Alternative Battery Technologies Roadmap 2030+
Motivation and Background
Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are at the forefront of the global battery market, expected to dominate the market reaching up to one TWh by 2023. Their rapid adoption, especially in electric vehicles and mobile devices, has surpassed lead-acid batteries. However, the geopolitical landscape is altering, with China's dominance in the battery sector being scrutinized. Responses include European and American initiatives to boost regional battery production and ensure sustainable and safe battery value chains.
Internationally, a shift towards concentrated funding for battery technologies is evident, focusing on reducing dependencies and enhancing market structures. Europe's concerns mainly revolve around securing the entire battery supply chain, from raw materials to production capacities. Some strategies include local mining (especially for lithium) and recycling of LIBs. But these approaches might not offer immediate solutions to the dependency problem.
Despite these efforts, battery demand will skyrocket in the next decade. This surge in demand and the reliance on a single prominent technology make exploring alternative battery options critical. The roadmap outlined here focuses on promising, yet largely uncommercialized, alternative battery technologies like Sodium-ion, Magnesium-ion, Zinc-ion batteries, and others. The objective is to provide a comprehensive view, comparing these alternatives to LIBs from technical, economic, and ecological perspectives, based on extensive research and expert consultations.
- Alternative Battery Technologies: Metal-ion batteries like Sodium-ion batteries (SIBs) are structurally similar to LIBs but have better sustainability and reduced resource dependence. Zinc-ion batteries (ZIBs) have a lower energy density but a reduced environmental footprint. Magnesium-ion batteries (MIBs) could potentially surpass LIBs in energy density. Aluminum-ion batteries (AIBs) have a high power density but lag in energy density compared to other metal-ion batteries.
- Applications: In mobile applications, Sodium-ion batteries might be the first alternative to be utilized. They are close to commercialization and may soon be used in small vehicles. Magnesium-ion batteries might be suitable for larger vehicles by 2040, while Lithium-sulfur batteries could be used in drones by mid-decade. In stationary applications, alternative battery technologies, given their varied specifications, could be more prominent.
- Europe's Position: Europe seems better positioned in the development of some alternative battery technologies, with patent and publication shares ranging from 15-20%. However, the activity in LIBs is much more significant, with 5-30 times the number of publications and patents.
- Raw Material Dependencies: Non-Lithium based batteries use fewer critical raw materials, potentially reducing dependencies. However, most alternatives have lower energy densities, necessitating more raw materials for the same storage capacity.
- Production and Scalability: Metal-Ion batteries have production steps similar to LIBs, making them more attractive for scalability. They could potentially be cheaper than LIBs when produced at scale.
- Potential Markets: The battery market is on the pathway to diversify, with alternative battery technologies complementing LIBs in niche markets or new applications. In the next 5-10 years, markets readiness of several alternative technologies is anticipated.
Recommendations for Europe and Germany
For Europe and Germany to harness the potential of alternative battery technologies, policy support might be necessary, especially in the early phases. A holistic policy approach could propel key technologies towards market readiness. This would encompass the entire supply chain, from R&D to commercialization. Moreover, fostering an environment for both large firms and SMEs/startups is crucial.
Furthermore, a continuous assessment of technologies, setting clear milestones, and monitoring progress is vital. This ensures adaptability to the evolving geopolitical and environmental landscape while remaining at the cutting edge of battery technology development.