Shortage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: How to Cope

Shortage of lithium-ion batteries is probable. Too few gigafactories. Too many burning batteries: factories shut to sort out their problems. The US-China trade war cuts off materials. Inadequate lithium or cobalt mining.

Electric vehicle demand is probably being underestimated. Expect cost parity with conventional cars in 3-7 years when range demanded by most prospective buyers – 300 miles/ 480 km – is also met.  IDTechEx 2020-2030 projections of battery capacity for all100 IDTechEx EV categories reveals pent-up demand if promised cell cost reduction is met – a staggering 3,900 GWh in 2030, over double the committed 2028 global production.

Every month a bigger commitment in gigafactories is announced, but we should plan for shortage. Lithium-ion for grids has many alternatives – flow batteries to pumped water. Substitute here first. See IDTechEx report, “Batteries for Stationary Energy Storage 2019 – 2029”.

Turn the clock forward.

Speed up 48V mild-hybrid car launches: keeping legal under tightening emissions laws while using 5% of the battery in a pure electric car. Geely (Volvo etc) will partly use a supercapacitor for both 48V and full hybrids.

Toyota even showed an Auris full hybrid works fine with a supercapacitor, no battery. Economics of supercapacitor-powered large buses will improve despite shorter range meaning more charging. See IDTechEx reports, “Supercapacitors: Applications, Players, Markets 2020-2040” and “Energy Storage for Buses and Trucks 2019-2029”.

Faster market entry of no-cobalt and/or no-lithium batteries can be considered but the safety and performance of solid-state batteries must progress to market. See IDTechEx reports, “Advanced Li-ion & Beyond Li-ion Batteries 2018-2028” and “Solid-State and Polymer Batteries 2019-2029”.

Top up charging of buses and trucks by rail-in-road, coils-in-road, intermittent catenary, solar bodywork etc will certainly come centre stage because it means up to 80% less battery.

Turn the clock back

Come back HEVs with NiMH batteries like the Prius. Revert to LFP Li-ion without cobalt if that metal is the problem or buy more low-cobalt high-energy-density versions – Panasonic. There could be a halt to the progress of Li-ion replacing lead-acid in mobility-for-the-disabled, two-wheelers and forklifts but turning the clock back usually means the planet is the loser.



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