The lithium secondary cell cathode material cell is showing signs of overheating. According to a report published by Solar&Energy, a research institute specializing in the lithium secondary cell industry and market, the cathode material market will suffer from oversupply in 2013 with the growth of the NCM (nickel-cobalt manganese) market and the increasing number of companies entering the market.
The lithium secondary cell cathode material market is divided into five according to the types of cathode active materials: lithium cobalt (LCO), nickel cobalt manganese (NCM), nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA), lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and lithium ferrous phosphate (LFP). Among them, LOC-based cathode materials have mostly been applied to cell phones and laptops, since mass-production of lithium secondary cells in 1991. LCO-based cathode materials account for about 30% of the manufacturing cost of lithium secondary cells, but the price of cobalt is too high, which has been an obstacle in reducing the price of lithium secondary cells.
However, the use of NCM-based cathode materials, which are less expensive despite the similar performance with LCO-based materials, is rapidly increasing. NCM-based cathode materials are known to be applied to lithium secondary cells for EVs as well. In particular, Korea is the fastest-growing NCM market in the world. In Korea, NCM-based materials were produced only by L&F (including L&F Material) and Daejung Energy Materials before 2009, but Eco Pro entered the market in 2011 and STM (a joint venture of Samsung Fine Chemicals and Toda, Japan) and COSMO AM&T are planning to enter the market in the second half of this year. With POSCO ESM (a joint venture of Phoenix materials (Bokwang Group) and POSCO) joining the market, the NCM cathode material market enter the keen competition between 6 specialized NCM manufacturers and lithium secondary manufacturers carrying out in-house production.
As for NCM cathode material production capacity, while the demand in Korea is 13,504 tons this year, the production capacity is 14,640 tons; since the production capacity is 108% of the market, supply and demand will be balanced this year. But in 2013 when the production capacity reaches 132% of the market, the imbalance between supply and demand will occur. With the market entry of POSCO ESM, the supply/demand imbalance is expected to be more serious.
(unit : ton)
** POSCO ESM is excluded .
(Source : 멛IB cathode material supply chain and market forecast/analysis in Korea? Solar&Energy, 2012)