South Korean battery maker Samsung SDI has begun running its battery plant in the Chinese city of Tianjin, according to industry sources on July 3.
Tianjin is where the Samsung unit said in December last year that it would invest 400 billion won ($342.7 million) to expand its battery assembly lines at the plant where existing production lines have been churning out small-sized batteries since 1996.
The batteries made here aren’t the large-sized batteries commonly used for electric vehicles. Instead, they’re smaller ones for smartphones and electric tools.
However, considering that Samsung SDI is supplying small batteries for carmakers like Xiaopeng Motors and Chongqing Jinkang New Energy Automobile, it won’t be completely ignoring the EV battery demand, according to market sources.
The new lines are seen to have commenced operations in June following test programs in April and May.
Samsung had originally planned to add up to four more lines, but for now, it’s running just three. Later on, it may add another line. Most of the batteries will be cylindrical types for electric tools and electric bicycles.
One of the lines consist of three units of mixing equipment, along with assembly and post-process functions. It’s expected to produce a monthly 2 million cells of 21700 type cylindrical batteries. Considering that the existing lines roll out 8 million cells, together, the plant will produce up to 10 million cells a month.
Cylindrical batteries appeared to lose their attraction when pouch-type batteries began to pick up in 2010.
But once the market figured out alternative applications, such as electric tools, demand began to rise again. Recently, the 18650 type cylindrical batteries have become popular.
Samsung SDI is currently conducting R&D to apply Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum cathodes to cylindrical batteries for electric cars for better performance. Industry sources say these upgraded batteries will debut next year.
The global demand for cylindrical batteries rose to 4.7 billion cells from the 1.6 billion cells in 2010, according to battery market research firm B3. Among them, the demand for non-IT devices has risen to account for 96% of the total in 2018, up from the 22% in 2010.