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A lot of life left in lithium-ion batteries

Although other battery technologies are poised to break through into the automotive industry, experts believe that there are still many areas that need to be addressed before they can compete with lithium-ion batteries (LiBs). Speaking to Automotive World, Menahem Anderman, President, Advanced Automotive Batteries (AAB), detailed the potential that is still left in LiBs.

Anderman has worked in the battery industry for 33 years. As well as serving as President of AAB and Founder of the Advanced Automotive and Industrial/Stationary Battery Conference, he is a consultant to OEMs, battery developers and government agencies including the US Senate and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Throughout his extensive career, Anderman suggests that one particular change in the battery market stands out. “The introduction of lithi um-ion batteries (LiBs) in 1990/1991 was the most important development in my career. It started with video cameras before moving to laptops and mobile phones, and then into power tools. Finally, in the last five years, LiB technology has found its way into the automotive industry,” he observes. This extensive background of moving through various applications gave LiBs a strong platform in the automotive industry. According to Anderman, LiBs were heavily trialled and tested before moving into transport applications.

Yet, there is still work to be done on LiBs. “It is a very compelling technology with a lot of possibilities,” remarks Anderman. “It has been an enabling technology for new applications, as well as improving existing ones, and it has continued to improve. Lithium-ion is really a system where you structure ions of lithium between two electrodes, and you can continue to improve by getting denser electrodes,” he adds. Painting a long future ahead of LiBs, Anderman questions other battery technology and its viability.

Competitive technologies
Anderman believes that LiBs will continue to dominate the battery market for the foreseeable future. Although several companies have detailed their investment in different battery technology, such as SolidEnergy’s anode-less battery for example, he is confident that it will be at least 15 years before any other batteries have a chance of contending with LiBs.

Noting the likes of solid-state batteries, lithium-air and lithium-sulphur batteries, Anderman continues, “You have to look at the total package – batteries are a product. You have the amount of energy per unit weight in volume, shelf life, cycle life, operating temperature, charge rate, safety and so on. One or two of these batteries perform brilliantly in some areas, but are far behind in the others.”

Even though SolidEnergy’s anode-less battery holds double the amount of energy when compared to LiBs, he suggests that the company should address various other issues with its technology before it can be brought to mass production. “It is also notable that most of these different battery technologies are not new, but they still face these major issues. Although it is important for us to be open to other technologies, we must remain realistic,” he adds.

SolidEnergy’s ‘anode-less’ battery is smaller and has greater energy density than LiBs made by Apple and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi

Not going anywhere
“There is still so much potential left in LiBs,” says Anderman. Other industry experts agree, suggesting that issues such as range and cost are persistently being revised by battery manufacturers. The main reason behind this development is that “there is an i ncredible amount of i nvestment being pumped into the LiB market,” notes Anderman. Consequently, he is confident that the cost of LiBs will come down sooner or later.

In the meantime, he believes that it is positive for the LiB market to have competition, suggesting that it will drive the technology forward. “The competing technologies are there because there is so much R&D money in batteries at the moment, which is good. But, many of them have major issues that must be addressed,” he repeats.

Written by Michael Nash