Lithium Economics

Dynamic Technological Development in Lithium-Ion Batteries

Dec 12, 2011

Complements and amendments to my presentation for the Graphite Conference held last week in London

 In my presentation for the Graphite Conference, held just a couple of days ago in London, I argued, among other things, that:

1. The hype about LiFePO type of batteries back in July is probably gone by now following the announcement of temporary lay-offs by A123, a major producer of these batteries in the US;


2.  A new impulse of LiMnO type of batteries is likely to appear, particularly due to the magnificent performance of the Nissan Leaf in the market; on the contrary, the polymer version of them produced by LG Chem may have a set back after the recent fire incidents;


 3. As anticipated in my SeekingAlpha article, we should expect a very important trend in the near future towards development and use of LiNiO type of batteries because of the recent announcements by Toyota and Panasonic/Sanyo in relation to the launch of the electric RAV-4, Model S of Tesla, the European version of Prius, and Toyota´s PHEV; 


4.  Carbon remains the “king of anodes”;


5.  There is more evidence that the Si and Sn alternatives may have to wait for a while before they can be commercialized; and


6. The Ti option appears promising following the announcement that Honda will use Toshiba´s batteries for its up-coming electric vehicle.


As of now, just a few days later, the arguments above need to be complemented or amended as follows:




1.    Nevertheless, the recent announcement that gm’s fully electric Chevy Spark using A123’s Li-ion batteries will hit markets in 2013 is encouraging.


2.    The question remains as to whether this will induce GM to ask A123 to produce its safe Li-ion batteries for the Volt car as well. In the meantime, however, this appears to be an indication that Japan continues to win over South Korea the lithium-ion battery war.


3.     According to a recent article, “Toyota’s new plug-in Prius will definitely have a negative impact on GM’s sales of the Volt...” because “it will be about 20 percent cheaper than the Volt”.




4.    Although carbon remains the “king of anodes” in Li-ion batteries, one needs to wonder whether this dominance will prevail throughout this decade.


5.    Two alternatives to graphite, a well known form of carbon utilized in most Li-ion batteries today, that have been suggested are Sn and Si. In both cases, scientists have argued that use of graphene, a variety of carbon “in which the atoms form a flat sheet just one atom thick”, will be necessary.  Nevertheless, recent discoveries are now talking about both a silicon nanowire fabric without the addition of conductive carbon or binder and a magic powder made of silicon and silver that may revolutionize energy storage systems in the near future.


6.    The Ti option looks more promising now following the announcement that Mitsubishi and Honda will use Toshiba´s scib batteries for their up-coming electric vehicles.  

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