Why efficient battery recycling soon will become mandatory and what needs to be the focus on future-proof battery designs
Global battery market outlook and status quo
The battery market is one of the largest markets in the world, but certainly also the market with the highest expected growth. The total supply of batteries was 185GWh in 2020 and according to numerous credible sources the market will increase tenfold in less than 10 years. For the period from 2020 until 2030 the CAGR will be approx. 27% which leads to a market volume of 2035GWh for batteries in 2030.
Fig. 1: Projected global battery demand from 2020 to 2030, by application in GWh
But these numbers seem to be too conversational according to the recently released figures by SNE Research which rated the total market volume to 296,62GWh in 2021 which is approximately 6% above the expected demand in 2021.
Transportation application are the main driver for the expected growth which also includes the key industry of passenger electric vehicle (EV). Combined with commercial EV the demand of batteries is rated to more than 1700GWh in 2030 starting at 100GWh in 2020. This massive uptick brings lots of stress to battery supplier as they need to rapidly increase their production capacity (especially in Europe) for cost efficient traction batteries.
The total energy demand will increase dramatically with the growing number of EVs as they need to be charged. Along with this it will become necessary to support the grid with peak shaving or buffer energy storage systems especially for fast charging stations (stationary as in the chart above).
The demand of raw materials like Lithium will soon exceed the supply
For the current situation of raw material shortage already led to an increased price of Li-Ion batteries. While the lithium price is known to be volatile a trend is though to be recognized in an increasing price per ton.
Fig. 2: Price development of Lithium per ton
We can expect the price not to decrease as the demand remains high and begins to exceed the supply capacity. This problem becomes real between 2023 and 2027
Fig. 3: Demand and supply of Lithium
To massively increase the recycling efforts to recover the valuable raw martials will be the key to success soon also to become less dependent from Chinese raw material suppliers. Global car manufacturer such as Volkswagen already face this problem and plan to achieve a recovery rate of 95% for the raw materials from their batteries which is also driven by EU regulations. Huge investments in recycling plants and methods by almost every global acting car manufacturer and battery (cell) supplier can currently be observed.
When it comes to the recycling process it is necessary to avoid contamination to achieve a high recovery rate of raw material. To recycle single cells extracted from the battery pack is the best solution. Because of welded and/or bonded battery packs this process will cause high costs for battery disassembly and results in inefficiency compared with buying new raw materials. To have a future-proof battery it will become mandatory to focus on sustainable technology with 2nd life capability and efficient recycling possibilities with optimized disassembly costs and an attractive TCO.
Considering the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) to gain more attractivity on sustainable batteries
Approximately 40% production costs of a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) rely to the battery system. The competition therefore was to keep the battery purchase price (= production price) as low as possible. But if you consider the TCO you also need to add another component to your calculation besides the purchase price.
During the development process of a battery further application scenarios should be considered than just the 1st life within the vehicle so that they will become “2nd life ready”. Optional a sustainable and easy assembly and disassembly packaging technology shall be used to achieve the highest possible flexibility for 2nd life application as they can be set up at cell level or to grant a cell refurbishment to extend the batteries lifetime. Because of a huge increase of BEV and PHEV our power demand is quickly rising too and needs us to improve the grid as well.
At the very first stage of development the suitable battery cell is to be determined. With the 3 competing form factors cylindrical, pouch and prismatic cells and their individual advantages only one can be chosen, also for the following 2nd life. Cylindrical cells such as 18650 and 21700 are predestined for a sustainable use as they are industrial standardized and have a huge range of application in which they can be installed.
Fig. 4: 2nd life EV battery supply and utility scale
Peak shaving and buffer energy storage systems for fast charging stations may become necessary as the local power supply is insufficient for simultaneous charging. Those stationary energy storage systems have alternating electrical, legal and safety requirements so that adaptions may be needed for 2nd life BEV/PHEV batteries.
To keep the TCO low, it should therefore be considered during development that at least a simple adaptation for 2nd life is possible. This may result in a higher purchase and/or production price of the battery but it will pay off taking the TCO into account and profit from the 2nd life.
The time is now to rethink about the strategy of batteries as we only have one world with limited resources! Wasting resources just to keep the production costs as low as possible is the wrong way. Developing sustainable and future-proof battery systems will be a key aspect within our energy revolution.
A question of advanced battery packaging technology with a focus of sustainability
Energy supply can be made climate-compatible and independent of raw material imports by generating electricity and heat from renewable sources. In particular, the use of fluctuating renewable energies from photovoltaic and wind power plants requires environmentally and climate-friendly as well as efficient and resource-saving energy storage solutions.
This is exactly where E-Stream’s innovative e.quikk technology kicks in. The specially developed and patented packaging concept for the electrical and mechanical connection of battery cells by means of special multilayer printed circuit boards opens the possibility to extract each individual battery cell from the battery pack without destroying it. This allows E-Stream battery systems to be refreshed, comparable to a software update. In this process, the old battery cells are extracted from the storage systems and will be refurbished. This significantly extends the service life of the system components of the E-Stream energy storage systems and thus conserves energy and raw material resources.
The non-destructive removal of used battery cells that no longer meet the requirements of certain products allows them to be operated for years in 2nd life applications with lower power requirements and to operate independent from their 1st life application. Since battery cells contain critical raw materials (lithium, natural graphite) as well as valuable metals (copper, aluminum, nickel, manganese, cobalt), using 2nd life cells is of high strategic, economic, and environmental importance. In addition to a multitude of technical advantages, the e.quikk technology is characterized by a non-destructive disassembly process of battery storage systems and which is reversible.
Due to the significantly simplified separation of raw materials, enormous savings in time, costs and energy can be generated in the recycling process of E-Stream battery systems, paving the way for a sensible and effective circular economy.
Statement by Thomas Kraemer (CEO E-Stream)
We are in the middle of the energy era. The market demands sustainable and high-performance energy storage solutions that can also be reused to meet climate targets in combination with the resulting energy demand. We at E-Stream are confident that our technology will make a decisive contribution to this.