its own industry, waiting is not an option because the knowledge gap to market leaders is ever widening. The EC has rightfully recognized the need to act. However, policy-makers should not be hung up on the idea of European independence in cell manufacturing from the start. For dually complex technologies, the sensible, theory- and practice-proven approach is to create an attractive home market and learn quickly together with current competitors. This will enable the European industrial players to choose later whether they want to pursue cell manufacturing themselves.
欧洲似乎是一个有吸引力的电池制造地点，正如东亚公司宣布在欧洲兴建动力电池超级工厂所证明的那样。此外，欧洲并非从零开始。电池工业建立在强大的研究设施、下游活动以及专业的电池制造know-how（备注：know-howis a term for practical knowledge on how to accomplish something）上。如果欧洲希望挖掘这种潜力并建立自己的电池产业，那么等待不是一种选择因为与市场领导者的知识差距正在不断扩大。欧盟委员会正确地认识到采取行动的必要性。但是，政策制定者不应该从认为欧洲从一开始就能独立的生产制造电池。对于复杂的技术而言，合理的、理论的和实践证明的方法是创造一个有吸引力的本地市场，并与当前的竞争对手一起快速学习。这将使欧洲工业企业能够在以后选择是否想要自己生产制造电池。
A TECHNOLOGY-SMART POLICY
To support this process, a technology-smart policy strategy, considering battery cells’ dual complexity, based on insights from battery research and innovation studies, is needed. The European Union (EU) should put particular emphasis on two elements: First, incentivizing collaborative R&D between companies along the supply chain. Importantly, these incentives should also be available for research consortia that include non-European companies. European companies have already formed such collaborations, predominantly outside Europe (e.g., European BASF and Japanese TODA for a calcination facility in the United States; European Bühler and Chinese Lishen for manufacturing equipment in China). This can be backed up with measures to educate engineers and to secure access to raw materials and capital.
Second, a consistent European EV policy strategy is needed to create an attractive EV market that makes partnerships for current market-leading East Asian firms worthwhile and provides planning security for European firms. Although many European national and subnational governments have already introduced EV support policies, this policy patchwork misses the opportunity to leverage the massive size of the EU’s common car market. We therefore recommend an ambitious yet realistic EU-wide EV target. One option would be to mandate a certain market share of EVs or even completely phase out internal combustion engine cars, as China has done. However, such policy is politically hard to sell. A more realistic alternative is to increase the stringency of the EU’s emissions standard on car fleets to a level that translates into large market shares of EVs.
Only once the European industry has started to catch up should the EU consider incentivizing differentiation of European cells through novel chemistry, manufacturing approaches, or design. With an established market for European-made EVs that use cells produced in Europe, differentiating features can be introduced gradually, guided by R&D activities that identify the unique opportunities for batteries within the European automotive sector.
Martin Beuse, Tobias S. Schmidt, Vanessa Wood. A “technology-smart” battery policy strategy for Europe. Science, 2018, 361 (6407): 1075-1077. DOI: 10.1126/science.aau2516.