January 04, 2010
Yet Another Promising Battery Chemistry

Yet another company with a new lithium battery chemistry is touting their chemistry will cut costs and make electric cars more affordable. British company Qinetiq claims 1.6 times the energy density of existing lithium batteries at half the cost.

The battery is based on lithium-ion iron-sulfide chemistry, which has a number of advantages over the chemistry of existing batteries, says Gary Mepsted, technical manager for Qinetiq's power sources group. The new battery would cost half as much as existing vehicle batteries and could last longer and recharge more quickly that other lithium batteries.

It is a measure of the perceived future demand for vehicle batteries that so many companies and academic research groups are announcing advances and prospects for future cost drops for vehicle batteries. I see a couple of factors driving this interest. First off, the remaining oil is mostly in harder to reach places with an increasing fraction of all oil exploration happening in deep water and in the Arctic The remaining land-based oil is heavvier and more expensive to process (e.g. Alberta tar sands). Second, the political movement pushing for carbon taxes to stop global warming further raise the expectations for more expensive liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

With competitive biomass energy fuels looking like a distant prospect pluggable hybrid and pure electric cars become the major contenders for cutting liquid fossil fuels usage.

Anyone know what percentage of a lithium battery is lithium? I'm curious to get an idea of what percentage of the battery's cost comes from raw materials. Do we need to wait for carbon nanotube batteries in order for vehicle batteries to become really cheap?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 04 11:42 PM  Energy Batteries


Comments
Bruce said at January 5, 2010 8:14 AM:

CAGW?

How many people did AGW fanatics kill this winter in Europe with their crap weather predictions and useless windmills and overpriced heating and electricity?

The world is awash in hydrocarbons Randall. AGW fanatcis, OTOH, are trying to claim otherwise to panic peopel to squander their money (trillions) on "green" technology that will fail in the cold when it is most needed. If the next 30 years stay on this winters course (and 30 cycles are quite normal - 1910/1940 warming, 1945-1975 cooling, 1975-2000 warming) then those batteries that suck in the cold are going to get people killed.

random said at January 5, 2010 9:52 AM:

There were a couple old posts about the cost of lithium at $300/lb, but the sources looked pretty old. Apparently lithium is not traded on any open exchanges, and the only accurate pricing info is aggregated by London-based Metal Bulletin. Out of curiosity, I signed up for a 1-week trial membership (For anyone curious, check metalbulletin@mailinator.com for the login info.)

Lithium Ore Spodumene (7.25% Li2O) is currently priced at $650 per tonne shipped to EU. I have no idea what the processing costs would be to produce pure Lithium from that.

Engineer-Poet said at January 9, 2010 8:39 PM:

Everyone's fixated on the cold snaps in the Midwest and England, but ignoring the unseasonable warmth elsewhere.  This is all due to strange behavior of the jet stream, and we can expect to see more of it.

Nick G said at January 10, 2010 8:33 AM:

E-P,

Good point - anyone who wants to evaluate Nissan's business plan better include Better Place, and the demand it's going to create in Denmark, Israel, San Francisco, etc. Those governments recognize the social costs of an oil addiction, and are making a large commitment to building charging stations to solve the range problem, and buying EV's from Nissan.

Nick G said at January 10, 2010 8:37 AM:

oops - that's a duplicate comment meant for another post thread.

DaveD said at January 10, 2010 8:50 AM:

Good discussion of Lithium "Scarcity" Nick, thanks.

I agree that there really is no scarcity, in fact there is enough to make BILLIONS of vehicles even from known reserves.

When it comes to Lithium availability, I like to think in terms of pure lithium verse lithium carbonate because there are different sources of lithium.

It takes 80g of lithium to make a kWh of lithium batteries. From http://safetravel.dot.gov/definitions.html
"Most lithium ion batteries marketed to consumers are below 100 watt-hours (8 grams ELC)" -> Therefore 80g/kWh

This means the Chevy volt's 16kWh pack uses 1.28kg of lithium. That is not a lot of raw material folks.

And this is from R. Keith Evans who is widely recognized as one of the foremost authorities on lithium in the world and he has done this work for over 30 years for the industry who actually mines it. From http://www.worldlithium.com/An_Abundance_of_Lithium_1.html
"This current estimate totals 28.4 million tonnes Li equivalent to more than 150.0 million tonnes of lithium carbonate of which nearly 14.0 million tonnes lithium (about 74.0 million tonnes of carbonate) are at active or proposed operations."

So we could create over 22 BILLION Chevy volts. Seems kind of silly to listen to everyone scream that we're running out of Lithium. And it's only a few dollars per tonne of pure lithium.

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