Batteries: Technology Trends

Batteries are critical drivers of many other technologies. They are mass-produced in modern mobile lifestyles and in electric vehicles (EVs). Battery and energy storage technologies will be central to the transition to renewable energy.

The following is a list of the major technology trends affecting the battery issue identified by GlobalData.

Lithium time

Due to the lightweight combination of lithium (Li) and high energy density, Li-based batteries will dominate the sector in the near future. Recent advances in the energy density of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries make LFP technology increasingly competitive with Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and storage station applications. Some EV models, including Tesla and BYD, are relying on LFP batteries.

Meanwhile, Li-based batteries are experiencing short-term outlook for lead-acid batteries in much larger and heavier, low-energy, low-density storage and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) applications. In addition, over the next decade, the main market for lead acid will be increasingly eroded in internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and hybrid start-up, lighting and ignition (SLI) systems.

Battery materials

Battery cathodes, electrolytes and anodes are composed of cobalt (Co), nickel (Ni), flammable liquids, graphite, manganese (Mn) and Li. As a result of the pressure of rising costs, accessibility, and performance, especially security, there is a growing demand for more efficient materials and chemical mixtures among cell producers and their component suppliers.

Over the next two to three years, Ni will increasingly be replaced as a co-cathode stabilizer to break its dependence on expensive supplies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), even though Ni is not easy to extract and purify. In addition, there is an increasing urgency to replace flammable liquid electrolytes with silicon, glass, polymers, or preferably silicon electrodes that work in conjunction with silicon or Li metal-modified anodes.

Silicon and graphene revolution

Silicon, along with graphene, is a favorite solid material of the future. Silicon atoms can theoretically store 20 times more lithium than carbon atoms, resulting in a much higher energy density. But in current battery prototypes, silicon is expanded and shattered, causing short circuits. So silicon is not yet a suitable substitute for graphite anodes or electrolytes. However, working with BMW, Daimler and CATL China, startup Sila Nanotechnology believes that by 2025 it will have a solution ready for the commercial market. It uses spherical silicon particles, which allow the silicon to expand without breaking.

Quantum glass technology

In 2017, John Goodenough, the inventor of Li-ion batteries, introduced what some believe may be the most interesting view of electrolytes: glass doped with alkaline materials such as Li or Na, called quantum glass.

The technology allows charging in minutes and does not create alarming “dendritic” dots. Panasonic and Toyota are working together. QuantumScape, which floated through a special purpose purchasing company (SPAC) in 2021, will enter the market on a large scale by 2025 with technology-based batteries.

Sodium technology

In July 2021, the CATL announced that it hoped to bring sodium ion batteries to market by 2023, a cheaper alternative to Li-ion batteries, albeit with less power. Sodium (Na) is 100 times more abundant than Li and is easier and cheaper to extract and purify. Na ions are larger than their Li counterparts, and are more stringent in terms of structural stability and kinetic properties of battery materials.

CATL has developed a hard carbon anode material with abundant storage and rapid movement of Na ions through a molten salt electrolyte with a Na metal oxide cathode. This means that the whole system is made of many materials such as iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) rather than Co and Ni. Batteries promise high energy density, fast charging and better overall performance in low temperature environments at a low price.

Liquid metal battery technology

It is not the Na-ion batteries that will soon be released from the left field. For example, by 2023, liquid metal batteries will compete with Li-ion and lead-acid batteries for a variety of paper storage applications, especially for integrating more wind and solar energy into networks. Liquid metal batteries use liquid calcium (Ca) anodes, antimony (Sb) particle cathodes, and molten salt electrolytes for cost, operation, and safety advantages over Li and lead-acid-based technologies.

Tesla factor

Tesla expects the large 4860 desktop battery cells that will be in commercial production by 2024 to be revolutionary. The presumed progress is based on deleting the tabs. These metal components are added to the batteries to connect to anything being fed from the outside. The current problem is that production lines have to be interrupted to add tabs, and the process can damage the cells. Tesla says it has found a way to incorporate plug functions into internal anode and cathode collector papers, thus eliminating the need for an attached component, simplifying the production process and making it less prone to defective products.

Solid state battery technology

Solid state batteries are getting closer and closer to being marketed. Typically, they use ceramics and solid polymers at the electrodes instead of the liquid and polymer gels currently used in Li-ion batteries. As a result, they will reduce battery life and short-circuit liability, and significantly increase the number of charge cycles a battery can endure during its lifetime.

Several solid electrolytes are being investigated, including plastic polymers, ceramics, glass, silicon, silicon-graphene compounds, grenades, and perovskites. However, advances in battery technology are slowing down. There are more than 100 companies and organizations working on solid state battery development.

Development of solid state battery technology

The difficulty in developing end-user-ready solid-state batteries was explained when Dyson abruptly shut down the EV project in 2019, in part because of its success in developing solid-state battery technology. Toyota has acknowledged that it is experiencing ongoing difficulties in developing the technology, and Bosch has ceased operations in this area. A major investor also removed the Pellion Technologies MIT spinout solid-state magnesium ion project.

Energy storage and battery alternatives

The main direct alternatives to Li-based batteries are hydrogen fuel cells, ultracapacitors and thermal storage systems.

Japan and South Korea have advocated for hydrogen for clean transportation and electricity supply applications. However, technology is largely limited to these two countries for refueling cars. The construction of hydrogen supply station networks has been limited, in part due to public safety concerns. There are also costs and problems with producing green hydrogen, rather than blue or gray. However, the UN-sponsored Green Hydrogen Catapult Initiative aims to improve technology and increase sales volume to lower the costs of green hydrogen.

Ultracapacitors

Directed by Skeleton Technologies, Hawa, Murata, Panasonic and previously owned by Maxwell, Maxwell, to close the battery’s energy density gap and form a dream team to combine the two technologies for applications that demand the best of both. Several projects are underway to use carbon nanotubes to improve their load-bearing capacity.

This is a summary of this edition Batteries – Thematic Research Report by GlobalData Thematic Research.

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