Most people underestimate the advancements that are being made in lithium battery technology every year. In fact, scientists are working hard on this technology, according to Gerard Reid, a financial energy specialist. In just a few years, we will have competitive EVs, and these will be quickly followed by radical improvements that will seriously impact everything from air to maritime transport. This is no small feat, especially when you consider the advancements being made in the #solar energy industry. Speaking of solar energy, it’s hard to imagine a phone could be charged by a plant – but solar news reveals all sorts of possibilities!
Most people nowadays complain that batteries are too small and too expensive. And it’s true to some degree. Today’s batteries don’t necessarily hold a sufficient capacity to be used on a large scale or in industrial settings. And the batteries that are advanced enough to be used in such a way are extremely expensive. In addition, people complain that batteries take too long to charge, especially when one charges them using solar sources. It doesn’t look like batteries can replace fossil fuels to power cars and buses anytime soon. However, advances in battery technology and solar power technology can change this. And it may happen sooner than you think.
These aforementioned problems will be solved over the coming few years. New chemistries and materials will influence both the battery and the solar panel markets. Battery manufacturers are in an increasing competition – solar panel producers are too. This means that things are picking up pace. Batteries with increased capacity that can be quickly charged by solar panels will quickly electrify trucks, buses and even air and sea transport. And lithium looks to be the material of choice.
Lithium is unique because it is very light and has the lowest reduction potential of all the known chemical elements. This means that batteries – and even solar technology – that employ lithium can have unbeatable performance.
The Rise of Solar
Not only will solar and battery technologies advance rapidly – people will start to use these in their homes, businesses and grids. In addition, batteries and solar will be used as part of decentralized energy systems. As stated previously, these batteries will most certainly involve lithium.
Lithium Is the Best Material for Batteries
As stated previously, lithium is perfect for battery and solar technology because it has the lowest reduction potential of all known chemical elements. This makes batteries made out of lithium have unbeatable performance. And there is plenty of lithium for both batteries and solar panels on planet Earth. According to US Geological Survey, there are still at least 400 years’ worth of output left. This is a substantial number, especially when you compare it with how much fossil fuels and gas will last.
The most popular type of battery is the lithium-ion battery. It holds a higher energy and power density and is also quite quick to recharge. If you use solar energy to recharge these batteries, the combination is terrific. These batteries currently power everything from laptops and phones to power tools and electrical vehicles (EVs). However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are several different kinds of lithium-ion batteries – although all of them can be charged using solar.
There are not just different manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries, like Samsung, LG Chem, CATL and Panasonic. There are also five kinds of lithium-ion batteries on the market today: LFP (lithium iron phosphate), LCO (lithium cobalt oxide), NMC (nickel manganese cobalt), NCA (nickel cobalt aluminum) and LMO (lithium manganese oxide). Each one of these battery types is used in a different setting and for different applications. Yet, all of them can be recharged using solar power.
As an example, NMC is generally regarded as the best choice for electrical vehicles applications. Because of the high performance of NMC and its ability to be quickly recharged from solar panels, it is perfect for EVs. Some of its other benefits include safety and a low cost. This means that these lithium-ion batteries, recharged from solar sources, can seriously decrease the cost of electric vehicles. And the performance of NMC batteries can be improved as well.
Presently, the standard NMC battery is called a 333. But what does this mean? It does not have anything to do with solar power or solar panels. Instead, it means that the battery is made out of 3 parts nickel, 3 parts manganese and 3 parts cobalt. In the near future, we will most probably see 811 NMC batteries (8 parts nickel, in other words). The more nickel used in the battery, the more effective the battery is and the faster it recharges from solar sources. Of course, less cobalt also means a lower cost. The problem is that none of these technologies will be good enough to produce a battery capable of powering a plane or a maritime ship – even when the battery is being constantly recharged from solar sources.
Silicon to the Rescue
Nowadays, a graphite anode is used in lithium-ion batteries. However, a very interesting possibility is to use silicon to replace this anode. This does not influence the way the battery is recharged from solar sources, but it does influence its performance. The silicon is not only cheaper, but ten times more energy dense than graphite. However, silicon degrades quite quickly, so the battery’s lifespan will not be too long. The good news is that it will recharge perfectly from solar panels and will be a lot cheaper, even though its lifespan will be shorter.
Companies like Nexeon and Wacker Chemie are already working hard to solve this problem, while other companies are working on advancing solar panel technology. There are rumors that Tesla and Panasonic are already adding silicon into their batteries (the one from Tesla’s Model 3 being the best example). These more efficient batteries will recharge quicker from solar sources and will be less expensive. Other advancements include the replacement of the liquid electrolyte in the battery with a solid electrolyte. This solid electrolyte will be safer and will also improve energy density, making the battery more powerful and easier to recharge from solar sources. However, implementing these changes will take time. Zinc and carbon-ion batteries might also be more popular in the future.
By 2020 it is expected for lithium-battery costs to fall by another 50%. In addition, solar energy costs should decrease by a significant amount. And the average range of electric vehicles will reach 500 kilometers.
Going from test products to production takes time. However, lithium-ion batteries and solar energy will soon reach the point where they are the cheapest option for vehicles, as well as for land and air transportation. However, as the costs of solar power and batteries decrease the cost of an electric vehicle until it costs the same as an internal combustion engine, EVs will start to win more and more shares of the vehicle market. And the growing competition between Europe, China, America, and Japan is another factor that influences the cost and advancements of lithium-ion battery technology and solar power technology.
Radical new technologies such as lithium-sulphur and lithium-air are being closely studied by corporations and manufacturers. And new technologies for harvesting power from solar sources are studied closely as well – following solar news reveals that this is the case. The advancements in solar and battery technology will surely revolutionize the future when it comes to land, air and sea transportation. Seeing the first aircraft or marine vessel powered entirely by a lithium-ion battery (potentially powered by solar energy) will surely be very interesting!