Amid the fast expanding market of new energy vehicles in China－with NEV sales taking up 53 percent of global market share last year－demand for power batteries is also on the rise, leading tech gurus and the government to explore better ways of expansion.
China's production and sales of NEVs hit 2.66 million and 2.6 million units, respectively, in the first half, all up 120 percent year-on-year, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
With the anticipated boom in NEV sales globally in the coming years, said Wang Jing, a research supervisor from Shanghai Chaos Investment Group, the need for power batteries－a key component of NEVs－is apparent.
The total installed capacity of power batteries in China reached 154.5 gigawatt-hours in 2021, a year-on-year hike of 143 percent, accounting for 52 percent of the world's total, said Zhang Yunming, vice-minister of industry and information technology.
In the first half, China's fast expansion in the power battery industry saw its cumulative installed capacity reach 110.1 GWh, a year-on-year climb of 109.8 percent, Zhang said.
To help realize the country's carbon peak and carbon neutrality goals, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will prioritize top design, speeding up the high-quality development of the power battery industry, he said.
To seek better ways for fast expansion of the power battery industry worldwide, government officials, top scientists and industrial executives gathered in Yibin on Thursday to inaugurate the three-day 2022 World Electric Vehicle & Executive Sedan Battery Conference (WEBC).
The offline and online event, hosted by the Sichuan government and MIIT, is the world's first world-class power battery industry event held in China.
Themed "intelligence-driven green power, shared low-carbon future", the gala drew some 800 participants to Yibin, Sichuan province, including delegates from 287 enterprises. They include power battery makers such as Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) and BTR (Jiangsu) New Material Technology Ltd, as well as electric vehicle makers such as BYD and Nio.
The prefecture-level city of Yibin, sitting on the junction of three rivers－Yangtze, Jinsha and Minjiang－is previously renowned for its liquor industry, especially the famous Wuliangye. Its sales income from liquor in 2021 exceeded 160 billion yuan ($24.2 billion), with a profit of 36 billion yuan.
But currently, a world-class power battery industry cluster has been developed in Yibin, and is set to surpass its liquor industry in scale, said Mayor Liao Wenbin.
Since 2017, Libode New Materials Co Ltd began to invest in new materials and lithium battery projects in the city, and a breakthrough was made in 2019 when power battery giant CATL decided to open plants producing 30 GWh power batteries in Yibin.
Liao said the city's power battery industry has seen an installed annual capacity of 75 GWh so far and is expected to reach 90 GWh by the end of this year.
Latest figures showed that so far, Yibin has signed more than 70 power battery and auxiliary projects with investors, with an investment of over 180 billion yuan.
When all projects are put into operation, the annual income for the sector in Yibin will top 500 billion yuan, surpassing the liquor industry's income, said Liao.
Liao noted that the city has ample hydropower resources to provide manufacturers with clean energy and an extensive transport network to let them reach clients conveniently, in addition to rich mineral resources.
Besides the China market, products can also reach Europe via the China-Europe freight trains, as well as Southeast Asia and other markets along the Belt and Road Initiative, he said.
Ouyang Minggao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said Yibin "will be a global production base of power batteries".
So far, CATL has invested 64 billion yuan in Yibin, building the world's largest single-power battery production base with an annual output of 235 GWh.
"Since December 2019, our power battery factory has expanded to 10 phases in Yibin, showing an unprecedented speed," said Zhu Yunfeng, general manager of Sichuan Times New Energy Technology Co Ltd, CATL's subsidiary in Sichuan.
Since the end of 2021, power batteries produced by Zhu's factories have set sail from Yibin Port, supplying clients in Shanghai with its products.
According to Xu Zhiwen, deputy secretary-general of the Sichuan Provincial People's Government, the 2022 WEBC is composed of a series of events, including the opening ceremony, a main forum, sub-forums, experience tours, investment promotion sessions, closed-door meetings and online high-end dialogues.
Li Yu and Peng Chao contributed to this story.