Global energy storage demand is expected to rise from 500 GWh in 2022 to more than 3 TWh by 2030, driven primarily by zero-emissions legislation driving strong EV sales in major economies
Innovations and improvements across all key segments of the battery domain will drive technological advancements as well as cost reduction and affordability
There are six significant next-generation battery and cell technology trends that today's EV makers must be aware of to ensure the widespread adoption of electric vehicles
Global energy storage demand is expected to rise from 500 GWh in 2022 to more than 3 TWh by 2030, owing primarily to zero-emissions legislation driving strong EV sales in major economies.
Given that rechargeable batteries are critical to achieving the goal of a climate-neutral society, lowering battery costs through technological interventions is today a top priority for mass EV adoption.
The most common today are Li-ion batteries with NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt) or LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) cathodes and graphite anodes.
In recent years, EV manufacturers have shifted from Mid-Ni to High-Ni NMC for medium to premium BEVs with increased energy density, as well as LFP (Lithium Ferro-Phosphate) in entry-models to maintain price parity with ICEs.
Furthermore, there are numerous significant next-generation battery and cell technology trends that today’s EV makers must be aware of to ensure the widespread adoption of electric vehicles:
Traction Of LFP Increasing Over NMC Batteries
LFP is gaining ground on NMC in commercial vehicles and energy storage systems due to its lower fire risk, lower cost, and longer cycle life. Top players such as LG, ES and SK have confirmed adding LFP to their portfolios, while Tesla sold half of its vehicles with LFP in Q1’22.
Furthermore, technologies such as Cell-to-Pack (CTP), structural battery packs, and large format cells are significantly offsetting the disadvantages of LFP’s energy density, with a range no longer being a major concern.
New Cell Chemistries To Cut Down Battery Pack Costs
To achieve parity with IC engines without subsidies, battery pack prices must fall below $100/kWh (vs. $129/kWh in 2021).
Over the last year, rising battery material prices, Covid-curbs, the Russia-Ukraine war, and concerns about cobalt mining have prompted many OEMs and suppliers to embark on strategic initiatives to investigate new chemistries and other technological interventions.
Battery manufacturers are looking at manganese-rich and no-Cobalt cathodes such as LMFP, NMx, and LNMO to reduce cell costs and avoid supply chain constraints. CATL, Samsung, Panasonic, SVOLT, and others are working on these options, with commercialisation expected to begin in 2023.
Similarly, significant research is being conducted to improve cell capacity with anodes, silicon-graphite composites, and pure silicon anodes to address energy density, fast-charging, and graphite supply chain shortages.
Most cell suppliers have 5-10% Si-composite on their short-term roadmap, while several startups such as Sila Technologies, Enevate, Storedot, Group 14 and others are developing high silicon anode concepts and have received strategic investments from OEMs.
LTO batteries, another anode chemistry, have a niche use case with long cycle life and TCO advantages, particularly in commercial vehicle (CV) and stationary energy storage (ESS) applications. LTO advancements assist the CV space in accelerating EV adoption while reducing the impact of charging downtime on operations.
Niobium-based anodes are gaining popularity for replacing current LTO chemistry in fast-charging applications and lowering system costs due to their higher capacity.
Evolution Of Solid State Batteries (SSBs)
With properties like low flammability, faster charging, and moderately higher energy density, Solid State Batteries (SSBs) are receiving a lot of attention in academia and industry. By the next decade, the major players will be concentrating on large-scale commercialisation.
Leading startups such as Prologium, Solid Power, and QuantumScape have received strategic investments from cell suppliers and OEMs.
Due to the low penetration rate, SSBs are likely to gain traction in the EU and US for applications requiring high energy density and longer range, particularly in premium and commercial vehicles, at a premium cost, primarily towards the end of the decade.
However, significant changes are required to scale up electrodes and separators for SSBs. Other advanced lithium-based concepts, such as lithium-sulphur and lithium-air batteries, are being investigated and are in the early stages of development.
Na-Ion Batteries Becoming The Talk Of The Industry
Beyond Li-ion batteries, Sodium (Na)-ion has been a hot topic in the industry, owing to the abundant Sodium supply and the desire to reduce reliance on Lithium, but its energy density is significantly lower than Li-ion, limiting its market to ESS and entry-level 2W segments.
The challenges of using ultra-strict dry room conditions for Na-ion batteries must still be overcome before production can be scaled up.
New Innovations Beyond Cell Chemistries
Battery innovation does not end with material development. To reduce non-active materials in the assembly, cell-to-pack (BYD, Tesla, and CATL are already working on this) and cell-to-chassis concepts are being considered.
Furthermore, manufacturers are adopting larger format cells to include more active battery materials and less waste for casings and the like. The Tabless 4680, which enables fast charging rates, is gaining market traction, with CATL, LG, and Samsung joining Panasonic in supplying 46xx.
Breakthrough Of Dry Electrode Manufacturing To Reduce Battery Costs
Dry electrode processing and anode pre-lithiation in cell manufacturing are also significant advances in lowering battery costs. Not only does the dry electrode process eliminate the use of the toxic solvent NMP in manufacturing, but it also reduces battery costs by up to 50%. Volkswagen, Freyr, Fujifilm, and Lucas TVS have already licensed this process from 24M Technologies in the United States.
With access to Maxwell’s patented process, Tesla is working on a dry electrode concept. Despite commitments to commercialise the process by 2025, scaling it to the GWh scale would be a critical barrier to successful industrialisation.
To summarise, innovations and improvements are occurring across all key segments of the battery domain to drive technological advancements as well as cost reduction and affordability to ICE vehicles.
We do not expect one technology to fit all solutions; some of these concepts will lead the market, while others will cater to specific segments. Whatever technologies replace current ones must be scalable to market needs and durable enough to compete with traditional technology.