The Life of a Lithium-Ion Battery
The Life of a LIB

Late last year, my colleague briefly considered an electric vehicle (EV), but discounted it for various (practical) reasons. Well, I picked up my first hybrid car last week. The very notion of using a three-pin plug to charge my car feels very strange. Whilst it’s not fully electric, I can still get a week’s worth of mileage from a single charge. 

 

We know that the range of a hybrid or EV depends on its battery size, capabilities and car’s output. But rest assured, the pace at which battery evolution is moving is fascinating and EV ranges are on the up. 

 

Due to the rapid growth of the EV market since 2010 and the increasing need for mass energy storage, the demand for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) is expected to double by 2025 and quadruple by 2030. 

 

BATTERY HIGHS AND LOWS 

Despite the many pros of LIBs, such as its low maintenance and self-discharge capabilities, there are several drawbacks. Let’s quickly consider the cons. 

 

  • Cost – LIBs typically cost about 40% more to manufacture than their nickel counterparts. 
  • Recycling – current LIBs can be ethically and environmentally problematic. In fact, only a fraction of depleted LIBs is recycled. 
  • Ethics the cobalt needed to make LIBs is sometimes mined using child labor. 
  • Ageing – unlike a fine wine, LIBs don’t age well. They degrade over time. After 500 – 1000 charge discharge cycles, batteries may need replacing. Which is an issue if they are embedded within the equipment they power. 
  • Transportation – due to health and safety, most airlines limit the number of LIBs they can fly with. Therefore, their transportation is limited to ships. 

  

Although LIBs have been around for a while, they are still considered to be an immature technology because it’s such a developing area. 

 

RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES 

 

 

Sometime in 2021, whilst experimenting with metal electrodes, researchers at MIT discovered a ground-breaking new battery design that increased power without sacrificing cycle life. They claim this could enable a “new generation of long-range drones, robots and electric vehicles.” 

 

“Whenever you use a battery, you’re depleting that battery and will, eventually, need to replace it.”  

– Jianliang Xiao, Lead Researcher and an associate professor, CU Boulder. 

THE RANGE STRUGGLE IS REAL 

Most renewable energy is intermittent by nature, reliant on unpredictable weather conditions. Only when effective and cheaper batteries are used by green electricity producers and power grids, will we be in a position to gradually replace fossil fuel-dependent generators. 

     

However, this optimistic landscape is perhaps ten-years away. In the meantime, power generation is still at the mercy of fluctuating prices, determined by external factors (such as Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine). 

 

And if you think manual processes can keep up with these volatile market conditions, think again. They can’t. Therefore, having a robust risk management solution in place to secure power and gas storage at an acceptable price is a no brainer. 

 

On a more positive note, the EV infrastructure is improving by the day, with more charging stations appearing in public car parks. This will no doubt ease the range anxiety that owners of fully electric cars may experience from time to time. 

 

I for one will applaud the first car manufacturer who uses a new type of EV battery that will offer a 250 mile (400km) range from just a ten-minute charge. 

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