The supply of Lithium ion batteries is limited, which is one of the major challenges faced by storage battery manufacturers. To combat this issue, manufacturers have increasingly been offering variable price supply contracts, indexed against raw material costs. However, this can pose challenges for energy storage system integrators. Typically, these integrators are unable to know their total costs until just before they purchase the energy storage batteries. This situation increases risk for owners and financiers and necessitates years-long planning.
Lithium has become a key ingredient in storage batteries, and Chinese companies are leading the market with their technologies. The Chinese government has spent $60 billion in recent years to expand its domestic lithium battery market, helping to build up the necessary infrastructure. It has also supported the production of cheap electric vehicles (EVs) by subsidizing the production of batteries and lithium mining.
The storage battery industry is split into three storage battery manufacturers distinct categories, industrial, automotive, and consumer batteries. Despite being more environmentally friendly than lead batteries, lithium batteries are rapidly approaching their end-of-life. They typically last for three to 10 years, depending on the chemistry. While this type of battery is more environmentally friendly than its lead counterpart, it isn’t entirely harmless, and there is a great deal of lithium waste produced in the process. Fortunately, there are ways to recycle lithium batteries that don’t involve burning.
While lithium-ion batteries will continue to play a crucial role in the energy transition, it is likely that other battery chemistries will soon overtake them. For many electric vehicle applications, lithium-ion batteries will remain indispensable. However, in the future, the all-of-above approach to energy storage will become increasingly salient, particularly in grid-based storage solutions. This may enable policymakers to anticipate market demands and allow alternative battery chemistries to carve a niche in the grid.
Lithium-ion battery cost is a big barrier to the widespread adoption of this type of battery. It’s expensive to produce and has several disadvantages. It’s also not the best option for long-term energy storage. And the raw material for lithium-ion batteries is cobalt, a resource that is mined in the Congo. In addition, there are environmental and safety issues with lithium-ion batteries.
In addition to the storage battery market, LIB technology has also been gaining ground in the grid energy storage market. However, lithium mining has been linked to depletion of groundwater resources and the conversion of meadows to salt flats. Furthermore, cobalt is the most expensive element in LIBs. As such, the current trend in the development of LIB technology is to move away from cobalt-rich chemistries and move toward LiFePO4 (LiFePO4). In addition to reducing the cost of the battery, the new chemistries aim to greatly increase the energy density.
The supply of lithium is a critical element for electric vehicles, but it is becoming increasingly hard to meet global demand. The lithium supply chain is concentrated in a handful of countries, most notably China, which holds 70 to 80% of global production capacity. However, the problem may not be limited to China alone. There are other countries in the world that are experiencing lithium-ion storage battery shortages, including the United States and South America.
Besides threatening the future of electric cars, battery-operated household appliances, and consumer electronics also pose significant risks. Shortages in these materials can delay new product development, increase costs, and lengthen the R&D cycle. In the worst-case scenario, they could also postpone the global launch of new products. This would disrupt design processes, thereby affecting the bottom line. As a result, battery manufacturers should prepare for such disruptions.
Demand for lithium for batteries is expected to rise even further, and current supply isn’t sufficient to meet demand. The price of lithium is up more than 400 percent in the past two years. It has since leveled off, but the price of lithium carbonate equivalent will likely remain high. As a result, battery makers will have to charge consumers a higher price.
The automotive industry is one of the biggest sources of lithium-ion battery supply shortages. Tesla, for instance, uses over 7,000 lithium-ion cells in its high-end models. In comparison, a cordless outdoor power equipment battery has anywhere from fifteen to sixty cells. But lithium-ion batteries are essential to the transition to electric vehicles. As more battery-powered cars become more common, the supply chain must be prepared to cope with the influx of lithium-ion batteries.
New battery technologies and enhanced metal recovery from waste streams and low-grade ores could help mitigate the lithium-ion storage battery supply shortages. The number of EVs on the road is expected to double by 2025, and by recycling used EV batteries, storage battery manufacturers the supply needs could be cut by up to a tenth by 2040.
The shortage is exacerbated by the fact that battery cell manufacturers have not been growing at a comparable rate. However, two companies have announced expansion plans in the last six months. Adding new capacity will allow the industry to keep up with demand and address supply chain challenges.
Storage batteries should be compliant with certain standards, such as the IEC 60086. The IEC standard is intended to promote interoperability of batteries. Having a battery with a particular standard demonstrates compliance with the standard and increases their marketability. Other important standards for batteries are set by the international fire codes and the US National Fire Protection Association.
Storage battery manufacturers should meet specific standards before they can claim to have the highest quality of batteries. Manufacturers that are UL-listed have gone through rigorous testing to ensure that they meet UL standards. They also have agreed to follow specific guidelines and conduct regular inspections to maintain the high quality of their products.
UL 2054, for example, covers primary and secondary batteries that are used in portable devices. It is a general battery safety standard that includes 18 tests. However, it does not cover primary or secondary lithium cells. The UL 2054 standard does include component cell level testing. It is also a good standard to follow if you’re considering a battery for stationary use.
Lithium batteries are classified as Class 9 dangerous goods. This means that they must be properly handled during transportation, and they must be shipped with proper packaging. In addition, they cannot be shipped in passenger aircraft unless they pass the UN 38.3 test. The new regulations for transporting lithium batteries have tightened requirements. Some predict that the air transportation of lithium batteries will be banned in the future.