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Outlook of Lithium-Ion battery market for the 2020’s

Li-ion technology is experiencing incredible market growth, the cost per kilo-watthour storage capacity is falling, and batteries are becoming even more energy dense. Safety and sustainability must remain top priorities as volumes increases in the coming technological shift towards electrification in the 2020’s.

Li-ion battery technology is developing at extreme speed. The battery market is growing, the energy storage capacity increases, and the cost per kilowatt-hour storage capacity is declining rapidly. This way Li-ion batteries are challenging conventional energy storage and conversion technology, such as lead batteries and combustion engines, in every aspect. In this swift development, design for safety is one key aspect for an energy dense technology, such as Li-ion batteries, to achieve consumer acceptance.

Research on battery chemistries “beyond Li-ion” often receive large attention in media. Metal air batteries, sulfur batteries, sodium-ion and solid state batteries are a few examples of technologies that are often claimed to outcompete Li-ion technology in some areas. An example of a Li-metal battery was recently developed by a consortium of national laboratories and universities in the USA: a prototype rechargeable, low power, battery cell with 350 Wh/kg and decent cycle life. It should be kept in mind that research and development in the battery industry is very long and time consuming. Considerable efforts are still needed to prove emerging battery technologies. Time to market for new battery chemistries is long: historically it has taken 10-20 year to commercialize a new battery material. Thereafter, product development is required to put the battery into an application. Any emerging battery technologies have to be proven by rigorous safety testing and performance verification. Most likely, Li-ion will therefore remain the most important battery technology during the 2020’s.

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Lithium-Ion batteries for the 2020s

Sustainability is an important topic that will remain critical for the battery industry in the coming decade. Li-ion batteries can be seen as an enabling green technology because of the high energy efficiency that warrants more sustainable use of energy. The high energy efficiency stems from the direct conversion from chemical to electric energy and useful work. Conventional combustion technology is fundamentally limited by the Carnot cycle as the chemical energy in fuels must be converted to heat during combustion, before the energy can be turned into useful work. Combustion technology typically has energy efficiencies below 50%, while the round trip efficiency (AC to AC power) for stationary energy storage with Li-ion technology is commonly around 90%. Another aspects that makes Li-ion batteries an enabling technology is the possibility of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. However, Li-ion batteries can only store energy and are therefore dependent on sustainable energy during manufacturing and charging to truly become a green technology.

The prerequisite of sustainable energy becomes even more important taking into account the CO2 footprint from battery production. The supply chain of Li-ion batteries is very complex, and it is hard to estimate the emissions all the way from mining to refining and battery production, usage, and finally recycling. An estimation from 2019 reported that the CO2 footprint of Li-ion battery production was in the range of 61-106 kg CO2 equivalents per kWh Li-ion batteries produced. Large amounts of energy is needed in battery production, which is why the batteries’ CO2 footprint is largely dependent on the production processes used and the source of power used in those processes.

All sources for figures and other data mentioned in this article are to be found in the reference list in our white paper "Lithium-Ion batteries for the 2020's".

If you want to read more about battery safety, the working principles of Li-Ion batteries, their historical background, their incredible growth at reduced cost and how much energy density has increased, download our comprehensive white paper “Lithium-Ion batteries for the 2020’s” written by our experts.

Anton Nyten Etteplan

Anton Nytén

Technology Director, Battery Technology
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