WEBINAR: Lithium-ion battery chemistries ‘will continue to evolve’

Capacity in the current lithium-ion battery chemistries will continue to increase in the years ahead while new technological developments will lead to the creation of new types of batteries, according to William Adams, Fastmarkets’ head of battery raw materials research.

Lithium is a key ingredient in the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and energy storage systems (ESSs), and lithium demand for both uses is expected to soar in coming years with the shift to a greener economy gaining pace.

“We’re at the very early stages of this electrification era, and I think the market is going to grow rapidly. It’s not just about EVs; it is also about ESS… There will be room for all the battery technologies to find their suitable area,” Adams said during a recent Fastmarkets’ webinar on how the electric vehicle markets will behave in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Different performance requirements for EV and ESS usage were leading to an evolution of separate markets for lithium-ion batteries.

“A lithium-iron-phosphate [LFP] battery may make sense in China because of the current subsidy situation [for the purchase of EVs] and because, for city cars, you might not need long ranges - although the new LFP batteries can achieve longer ranges as well,” Adams said.

“But I think that when the European [EV] market grows, lithium-cobalt-oxide [NMC] and lithium nickel cobalt aluminium oxide [NCA] batteries will remain important. ESS is a [completely new area], and there will be other chemistries as well,” he added.

“I think there will be investment and room for all these technologies, and I expect the capacities of all of these to grow,” he said.

It was not clear whether hydroxide or carbonate would be the preferred form of lithium battery-grade compounds for the next generation of EVs.

“Both will be used,” Adams said. “I think we will see more lithium hydroxide needed as we move to the higher nickel ratio batteries, while LFP batteries tend to use more carbonate.”

The use of batteries for energy storage was expected to soar between 2020 and 2030 in Europe, supporting the growth of flexible electricity assets while new renewable capacity ramps up in the region’s key economies.

Investments in green mobility and renewable sources of electricity were high on the agendas of the EU member states, to comply with energy transition targets.

With EV sales increasing, additional renewable capacity was being installed alongside the growth in ESSs, and demand for the key raw materials used in batteries, such as lithium, was expected to grow.

Click here to listen again to Fastmarkets’ webinar, How will electric vehicle markets behave post Covid-19?

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