As the world shifts to electric vehicles to reduce climate change, it is important to quantify the future demand for key battery materials. In a new report, Chengjian Xu (phonetic), Bernhard Steubing and a team of researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands and Argonne National Laboratory in the US show that demand for lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese oxide based batteries will increase many-fold from 2020 to 2050.
As a result, the supply chain for lithium, cobalt and nickel will need to expand significantly and additional resources may need to be found. However, the uncertainty is high relative to the development of the electric vehicle fleet and the battery capacity per vehicle. While closed-loop recycling has a small but increasingly important role to play in reducing the demand for key materials until 2050, researchers must implement advanced recycling strategies to economically recover battery-grade materials from end-of-life batteries. The study has now been published in Nature Communications Materials.
Compared to vehicles with internal combustion engines, electric vehicles have a lower impact on the climate. This advantage has led to a significant increase in demand, with the global fleet growing from a few thousand vehicles a decade ago to 7.5 million by 2019. However, the global automotive market is still limited on average and future growth is expected to dwarf the absolute volume growth of the past.
Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are currently the dominant technology for electric vehicles. A typical automotive LIB has lithium, cobalt and nickel as the negative electrode, graphite as the positive electrode and aluminium and copper as the other components. Battery technology is now moving towards new and improved chemistry.
In this work, Xu et al. examine the global material requirements for lightweight electric vehicle batteries, from lithium, nickel and cobalt to graphite and silicon, and relate the material requirements to ongoing production capacity and known reserves to discuss the key factors for improving batteries. This work will assist the transition to electric vehicles by providing insight into the future demand for battery materials, and the key factors driving it.