Global Battery World:
The Current Challanges
with Lithium-Ion Batteries
Energy Storage Innovation
The best current lithium-ion battery type on the market for electric vehicles and transportation/mobility
What is the best lithium-Ion battery to power a car? Often, the best battery means the battery which has the highest energy-density. A high energy-density allows to drive an electric car (EV) far over multiple hundreds of kilometers and miles, respectively. Using nickel- and cobalt-compounds allows to drive the battery cell voltage above 3.6 Volts. This gives a battery with a high energy-density. NCA (Lithium-Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminium-Oxide) and NMC (Lithium-Nickel-Mangan-Cobalt-Oxide) are two of the most prominent high-energy density battery chemistries. Both battery types use the essential commodity metals cobalt and nickel. NMC and NCA are used in most batteries for electric vehicles.
Energy consumption during lithium-ion-batteries manufacturing
Unfortunately, both of the popular high-energy density NMC and NCA batteries use toxic cobalt and nickel metals which are sourced by energy- and water-intense mining techniques — often in development countries. Metal mining is responsible for ̴ 6% percent of the global greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and the water consumption is high. Often, the energy consumption during mining is not considered in the total gray energy/CO2 bills that are published.
The climate change is expected to result more frequently droughts and flooding’s, altering the supply of water to mining sites and disrupting operations which may make mining even more problematic.
High future battery demand — High future raw materials demand: Mining metals and the supply chain
Using critical commodity metals industrially is not without risk. The projected increasing demand of battery materials may drive the commodity prices up. In addition, future political and local trading banns of battery raw metals can result in unexpected price volatility and limited material's availability on the market.
There is an effort in the car industry to steadily reduce the highly critical and strategic cobalt metal. However, to reduce cobalt remains a challenge. Nickel an essential and equally toxic metal when released to the environment, is the key commodity material in EV batteries for the foreseen future.
It is expected that the demand of essential battery materials will increase massively through the year 2050. It is projected that the global battery production will use ̴ 600 % more cobalt,
̴ 100% more nickel and ̴1000% more lithium than produced today.
Recycling of essential battery materials?
Large Lithium-ion batteries used in the mobility sector are highly complex electrochemical devices containing many metals, polymers, solvents, and minerals. Recycling will be partially possible. However, separating materials involve costly processes. Cost-competitive recycling methods to yield single high-quality battery components is therefore challenging. Moreover, the various different battery types on the market will make it difficult to recycle systematically and efficiently.
It is therefore likely that metal-mining will be the primary and most affordable way to yield high-quality battery raw materials in the near future.
Waste management and circular economy will help to reduce waste by “second use” of old batteries, reduction of raw materials and substitute cobalt and nickel. A more innovative battery technology in the next generation lithium batteries using sustainable, less toxic and less flammable battery materials will improve the overall lithium battery safety.
Energy Storage, Climate Change and the Energy-Transition
Energy storage is an important key-technology in the 21st century
Energy storage is an important key-technology in the 21st century helping to reduce or even eliminate the use of fossil fuels in our society. Fossil fuels like gasoline have been an excellent energy carrier, allowing to store, move, and trade energy in and convenient and inexpensive way. However, any fossil product produces excessively CO2 upon burning in a combustion engine.
A clean way to store energy is to use batteries
Batteries store electricity electrochemically and do not produce CO2 during charge and discharge of the battery. Moreover, batteries are highly versatile and their performance characteristics can be engineered.
Using rechargeable batteries over many cycles is much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than burning fossil fuels in a combustion engine. Many battery types exist which differ in size, cost, capacity, energy density and power density.
Lithium-ion-batteries are considered to be one key technology to achieve the energy transition targets and policies set by many governments worldwide. Recently, Scientists have received the Nobel-prize in chemistry for the discovery of the lithium-ion-battery. The Nobel Prize is received for breakthrough discoveries that impact the society.
Increasing applications and a growing market for lithium-ion-batteries
Today’s lithium-ion-batteries are used to power electric vehicles (EV), hybrid- (HEV) and plugged-in electric vehicles, buses and other vehicles. Moreover, lithium-ion batteries are important for stationary storage applications (power-walls, mini-power-grids, power back-ups), consumer electronics and medical electronics.