It’s no secret that the world is heading toward an electrification revolution. From cars to power tools to energy storage, the landscape is beginning to look very different than it once used to. In the middle of all this change? The “simple” battery. Something so small that has the power to have an effect so big. As we aim to create a more green and sustainable future, what role will the battery have? What will the battery determine? How will nations and companies get on board?
The Role of the Battery
The Electric Revolution
As the world continues to work towards achieving full electrification, different industries are investing in options to meet their goals.
With increasing demand for batteries around the world, the global lithium-ion battery market was valued at $40.5 billion in 2020, an increase of $3.8 billion since 2019.
This market is projected to grow at a GACR of 14.6%, reaching $100 billion over the next few years. As a result, batteries will be increasingly relied on and the world will be able to steer away from fuel-based options that are more polluting.
With the average emissions for a new petrol car around 123g of CO2/km, EVs play an important part in the electric revolution and to bring down the amount of pollution. With many EU countries and the UK announcing a comprehensive ban on the sale of fuel vehicles over the next few years, the amount of batteries and their performance will determine new driving habits.
Depending on their size, EVs have thousands of batteries, ranging on average from the 2000s to Tesla’s Model S containing 7,104 cells. Furthermore, busses and trucks will need 200kWh-300kWh, compared to Tesla’s Model S’s 100kWh, while in future, ferries and aircrafts will also contain thousands of batteries. Therefore, the amount of batteries needed in order to fulfill upcoming demand will be exponential.
Renewable energy production
With the world aiming for 100% renewable energy production, the world has understood that this is a step that must be taken in order to prevent a climate disaster. Indeed, the creation of renewable energy and energy production from greener sources is rising and battery storage systems can hold electricity generated from renewable energy, like wind and solar power.
Previous generation solar systems were not efficient enough as even though they could absorb a lot of energy, they could not make good use of it because they were directly connected to the grid, meaning that when there was no demand it went to waste. Batteries provide the opportunity to store energy and use it according to supply and demand, which will allow moving to a real 100% renewable energy world. Additionally, battery software systems then use algorithms to coordinate energy production and decide when to keep the energy to create reserves or when to release it to the grid. The battery storage system then releases energy during times of peak demand.
The Battery Decides All
While battery prices make up for the biggest cost for EVs, the price of lithium-ion battery packs fell by 89% between 2010 and 2020, going from over $1,100/kWh to $137/kWh. Moreover, it’s expected that by 2024, the average price will be below $100/kWh before being around $62/kWh by 2030.
When considering that an EV requires on average 20-30 kWh for a small car, 60-100 kWh for a family or luxury car and 160-500 kWh for a bus or truck, the costs rapidly grow. In terms of the number of batteries, this means that if an iPhone 13 battery has a 12.41 Wh capacity, and the Tesla Model 3 has an estimated total battery capacity of 50,000 Wh, each Tesla Model 3 contains over 4,000 times the amount of single batteries as is used in the iPhone 13. Furthermore, with the production of Tesla’s Model 3 starting in 2017 when it was $221 kWh, the cost of the batteries in the $45,190 EV was over $11,000, almost a quarter of the final retail price.
High energy or high power? Today, that is the question. From determining the range an EV can drive for to how long it will take to charge, it’s all down to battery technology. However, current batteries are limited in their offerings as they can only provide either a high energy or fast charging. Even though the industry is working to improve batteries and find better performing technologies, demand for batteries that allow both a long driving range and quick charging is constantly growing, and existing batteries are still falling short of meeting the requirements.
What’s the Plan?
To meet demand, various countries around the world are increasing their battery production through the creation of gigafactories. Originally, this referred to the giant factory Tesla was building to create batteries from scratch and on huge levels. Today, gigafactories are being built by a whole range of companies, whether they manufacture EVs or are just focusing on batteries. These factories will not only meet demand and reduce supply chain problems, but will also increase battery uniformity, which impacts performance, safety and battery price. Indeed, the only way to get to a fully electrified world is if EVs are cost-competitive or cost less than internal combustion engine vehicles and other competitors.
Spanning across three continents, from Nevada, USA to Berlin, Germany to Shanghai, China, Tesla built its first gigafactory in Reno in 2015 before opening the Berlin and Shanghai plants in 2021. Moreover, Tesla is already eyeing up a location in Somerset, UK to build another gigafactory.
Gigafactories in the UK
Earlier this year, Nissan announced its plans to build a £1 billion ($1.38 billion) gigafactory in Sunderland in a move to boost the country’s EV plans. At the same time, there are already plans for another gigafactory to be built in Coventry. Subsequently, by 2040, the UK alone is expected to be home to eight gigafactories, as a result of an expected increase in demand for EV batteries.
Factories in China
Last year, the majority of the largest lithium-ion battery factories were located in China, which also had the largest share of the global manufacturing capacity in 2020. Indeed, as of August 2020, LG Chem was the leading lithium-ion battery manufacturer in the world, with a market share around 26.5%.
At the same time, the EU is spending a lot of money to support new facilities with VW aiming to open six European gigafactories by 2030. This will allow the German car manufacturer to massively upscale its battery production strategy as well as introduce a new single-cell format to make EVs cheaper. In the case of the USA, it is also building many of these factories with for instance, GM investing $2.3 billion with LG to build a gigafactory in Tennessee. Similarly, India appears to be becoming a strong player with a gigafactory being planned in Chennai and Taiwan is moving from focusing on consumer electronics to EVs with plans to build a $352 million EV battery factory.
The Ruler on their Throne
With the battery at the center of electrification, it continues to hold a more and more important role on the market. However it still lacks in being able to meet performance demands and requirements. As such, various improvements in the technology and production must be made in order for the battery to reach its full potential.
The Addionics Solution
Addionics uses AI-based Smart 3D Electrodes combined with design to build the best battery architecture. Not only does this allow the desired performance of higher energy density and higher power to be achieved, it is also chemistry agnostic and can work with and improve any kind of battery chemistry in the market. As a result, it has the potential to achieve the next step change needed in the battery industry.