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Silicon-Based Anodes Set for Rapid Growth, Boosted by Large Cylindrical Technologies

In 2022, over 30 lithium battery companies are slated to embrace large cylindrical technologies of more than 4 series, according to initial data. With a superior resilience to material expansion (over 10%), cylindrical batteries are better suited for silicon-based anodes, notorious for their expansive nature, compared to square and soft pack batteries, which typically tolerate below 8%. As a result, the 4-series-or-above large-cylindrical technology could significantly propel silicon-based anode shipments in 2023.

China’s post-recombination silicon-based anode shipments are projected to hit 16,000 tons in 2022, characterised by the following:

  • There are five large-scale shippers, with annual shipments exceeding 500 tons post-compounding.
  • The industry is actively scaling production; preliminary data suggests the planned silicon-based anode production capacity for 2022 could exceed 200,000 tons per year.
  • Despite a sluggish cylindrical battery market for electric tools, the increased market share of high-capacity batteries has led to a surge in silicon-based anode consumption. In response to the impact of 4-series-or-above large-cylinder technology in the power sector, many companies have fast-tracked their R&D processes for silicon-based anode batteries.

On the technical front, 2022 saw a significant breakthrough in domestic silicon-carbon anode technology, resulting in a new generation of pure silicon carbon boasting a capacity of 1800mAh/g and cycle performance surpassing 1000 times. Mainstream enterprises have achieved impressive initial silicon oxide effects, exceeding 90% under the full battery system post pre-lithium, better catering to downstream needs.

Regarding cost and pricing:

  • The silicon base cost has seen a further decline; the production cost of lithium-free pure silica powder has dropped below 200,000 yuan ($28,000) per ton, primarily due to enhanced yield and reduced energy consumption.
  • Post-compounding, the silicon base price is expected to rise, driven mainly by the sharp 2022 price surge of negative electrode graphite.
  • The price of silicon-based anodes has markedly increased post-lithium pre-processing, exceeding 500,000 yuan ($70,000) per ton, influenced by high lithium salt prices.

In 2023, analysts forecast post-compounding silicon-based anode shipments to exceed 27,000 tons, with an anticipated year-on-year growth rate over 65% and a compound growth rate exceeding 60% in the next three years.

Key drivers include:

  • The accelerated industrialisation of large-cylinder technology, boosting silicon-based anode material use in new energy vehicles.
  • The demand for high-capacity 3C batteries from mobile phones indirectly driving silicon-based anode demand.
  • The power tool market’s renewed interest in cylindrical batteries and the shift towards high-capacity lithium batteries stimulating silicon-based anode application.
  • The decreasing prices of lithium salt and negative electrode graphite, coupled with advancements in silicon-based anode technology, enhancing the cost-effectiveness of silicon-based anodes.
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