Promise To Reality- 5 Battery Breakthroughs That Could Make It To Market Soon

Highlights :

  • Extremely Fast-Charging Battery technology Charges 80 per cent in just about 15 minutes. Whereas, and Israeli firm offer 100 miles per 2 minutes of charge by 2032
  • LFP has already made a breakthrough as half of Tesla’s new cars come with LFP batteries

Innovation is inevitable. As any technology evolves, so do the expectations with it. Similarly, the battery technology has also been evolving, throughout history, in the desire to make it more efficient, powerful, dependable, sustainable, and whatnot. The lithium-ion batteries-saga itself is as old as 1970s, and is still improvising. However, a big complaint from industry watchers is the slow pace of transfer of these innovations, from the lab to market. For them, an innovation is not worthwhile until it hits the market, and makes a real difference in terms of price, efficiency, safety or all three.

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That is one reason why the most likely innovations that look like they will be in market soon are linked to fast-charging batteries, for instance. That’s because a comprehensive shift in actual battery chemistries is easier said than done, as building at scale with a completely new chemistry demands more investment, perhaps innovations in manufacturing itself, and multiple regulatory hurdles to cross.

Here, we look at the top 5 breakthroughs in battery technology which are actually set to hit markets in the next 24 months or more.

#1 Extremely Fast-Charging Lithium Metal Solid-state Battery

Highlights – Charges  80% in just about 15 minutes. Retaining 80% of its capacity after 800 cycles

QuantumScape from California is an American company in the domain of research in solid-state lithium metal batteries for electric cars. QuantumScape has recently announced performance data for what may be the first commercially viable lithium metal solid-state battery. The technology allows a 0 to 80% battery charge in just 15 minutes. The company itself is a bet on the development of this tech, and the backing by heavy lifters like VW and more means it does have something closer to  reality.

QuantumScape has developed a 16-layer solid-state battery cell that has already endured over 500 charge cycles. It also claims an increase in the autonomy of an electric car by up to 80%. The solid-state battery technology uses a solid electrolyte in place of a conventional liquid solution. This helps the solid-state batteries store significantly more energy by weight and volume than regular lithium-ion batteries.

The major challenges the technology claims to solve are high charge and discharge rates, long service life, and ensures no temperature or safety concerns. Reportedly, the battery technology has excellent energy density with around 1 kWh/l storage capacity (more than a couple of times that what most of the current EV batteries offer). The longevity is impressive as well, as it claims to retain over 80% of its capacity after 800 cycles. This is equivalent to a staggering 240,000 miles on an EV.

As of now, the product is very much in the developmental phase while the firm targets delivery of A-sample cells to at least one customer in 2022. Furthermore, the firm aims to produce candidate B-sample cells in 2023 (B samples are made using final production processes). Notably, the work on the technology started way back in December 2020.

#2 Extreme Fast-Charging Battery from StoreDot

Highlights – 100 miles per 5 minutes of charge in 2024; in just 2 minutes by 2032

Another extreme fast-charging battery technology. Israel-based StoreDot is the pioneer of extreme fast charging (XFC) battery technology for electric vehicles. Its strategic technology roadmap, ‘100inX’, suggests that it will deliver batteries capable of charging 100 miles of range in just 5 minutes-charge by 2024. Further, it is targeting a 100 miles in just 2-minute charge, with mass production readiness by the next 10 years.

StoreDot is firmly on track for its first milestone for global automotive manufacturers, producing its silicon-dominant anode XFC lithium-ion cells at scale by 2024. In addition, the firm is at the advanced stages of developing ground-breaking semi-solid-state technologies. This will further improve the batteries by 40% over 4 years, delivering 100 miles in just 3 minutes of charge time. It may be mass production-ready by 2028.

Evidently, the 100inX roadmap sets three generations of StoreDot technologies of Silicon dominant XFC, semi solid-state and full-solid state – 100in5, 100in3 and 100in2 milestones indicating miles per minute of charging. The  milestones are – 100in5 by 2024, 100in3 by 2028 (40% improvement) and 100in2 by 2032 (additional 33% improvement). The ‘100in5’ cells of StoreDot’s XFC technology are already being tested in the real world by automotive OEMs.

#3 LFP Battery

Highlights – low discharge rate, flat discharge curve, less heating, a higher number of charge cycles, environmentally safe and structurally stable. LFP qualifies for this list simply because it has grown and expanded use cases faster than anyone predicted as recently as 2018.

Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery is another name that needs mention in this list. The battery is a type of lithium-ion battery using lithium iron phosphate as the cathode material. Thus, by doing away with cobalt, it makes production that much more sustainable. In addition, it uses a graphitic carbon electrode with a metallic backing as the anode. In terms of performance, the LFP battery is better than other types of batteries. It is capable of charging and discharging at high speeds in comparison to other types of batteries. Additionally, it has several distinctive features such as low discharge rate, flat discharge curve, less heating, and a higher number of charge cycles. Moreover, LFP batteries are environmentally safe and structurally stable. The chemistry of the battery saves it from thermal runaway as well, and hence it is safe for home use.

With all those merits, the adoption of LFP batteries has gained traction. EV auto-giant Tesla is already using cobalt-free LFP batteries in half of its new cars. This is a reaction to overcome nickel and cobalt supply concerns. Volkswagen’s battery partner in China, Guoxuan High-Tech also presented a new battery cell with LFP chemistry. Safety advantages, long lifecycle and lower costs have led EV makers to accept the trade-off of lower energy density in adopting LFP batteries.

Last year, LFP outsold NMC among batteries sold by Chinese manufacturers. The market share is growing through the year: of 100GWh of lithium batteries used for EVs and Energy Storage systems, 44% were NMC and the majority of the remainder LFP.

As per analysis, LFP will be the dominant battery chemistry over nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) by 2028, in a global market of demand exceeding 3,000GWh by 2030.

#4 Sodium-ion Battery

Highlights – 30 per cent cheaper than Li-ion as Sodium is abundant on earth

Sodium-ion battery, a.k.a Na-ion battery, is a fast-evolving, cheaper, portable and efficient storage solution. In the face of a global Lithium shortage, Sodium is gaining the focus again (battery technology has been there since 1960s!). Unlike Lithium, there’s abundant quantity of Sodium available on the earth. It is mostly extracted from seawater, and ashes of plants growing in sodium-rich soils.

A Sodium-ion battery could be a lot cheaper than Li-ion (about 30 per cent cheaper). Unlike Lithium, Sodium is environment-friendly. Many companies have been working on the Na-ion battery development towards commercialisation. The few have also been successful in developing the Sodium-ion battery by improving the characteristics like energy storage capability, performance, safety and sustainability. Sodium-ion battery is non-flammable. The only major fallout would be its numbers against Lithium-ion batteries in terms of working performance. Thus, a lot of research stands in the way of full-fledged commercialisation.

Recently, Reliance bought sodium-ion battery start-up Faradion for $135 million. This boosted the likelihood of battery commercialisation in the very near future. Sodium wheel is already in motion. Several other companies are also developing sodium-ion batteries, including the Chinese lithium-ion battery giant CATL. CATL unveiled its first sodium-ion battery in July 2021 and also plans to begin commercial production in 2023. With rising problems of Lithium unavailability and development in the technology, Na-ion may soon be around just like Lithium-ion batteries of present times.

#5 Liquid Metal Battery Chemistry

Highlights – Low-cost materials – liquid calcium-alloy anode, a molten salt electrolyte, and a cathode comprising solid particles of antimony

Ambri Inc. is an MIT-spinoff long-duration battery energy storage system developer. In the second half of 2021, Ambri secured a $144 million in funding to advance its calcium-antimony liquid metal battery chemistry.

The liquid metal battery is comprised of a liquid calcium-alloy anode, a molten salt electrolyte, and a cathode comprised of solid particles of antimony. Thus, it involves the use of low-cost materials and a low number of steps in the cell assembly process. The active materials in the cells alloy and de-alloy while charging and discharging. In addition, the electrolyte is thermodynamically stable with the electrodes. On the battery’s discharge, the negative electrode is fully consumed. It also reforms in every cycle.

The battery technology has already caught significant attention. The investment round of $144 million included Reliance New Energy Solar Ltd, a unit of Reliance Industries Limited; Paulson & Co. Inc., a group that includes Ambri’s largest shareholder, Bill Gates; and new investors, including Fortistar, Goehring & Rozencwajg Associates, Japan Energy Fund, and others.

Attracting heavyweights of the corporate world is a clear sign of the technology’s imminent bloom. The company plans to use these proceeds to commercialize and grow its long-duration system technology. It aims to build manufacturing facilities, both in the U.S. and internationally. On that front, Ambri entered into a long-term antimony supply agreement with Perpetua Resources as well. Further, the funding gives room to Ambri to scale for projects from 10 MWh to over 2 GWh around the globe, paving way for significant industrial commercialisation.

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Junaid Shah

Junaid holds a Master of Engineering degree in Construction & Management. Being a civil engineering postgraduate and using his technical prowess, he has channeled his passion for writing in the environmental niche.

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