Battery cathode makers are competing to launch a cathode with a single crystal structure first as the technology can increase the performance of electric vehicle batteries substantially.
LG Chem, EcoPro BM and L&F are all planning for mass production; LG Chem is planning to launch theirs within the year.
However, the purity of the single crystal as well as how much polycrystalline cathode is mixed in together will be a key issue.
L&F is planning to launch theirs next year and is claiming that it would be the fastest among cathode makers.
Cathode accounts for around 40% of the cost of making a battery. Companies are increasing the amount of nickel they use in the cathode to increase its energy density while also attempting to reduce the amount of cobalt they use for ethical reasons.
Most cathodes used in commercialized EV batteries are polycrystalline, meaning they are a mix of various different metals.
This causes the apertures between the different materials to widen every time a battery charges and recharges. This causes the lifespan of the battery to be reduced.
As a single crystal cathode won’t have this problem due to being made with a single metal, it can make batteries last longer.
However, producing single crystal cathode requires companies to add more production steps and the active voltage can go up, causing overheating.
The single crystal is also more vulnerable to being damaged during production.
This means companies, despite claiming to launch their first single crystal cathodes, will mix them with polycrystalline cathode.
Even high-nickel cathodes are not purely nickel, with the material accounting for somewhere between 60% to 90% of the whole.
L&F stated that it will have around 10% of its single crystal cathode mixed with polycrystalline cathode.
Companies will also need to come up with a way of coating the cathode properly to withstand heat during their production processes.