February 2, 2016

China into Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) for Submarine - Can Russia Keep Up?

The Chinese Everspring advertisement for Lithium-ion Battery (LIB) use by submarine carries the above photo - what appears to be a (or the) Type 092 Xia class SSBN. The description "48 hours continuously under the water of 1,000 meters for one charge" suggest the batteries are for emergency backup if a submarine reactor fails. "1,000 meters" is very deep diving!

In Submarine Matters Russian Submarine Industry - Lada discontinued - no AIP -LIBs? of 28 January 2016 I commented:

"The Kalina Future - LIBs? ...Russia may be able to develop (through research and intelligence collection) Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) for Kalina submarines. This may make an AIP step unnecessary. Russia may develop LIB technology jointly with China or receive LIB technology from China. China may already have a deep enough espionage network in place in Japan and South Korea (maybe also France and Germany?) to collect substantial LIB secrets."

The comments that followed, such as from KQN, prompted me to do a bit of research. I located Everspring Global Limited:

"Everspring Global Limited is an authorized distributor of Thunder Sky Battery Limited or Winston Battery Limited,  since 2001. Thunder Sky Battery Limited or Winston Battery Limited was founded in 1998, designing and manufacturing dynamic solid-state Lithium ion Power Battery, which has been applied patents over 26 countries and regions. With the features of smaller size, lighter weight, lower cost, longer life and larger capacity, our main products, including the dynamic rechargeable lithium batteries of 50AH, 100AH, and 800AH, have been worldwide used for both industrial and military applications, such as Electric Bicycles, Electric Motorcycles, Electric Cars, Electric Buses, Trains, Torpedo, Submarine..." [more at http://www.everspring.net/distributors.htm]

Everspring Customer Applications include, see right sidebar  “Submarines in China” String is http://www.everspring.net/product-battery-customer-submarine.htm . Everspring explains:

Submarine in China equipped with Solid State Lithium ion Power Battery. Solid State Lithium ion Power Battery is safe and the possibility of explosion is very low. It can work not only at low temperature(-25℃),but also at 75℃.TS-LP5453B battery packs of 220V,500Ah in submarine can drive 48 hours continuously under the water [suggest the batteries are for emergency backup if a submarine reactor fails] of 1,000 meters for one charge. [with emails for sales to US, Europe, etc]

Sales Contact:
Europe:                             sales-euro@everspring.net
USA:                                 sales-us@everspring.net
Rest of the World:            sales-row@everspring.net ”


An article by Dave Brown in Lithium Investing News reports in part: Liotech: Large Lithium Battery Plant Opens in Russia January 19, 2012

"The world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant, a joint venture between the Chinese lithium battery manufacturer Thunder Sky Group and Russian state run agency RUSNANO, was recently opened in Novosibirsk, Russia. Novosibirsk is a heavy industrial (including aerospace and nuclear) Russian city in southwestern Siberia which is increasingly into IT.

…The Liotech commercial venture has already reported to have signed a number of contracts to supply lithium batteries. Chief Executive Officer of Liotech Alexander Erokhin indicated that the company has seen interest in Liotech lithium batteries from businesses in the Russian military industrial complex..."


[Comment - In 2014 China was the world's third largest Lithium producer and second largest reserves. Russia wasn't listed. But trade sanctions (perhaps targeting dual-use technologies like LIBs) and low oil prices means Russia, with its lower value ruble, cannot ensure Lithium supplies for LIBs.

"The Russian government plans to create conditions for a significant increase in lithium production and lithium products during the next several years.

According to Yuri Gerner, Director General of the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP), one of the world’s leading manufacturers of the nuclear fuel for NPPs and for research reactors, the majority of global producers of lithium products have their own raw material base, which allows them to significantly save on production costs, however Russia, to date, has experienced serious problems with stable lithium supplies.

According to an official spokesman of Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, (a person, who is responsible for the development of lithium industry in the Russian government),  lack of the domestic raw material base seriously restricts the ability of Russia to produce lithium products at competitive cost.

The situation is aggravated by the ongoing economic crisis in Russia and the devaluation of the national currency – ruble, which results in a significant increase of the cost of raw material.

...In addition to the supplies of raw materials, a particular attention will be paid for the increase of production of lithium-ion batteries in Russia."

A clear 2011 technical explanation of LIBs from Liotech, joint Russian RUSNANO - Chinese Thunder Sky venture.

Eugene Gerden continues: "One of such projects is expected to be re-launched by Liotech, a subsidiary of Russia’s nanogiant Rusnano, which involves the resume of the operations of the existing Russian plant for the production of lithium-ion batteries.

The plant was built by Liotech in cooperation with the Chinese Thunder Sky during the period of 2009-2011, while total amount of investments in the project exceeded 13.5 billion rubles (US$300 million).

According to initial plans of Liotech, the design capacity of the plant should be 400 million ampere-hours. Thunder Sky had promised to acquire the 85% stake of the plant, however decided to leave the project at the beginning of 2013. In summer 2014 Liotech decided to suspend its production, due to a significant decline of demand for its production in the domestic market, caused by the financial crisis in Russia.

…In addition, there are also plans for the active use of lithium-ion batteries in the Russian defence industry, and in particular in the production of unmanned vehicles and other combat equipment and weapons."


So China (with Thunder Sky - Winston - Everspring) appears to have the intention, money and Lithium supplies to develop LIBs for submarine. LIBs as an emergency backup for SSBN and probably SSN reactors. This may be a step towards full LIBs for SSKs (diesel-electric subs) such as an Improved Yuan class.

Russia (with Liotech) may be the junior partner in a joint Chinese-Russian LIB effort. Russia may have the intention but not the money or Lithium supplies given its current economic problems.

Russia may, however, be able to barter its higher technical know-how (especially in nuclear subs and reactors) for Chinese LIBs or for more Chinese backing of Liotech.



Anonymous said...

I believe Lithium ion battery is going to become a standard feature on submarines. LiFePO4 is already widely used in sail boats. The Chinese dope the cathode in those batteries with Ytrium to increase battery performance and it seems they are testing/using LiFeYPO4 in their nuclear submarines. Ytrium in some states can be hazardous to human.
Where performance matters, like electric cars, electric bicycles or motorcycles or solar planes and submarines, lithium ion will be inevitable. Australia should create a test bed with lithium ion batteries based on the Collins electrical design, initially on land which could later be tested in a Collins. That will allow you to formulate an independent assessment of the technology.
I do not see Lithium ion bateries to be in conflict with AIP or nuclear power in submarines.
There is one type of AIP which can play to Russia's expertise. It is with radioisotope thermo-electric generators. The RTG AIP design has been tested or is being tested in the Sarov submarine. Sarov is a research submarine based on the Kilo hull but stretched to 98m. RTG basically convert heat from waste nuclear materials to electrical energy by using either thermocouples (not very efficient to scale up) or a Stirling engine (US research) or a turbine generator (as in all nuclear submarines). RTG is extensively used in satellites. The Kristall AIP has also been tested in the Sarov back in 2012 according to one PR I saw.

Josh said...


My understanding was that RTGs were able to generate power in the range of tens to hundreds of watts, not the several hundred kilowatts generally provided by AIP arrangements in deployed boats. While RTGs have provided power for many space probes (Curiosity being the most current I can think of) I don't believe they can deliver sufficient power to function as an AIP source for a manned submarine. I've also only heard of the thermocouple mechanism; do you have any links to RTGs being used with mechanical engines? I'm not sure what the target application would be; perhaps persistent UUVs. My cursory search of the Sarov online indicates it actually uses a full nuclear reactor, not RTGs: