We were pleased to have Alysha as a panel moderator as well as our partner blogger. There is no doubt that her questions during the conference were also in other’s people mind. Thanks Alysha. Her article here describes her point of view and gives you a flavour of some of the topics discussed. Here is Alysha…: In mid-November I attended the EV Battery Forum in Shanghai. The event was great from a networking standpoint—participants included representatives from utilities, battery producers, battery materials suppliers, auto makers, and battery associations. They hailed from China, Hong Kong, India, Finland, and other countries. And, it revealed an interesting divergence in opinion on the quality of China’s domestic electric vehicle battery manufacturers.
Dr. Wang Ying (Sherry), deputy CTO of Shanghai Advanced Traction Battery Systems Co, SAIC’s battery joint venture with Massachusetts-based A123, http://tinyurl.com/7qhal9m was a speaker. So were Dr. Tobias Giebel, http://tinyurl.com/c9prgnx head of the Volkswagen Research Lab in Shanghai, and Ray Bierzynski, executive director electrification strategy for General Motor’s China Group. http://tinyurl.com/bv4st63
Their views of the quality of the local battery supply base were quite different, illustrating that a company can see what it wants to see in the China market. VW and GM, who aim to source batteries from China for their global operations, believed that China would produce world-class batteries in the not-too-distant future. Wang was not so optimistic.
I agree that China will become a global supplier for the batteries that power electric vehicles. But I don’t think it will be become the global source. Timing is important here. When will Chinese domestic battery producers be able to make world-class products? And how many companies will actually achieve that standard? And how many of those companies will be able to do it without a lot of help from foreign firms?
Wang Ying wouldn’t say batteries produced by China’s domestic battery manufacturers were not good enough for electric vehicles. What she did say, however, was that China’s battery companies were new to the new energy vehicle battery market and that “battery suppliers in China don’t really know vehicles.” The packaging is the real challenge for China’s domestic battery makers, said Wang without elaborating. In any case, the fact that SAIC chose to partner with a foreign battery company when China has more than 100 battery producers itself speaks loudly and clearly.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tobias Giebel had a much more sanguine view of China’s domestic battery producers. “We believe the future of battery cell sourcing is in China,” he said. Volkswagen http://tinyurl.com/bpl9dp8 is working closely with about 20 domestic battery producers in China to bring them up to Volkswagen’s global standards, said Giebel. VW figures it will have “real strong” suppliers in China within “a couple of years,” he told the conference.