26 Jun 18

Alternative Battery Technologies in the Shade of Lithium

Even though lithium is expected to remain the dominant battery technology for the next decade, new battery technologies are on their way. A top 5 of what we can expect.

1. Next Generation

To increase energy density and reduce the amount of raw materials needed, researchers are improving the current lithium ion batteries by enhancing or even replacing the constellation of anodes and cathodes. The new generation lithium ion batteries is supposed to come into mass production around 2025 according to the International Energy Agency (EV Outlook 2018).

2. Behind lithium ion

Other lithium containing batteries are lithium-air and lithium-sulphur, although their technological readiness level is very low, practical performance has still to be tested and the performance advantage over lithium-ion is still unproven.

3. Solid-State

By replacing the wet electrolyte of the current lithium-ion battery with a solid one, researchers address the limited autonomy and range of EVs. The solid-state lithium ion battery will have a higher energy density and a higher charging speed, while being safer, more reliable, and having a longer lifetime. Various OEMs are researching the technology, such as BMW, Hyundai, the partnership between Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Panasonic, and the joint venture between VW and QuantumScape.

4. Hydrogen

The most evident energy storage technology without lithium is hydrogen, led by Huyndai, Toyota and Honda. However, the high material costs are discouraging technological developments.

5. Out of lithium

In the end, various research teams are thinking out of the box, trying to leave the lithium path altogether, using everything from graphene supercapacitators to sodium batteries. However, it is doubtful if they will ever be able to compete with lithium ion batteries; considering the latter’s lower cost and its head start.

For the time being, the market will stick to lithium ion batteries, giving rise to concerns about what will happen when the first batteries reach their end of life.

Image: Toyota Mirai hydrogen-powered car

Authored by: Fien Van den steen