copying for reference
by WardsAuto Editorial Director, David E. Zoia
Battery makers only recently have begun to make big commitments to high-volume Li-ion production, with 12 new or expanded mega-factories reportedly set to come online worldwide by 2020. That includes 120 GWh of new cell capacity in China alone – enough battery power for another 1.5 million EVs annually.
With that level of new investment, the industry likely is chained to Li-ion technology – for better or worse – for most of the coming decade, or even beyond.
“We’re just at the forefront, the beginning if you will, of Li-ion battery technologies,” Bob Galyen, chief technology officer for China-based battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), says at the Battery Show Exhibition and Conference held in Novi, MI, in September.
That’s not to say battery makers, upstarts and researchers aren’t furiously experimenting with new chemistries and configurations in an effort to displace today’s state-of-the-art technology. They are.
All are focused on making level-of-magnitude leaps in range, safety and durability with new concepts that use more widely available, less-costly materials; swap metals with air to cut weight; and replace the current volatile liquid electrolytes used with heat-resistant solids.
The U.S. Department of Energy has set a 2020 target to cut battery-pack size and weight in half and slash costs to $125/kWh, a price point seen igniting a market shift toward electrified vehicles.
One of the concerns with today’s Li-ion batteries is the restricted availability of lithium and cobalt, a problem that only will grow as EV models proliferate and production ramps up.
WardsAuto data indicates automakers have penciled in no fewer than 85 new battery-powered models by 2025,
with everyone from Aston Martin to Volvo announcing aggressive EV plans. Even commercial-truck makers are eyeing electrically powered big rigs for the future. That has Transparency Market Research projecting the Li-ion battery market will grow to $77.4 billion worldwide by 2024, from $29.7 billion in 2015, an escalation likely to ramp up pressure on the supply chain.
Demand for cobalt, becoming the go-to material for the cathode in Li-ion batteries, already is expected to outstrip supply this year by 900 tons, commodity consultancy CRU estimates.
Lithium supply may be even more problematic. Two-thirds of proven reserves are located in the “Lithium Triangle,” a small area of South America where Argentina, Bolivia and Chile intersect.
That has cell producers in China, the fourth-largest source of lithium, locking up stakes in Chilean and Argentinian mining companies to corner the market on the material and further tighten their grip on the emerging EV-battery sector.
Prices reportedly have been skyrocketing.
“We’re starting to see some headwinds coming in from raw materials,” Joern Tinnemeyer, chief technology officer for EnerSys, notes during a Battery Show panel discussion. “This may have some impact on EV adoption, because the price point will not drop as much as we need it to.”
But moving past some of these constraints with new technology won’t come easily...
• Nickel-3D Zinc - pg8
• Zinc Air - pg13
• Lithium-Air - pg14
• Solid State - pg15
• Li-ion, Still Future for Now - pg17