As electric vehicles (EV) and alternative energy sources multiply, they (and everyone else) need more places to store their power—and batteries are at the forefront of providing them.
To explore all the trends and challenges buffeting the battery industry, Bob Galyen, retired CTO of CATL, delivered a detailed analysis on the second day of the 2023 Honeywell Users Group this week in Orlando. His presentation was the keynote address for the inaugural Gigafactory Days sub-event during HUG.
First up, Galyen examined why China is so successful and far ahead of other nations in processing raw materials for batteries and manufacturing them. “The number one reason is government support in the form of incentives and tax assistance that encourages battery manufacturing,” said Galyen. “The second reason is that the whole world allowed China to take the lead on batteries.”
Galyen added that China spent a decade establishing its technology for making batteries, as well as its supply chain for mining, processing and manufacturing battery cells. “This allowed it to invest in raw materials that go into making batteries, which go into consumer electronics. From 69-99% of all raw materials for batteries are processed China,” he explained. “This was accompanied by private-equity investment seeking high margins, as well as commitments to educate and train staff in all aspects of battery production, and build machines capable of producing gigawatt-hour (GWh) volumes with parts-per-billion (ppb) failure rates.”
Safety and sustainability
Because battery production involves wrapping noxious chemicals in containers to allow them to safely carry out their electrochemical processes, Galyen explained they need to follow five golden rules for electrification:
• Safety that includes keeping manufacturing personnel safe, and producing products that will perform safely for consumers;
• Quality that ensures batteries perform as designed;
• Life expectancy that enables batteries to last long enough to deliver sufficient total cost of ownership (TCO);
• Cost that allows profitability for producers and cost-effectiveness for users without compromising safety; and
• Environmental sensitivity that minimizes impacts of mining, processing and manufacturing, builds equally responsible supply chains, and participates in a larger circular economy.
“Battery manufacturing is becoming a huge part of modern society, including the mobility sector, where fully integrated battery systems are part of equipment structure. This includes prismatic, cylindrical and pouch cells that are part of structural packs in vehicles and other devices,” added Galyen. “Adoption of lithium-ion batteries (LIB) is expected to increase from its present rate of 5% in 2023 to 12% in 2025, 28% in 2030 and 58% in 2040. We’re just at the beginning of the electrification revolution!”
Present and future demands
Galyen reported that the current state of the LIB and EV market has four main characteristics:
• Improved battery economics with cell materials and overall battery costs declining, while battery energy storage becomes more efficient;
• Growing EV adoption with increasing vehicle sales and increasingly prevalent EV charging infrastructure;
• Increase use of renewables with solar growing at a 49% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the last decade, and wind power generation capacity growing at a similar rate; and
• Smart grid demands that can use lithium-ion powered energy storage systems (ESS) to tackle inconsistent supply and demand of energy generation.
“The demand for lithium-ion batteries for mobility, grid storage and consumer electronics will increase by 32% per year and reach more than 4,000 GWh by 2030,” predicted Galyen. “However, battery cell production capacity will only be about 2,912 GWh by 2030, so a shortage will be unavoidable.”
Recycling and new technologies
Even though it will take years for battery production and supply to catch up with demand, Galyen believes that recycling and participating in a circular economy and several innovative battery-manufacturing technologies can help relieve some of these pressures.
“Some people believe that battery recycling and recovering materials is too difficult, but this isn’t true. China has been recycling batteries for 10-15 years, and the U.S. and Europe can get into this game, too,” added Galyen. “We can recycle LIBs just like we can recycle old carbon-zinc batteries.”
Emerging battery-making technologies that Galyen highlighted include:
• Vision inspection of LIBs using artificial intelligence (AI) by UnitX Inc., which already has more than 250 units deploy at the major EV manufacturers;
• BAQA ultrasound scanning by Titan AES for quality inspection of batteries;
• Chromatography separations by RE Element Co. for isolating and purifying rare earth elements; and
• Robotic collection of deep-sea metallic nodules by Impossible Metals Inc.