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Everything You Need to Know About Lithium-ion Batteries

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Lithium-ion batteries are the driving force of EVs. How does it work? Why do most EVs use lithium-ion batteries? What makes a lithium-ion battery good? Do we have enough Lithium to sustain the future of EV car batteries? Read to know more about lithium-ion batteries. 

Lithium-ion batteries: An overview 

A lithium-ion battery comprises cells that are connected to each other and work with the help of a separate electronic circuit. The number of cells, the size of each cell, and how they are arranged decide the battery’s voltage and capacity, which is how much electricity it can store. This is usually given in watt-hours (Wh) or, in the auto business, in kilowatt-hours (kWh).¬† ¬†

The lithium-ion battery charges by using a difference in potential between two electrodes. One of which is negative, and the other is positive. The different types of batteries have different kinds of ions, different electrode materials, and different electrolytes. A 12-volt lead-acid battery has usually been used to power a car’s starter with an internal combustion engine. This type of battery has an electrolyte with lead ions and lead-based electrodes. The lithium-ion battery works with lithium ions (Li+), which is where the name of this device comes from.¬†

Also read: Price of Lithium-ion Battery Pack through 2010 ‚Äď 2021

Lithium-ion batteries and EVs: Statistics 

Lithium-ion is the newest battery technology used in EVs. They are even compatible with the electric and hybrid cars of the future. They are much smaller and last much longer than the batteries that came before them. Lithium-ion batteries have a lot to give even after years of use in an electric car. It can still hold up to 80% of its charge, so it can be used to store energy for the grid, for example, in combination with wind farms. Lithium-ion batteries can be recycled. 

ICE vehicles and EVs 

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the number of EVs bought worldwide rose from 3 million in 2020 to 6.6 million in 2021. This meant that EVs made up 9% of the market. They were the only reason the number of cars sold worldwide went up from 63.8 million in 2020 to 66.7 million last year.  

Source: Statista[1]

This implies that sales of cars that aren’t EVs fell by 700,000. Sales of gasoline and diesel cars are expected to drop even faster in the next ten years as more countries plan to get rid of them. At the COP26 climate talks last year, 30 countries said they would stop selling new cars that run on gasoline or diesel by 2040.¬†

Lithium global demand 

In the previous years, the world made a total of 100,000 tons (90.7 million kg) of Lithium, and the US Geological Survey says that the world’s stocks are about 22 million tons (20 billion kg). If you divide the amount of Lithium found by the amount needed per battery, you can see that just under 11.4 million EV batteries could have been made in 2021.¬†¬†

Source: Statista[2]

To reach net zero by 2050, according to the IEA’s “Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap, [3]” the world will need 2 billion battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel-cell electric light-duty cars. But not all of the Lithium in the world can be used to make EV cells. Lithium is also used to make planes, trains, and bikes. It also makes batteries for many other things, like computers and cell phones.¬†

Is there enough Lithium in the world to make batteries? 

Even though there is enough Lithium in the world to fuel EVs, it’s still difficult to get access to them. Getting one’s hands on Lithium is not easy. It needs too much research just to find the location. Once that’s the plate, mining it is another tedious process with many side effects.¬†

Earth has about 88 million tons of Lithium, but only about a fifth of that can be mined profitably. Getting the average lithium mine up and going takes at least a few years. It’s not a readily accessible resource‚ÄĒlithium mining results in¬†water pollution and groundwater contamination. Biodiversity loss, air quality degradation, and¬†soil erosion also follow the process.¬†

Most of the world’s Lithium is in South America. Most of it is in the Andes Mountains, which run through Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia, which is a new player in the lithium market. China and the United States is next in line as they got some mines.

Also read: Can Sodium-Ion Batteries Be Used in Electric Vehicles?

Recycling lithium-ion batteries 

Recycling seems like a good way to make lithium-ion batteries a safer way to store energy. In the US, almost all lead-acid batteries are up for recycling. But reusing lithium-ion batteries is not as easy.  

Lithium-ion batteries are hard to recycle because there are so many kinds of cells and so many different kinds of materials inside them. Sometimes, the packaging of a cell doesn’t even say what materials are inside it. ¬†

Some plants use pyrometallurgy, which involves melting all lithium-ion cells that come into the plant. This melt can then be used to make a combination of cobalt, nickel, and copper, which can be turned back into the original metals or used as a base for making battery materials like cobalt carbonate. 

lithium-ion battery| Find EV charging near you

Bottom line 

Lithium is one of the most important components of EV batteries, but world supplies are getting tight because the number of EVs on the road is growing. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that the world could run out of Lithium by 2025. It says that about 2 billion electric vehicles (EVs) need to be on the road by 2050 for the world to reach net zero. However, only 6.6 million EVs were sold in the previous years, and some carmakers are already out of EVs. Not only is there a lot of demand for Lithium, but resources are getting scarce. Some lithium problems could be fixed in the future if batteries or ways of making things improve. 

Way.com make it easy for you to keep your electric vehicles (EVs) pumped up by helping you find the best EV chargers near you.

FAQs 

Who has the world’s biggest Lithium reserves?¬†

Chile holds the world’s largest lithium reserves and is the world’s second-largest producer.¬†

Who is the world’s biggest Lithium producer?¬†

Australia is the world’s biggest supplier, and they get it from their hard rock mines. Argentina, Chile, and China mainly produce it from salt lakes. China makes about 75% of all battery cells for electric cars and refines more of the major raw materials than all the other countries in the world put together.¬†

Where does the USA get its Lithium from? 

The US gets most of its lithium-ion batteries from China. South Korea and Japan also send a lot of them to the US. 

Does the Tesla battery contain Lithium? 

Yes, but in a very small amount. The truth is that, even if it may not seem like much compared to other raw materials, a lack of Lithium of good grade can be a barrier for any manufacturer of electric vehicles. Back in 2016, Musk claimed that batteries don’t need as much Lithium as they do nickel or graphite. He referred to Lithium as “the salt in your salad” and claimed that it makes up only 2% of a cell’s mass.¬†

Are there any technologies that can compete with lithium-ion battery technology? 

  • Solid-state batteries¬†
  • Cobalt-free lithium-ion batteries¬†
  • Lithium-sulfur batteries¬†
  • Sodium-ion batteries¬†
  • Zinc-based batteries¬†
  • Iron-air batteries¬†

References: 

[1] – Statista. ‚ÄúProjected ICE Vehicle Sales in Key Regions 2030 | Statista,‚ÄĚ n.d. https://www.statista.com/statistics/961138/ice-vehicle-sales-selected-world-regions/.

[2] – Statista. ‚ÄúProjection Total Lithium Demand Globally 2030 | Statista,‚ÄĚ n.d. https://www.statista.com/statistics/452025/projected-total-demand-for-lithium-globally/.

[3] – IEA (2021), Net Zero by 2050, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050, License: CC BY 4.0

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