Energy storage technologies have become a vital part of green energy as well as sustainable source of energy that increasingly necessitates renewable energies and recyclable hardware.
According to the latest IDTechEx’s report “Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles 2021-2031”, it covers the trends in battery technology for EVs and studies the pack manufacturers targeting buses, commercial vehicles, and many other non-car segments.
However, while Li-ion will continue to remain the dominant technology in electric vehicles, the fears of potential bottlenecks to the supply of certain critical materials, such as lithium, nickel, or graphite, may ultimately limit the rate of EV uptake. IDTechEx’s report “Materials for Electric Vehicle Battery Cells and Packs 2021-2031” forecasts the growth in demand for Li-ion battery materials included in the cell and pack, while IDTechEx also covers the wider Li-ion market, including detailed analysis of the technology and players. Beyond the problems that may be caused by the rapid growth in material demand, concerns also exist over the environmental impact and sustainability of Li-ion production.
Environmentally, Li-ion recycling, especially via hydrometallurgical or direct recycling routes, is expected to reduce the total energy requirements of producing a cell, compared to using virgin materials. Other emissions, including SOx, NOx, and particulates, in addition to CO2, are also expected to be lower by using recycled material over primary extraction.
The applications for these technologies could include small, city-dwelling electric cars, e-buses, hybrid electric vehicles, fuel-cell trucks, or autonomous guided vehicles, all of which are covered by IDTechEx’s portfolio of EV research.
But the array of energy storage technologies available and underdevelopment is most obvious in the stationary energy storage sector. This is true because energy density becomes a less critical factor in stationary energy storage, allowing a range of technologies to be utilized.
With Solid Power and QuantumScape going public, solid-state batteries are attracting tremendous attention, especially for electric vehicle applications. Electric vehicles are the major motivation for the development of solid-state batteries, and many automotive OEMs have announcements for the year ahead. There have been improvements in every section of solid-state battery technology: polymer, oxide, and sulfide. Of these improvements, a notable one is that a lithium metal anode is essential to get higher energy density, upping the performance of solid-state batteries to make them more competitive.
Thin, flexible and printed batteries have been talked about for a while, with many of them having found niche applications. Lots of the batteries have mature technology, but finding proper applications with large demand is the key to growing this technology. There are quite a lot of companies in the market working in this area, meaning competition is growing all the time.
The company which identifies the most relevant applications – those which require the special features of thin flexible and printed batteries – will be the one to succeed and corner this market.
Na-ion has seen renewed interest after CATL announced their development of Na-ion. Similar in many ways to Li-ion batteries, Na-ion batteries utilize Na as the working element instead of Li, as the name would suggest.
Na-ion batteries are generally characterized by having slightly higher powers and cycle lives than NMC and LFP Li-ion cells, but with slightly lower gravimetric energy densities.
Redox flow batteries differ from intercalation batteries such as Li-ion and Na-ion, by storing energy in the electrolyte, separate to the electrochemical cell, thus allowing the de-coupling of energy power. This key aspect makes RFBs well suited to stationary storage applications, especially long-duration applications. Vanadium is by far the most widely deployed chemistry, with 15-20 companies commercializing vanadium systems.
Green hydrogen is also discussed as a potential solution for long-duration energy storage and continues to receive government support. Electrolyzers, whether PEM, alkaline or solid-oxide type, can be used to produce hydrogen from water to be stored for use at a later time.
Whether long-term storage of hydrogen will become feasible remains to be seen. Storage in gas cylinders may be too costly, while underground storage in aquifers or salt caverns for example has geographic constraints and remains relatively untested.
An alternative H2 storage method being explored consists of injecting H2 into existing natural gas pipelines where there is an inherent energy storage capacity, though there will be limits to the amount of hydrogen that can enter current gas networks.
Beyond this, electrolytic hydrogen will be necessary to green various industries such as ammonia, steel, or chemicals production. The use of hydrogen for energy consumption, where there are alternative solutions, may not be the optimal choice. Instead, it is demand from industrial sectors which IDTechEx expects to drive demand for electrolyzers and green hydrogen.
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