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2017-11-29

The Big Family of Batteries




Li-ion Batteries are the talk of town in the tech industry, but clarity on the subject is scarce, and very often the word "Battery" is used interchangeably to indicate those relying on the reversible shuttling of lithium ion (Li-ion batteries, or LIB), and many other different energy storage technologies that have little in common with each other.
Even within the LIB realm, several cell chemistries coexist, with variations being determined by the type of cathode or anode used, or by the applications they are meant to serve, e.g. high power and high energy. An example of this ramification is the difference between traction batteries and those commonly found in smartphones and other consumer electronics devices. Although both of them are based on the Li-ion technology, electric vehicle (EV) batteries rely on high energy density cathode materials (NMC532 and beyond), as well as on cooling systems and complex performance management electronics. Several tens, if not hundreds, of pouch cells are used in an EV, and it is common to task some of those cells to supply power during acceleration or for energy recuperation, and others to handle the baseload energy demand. For this reason, EV batteries and all the ancillary services around them make up a significant portion of the total cost of an electric car, and many countries worldwide are competing to retain ownership of the associated value chain.
IDTechEx has recently published a major update on the topic, with a brand-new market report on Li-ion batteries, that follows this technology, from the raw materials needed to the many use cases, via Gigafactories, materials innovation, and detailed company profiles. For more information, check "Li-ion Batteries 2018-2028" at www.idtechex.com/lithium.
Compared to EV batteries, smartphone ones are far simpler, they only constitute a small portion of the total bill of materials; they are considered as commodities with low operating margins, and as a result innovation in that space is so far limited. Most of them still rely on LCO cathodes, which have been already phased out in the automotive sector, and users do not see the point of having a smartphone with a battery that can last longer than a day - a more energy-dense battery will simply make people use their devices more intensively, so at the end of the day they will still need to plug their phones and tablets to the mains.

These aspects are analysed in a second report that delves into the topic of advanced Li-ion batteries further, by analysing the differences between all the available cathode chemistries (LCO, NMC, NCA, LFP) as well as innovations being reported on new anode materials like lithium metal and silicon. This report is also complemented with a benchmark analysis of competing battery technologies, like lithium-sulphur, lithium-air, sodium-ion, supercapacitors, flow batteries, and so on