What’s next for batteries in 2023
Solid-state batteries can use a wide range of chemistries, but a major candidate for commercialization uses lithium metal. Quantumscape, for its part, is focused on this technology and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars before going public in 2020. The company has a deal with Volkswagen that could put its batteries in cars by 2025.
But completely reinventing batteries has proven difficult, and lithium-metal batteries have raised concerns about degradation over time, as well as manufacturing challenges. Quantumscape announced in late December that it had delivered samples to automotive partners for testing, an important step on the road to introducing solid-state batteries in cars. Other solid state battery drives, like Solid Power, are also working to build and test their batteries. But while they could also achieve significant milestones this year, their batteries won’t be incorporated into vehicles on the road in 2023.
Solid-state batteries aren’t the only new technology to watch. Sodium-ion batteries also deviate significantly from the lithium-ion chemistries common today. These batteries are similar in design to lithium-ion batteries, including a liquid electrolyte, but instead of relying on lithium, they use sodium as the primary chemical ingredient. Chinese battery giant CATL reportedly plans to start mass-producing them in 2023.
Sodium-ion batteries may not improve performance, but they could reduce costs because they rely on cheaper and more widely available materials than lithium-ion chemistries. But it’s unclear whether these batteries will be able to meet the range and charging time needs of electric vehicles, which is why several companies researching the technology, such as US-based Natron, are targeting applications less demanding to start, such as stationary storage or micromobility devices. such as electric bicycles and scooters.
Today, the market for batteries for fixed-grid storage is small — about a tenth the size of the market for batteries for electric vehicles, according to Yayoi Sekine, head of energy storage at energy research firm BloombergNEF. But the demand for electricity storage is growing as more and more renewable energy is installed, as major renewable energy sources like wind and solar are variable, and batteries can help store electricity. energy when needed.
Lithium-ion batteries are not ideal for stationary storage, although they are commonly used there today. As batteries for electric vehicles become smaller, lighter and faster, the main objective of stationary storage is to reduce costs. Size and weight don’t matter as much for grid storage, which means different chemistries will likely win out.
One of the rising stars in stationary storage is iron, and two players could see progress in the coming year. Form Energy is developing an iron-air battery that uses a water-based electrolyte and essentially stores energy using reversible rust. The company recently announced a $760 million manufacturing plant in Weirton, West Virginia, slated to begin construction in 2023. Another company, ESS, builds a different type of iron battery that uses similar chemistry; it began manufacturing at its headquarters in Wilsonville, Oregon.
Changes in the standard
Lithium-ion batteries keep getting better and cheaper, but researchers are still tweaking the technology for better performance and lower costs.