Progressive changes shape China battery industry
China's battery manufacturing sector charts the transition toward greater development based on scientific and technical innovation.
After an outstanding revenue and production performance in 2016 and a likely encore this year, China's manufacturing sector for batteries is bracing for more changes that will continue to transform and advance the industry.
China Industrial Association of Power Sources or CIAPS reports that the top 100 enterprises will be encouraged to recalibrate their approaches based on the national strategic plan and industrial policy. This is because the same conditions that brought about high growth are the same ones that will make competition fiercer and result in greater industry consolidation.
To protect gains and maintain momentum, development will be redirected from capacity expansion toward promoting quality and efficiency with emphasis on scientific and technical innovation to achieve highly differentiated products. Production automation and management standardization are also prominent on the agenda.
In 2017, the new energy vehicle and energy storage markets underscore the need for this progressive shift. Both are forecast to realize the most rapid growth and spur the introduction of batteries that meet higher requirements for safety, consistency and qualified rate but have low manufacturing cost.
For a look at how 2016 turned out for China's battery industry, CIAPS has released a report that includes the list of the top 100 enterprises (click here to see the list). It also analyzes data that shows oncoming changes in the market.
Based on the aggregate revenue of the top 100 companies, the sector exceeded $42.7 billion (2,892.48 billion yuan), increasing 33.2 percent from 2015. Of this, the top two achievers by category are Li-ion and lead-acid batteries, with 38 suppliers of the former posting $15.3 million (1,035.15 billion yuan) sales or 35.7 percent of the total and 30 of the second with $14.4 billion (97.577 billion yuan) and a 33.7 percent share. Isolating the 27 companies in the lead-acid category, their sales grew by 11.5 percent, but profit margins were compressed further as a result of the 4 percent tax levied on consumption and the climbing cost of lead.
Trailing them by a wide margin are Zn-Mn and alkaline manganese batteries with eight makers realizing $2 billion (13.811 billion yuan) or 4.7 percent, NiMH and NiCd kinds with nine companies with $396.9 million (2.69 billion yuan) or 0.9 percent and primary lithium variants with three manufacturers with $195.9 million (1.328 billion yuan) or 0.46 percent.
More than the size of the revenue, the figures show that NiCd and NiMH battery enterprises have accelerated the transition to Li-ion battery manufacture as the markets of NiMH types have switched to Li-ion.
In addition to the 35 percent YoY increase in the sales of Li-ion batteries, which reached $19.6 billion (133 billion yuan), the category posted a 42 percent spike in output and hit 87.3 million kWh in 2016. CIAPS attribute this to the market opportunities that opened up for the category, thanks to the series of national policies promoting the new-energy automotive industry.
By subcategories, revenue from and production of Li-ion batteries used in 3C products touched $10.3 billion (69.5 billion yuan) and 49 million kWh, which are respectively higher by 9 and 11 percent from 2015 levels. That of power lithium-ion battery may be lower at $8.9 billion (60 billion yuan) and 33 million kWh, but the YoY increase is remarkable at 88 and 106 percent. Likewise significant is the sales rise of Li-ion batteries for energy storage, which totaled $516.4 million (3.5 billion yuan) or a 40 percent surge.
Despite the huge loss in market share, the NiCd category, on the other hand, continues to enjoy stable demand in the emergency lighting, rail transport and military fields so they are still produced in China. Zn-Mn units have stayed steady as well and realized a 1.3 percent increase in sales YoY.
The report also counted in the portions of materials from 18 enterprises amounting to $4 billion (27.012 billion yuan) representing 9.3 percent and of equipment from two companies with $2.8 billion (19.29 billion yuan) and 0.6 percent.
China Industrial Association of Power Sources promotes the research and development of batteries and related products, environmental preservation, recycling, quality and performance improvement, product safety and standardization. CIAPS was established in December 1989 and has more than 500 members in nine branches, namely alkaline battery and new type chemical power sources, lead-acid storage battery, lithium battery, dry cell, solar energy photovoltaic, accessories and equipment for battery, power bank, energy storage battery applications and power battery applications.