Oct 2023 Roundup
⭐ A really warm welcome to our newest sponsor, TA Instruments! We’re so excited to work with them as the leader in analytical instrumentation for battery characterization, and share some of their knowledge and products with our readers.
Electrode slurries are gaining prominence as a critical area for battery improvement and innovation, and for good reason. These slurries allow the transfer of lithium ions between electrodes and offer critical opportunities to optimize manufacturing for efficiency, reduced cost, and improved battery performance. Slurry researchers face common challenges: (1) What temperature and speed are best for mixing and coating? (2) How do different additives or particle sizes affect stability and processing? (3) What is the slurry’s shelf life? (4) How can quality control be assessed?
Rheology, the study of the flow and deformation of materials, is a powerful technique for analyzing the viscosity and viscoelasticity performance of battery slurries. As the world leader in advanced rheometers for research and material development, TA Instruments offers resources to help battery developers understand slurry rheology:
Learn how to measure the influence of particle size on battery slurries in this Application Note, and learn how to predict slurry behavior, choose the best materials, and improve manufacturing in this eBook of slurry research examples.
🌏 Center stage: China’s strategic moves
Probably the standout developments this month is China's imposition of restrictions on graphite exports, set to take effect on December 1, 2023. This strategic decision trails their prior export controls of gallium and germanium. It's worth noting that China is responsible for producing 94% of gallium and 83% of germanium globally, both of which are essential for semiconductor manufacturing.
Graphite is the first battery raw material to be placed under export control. With China being its premier global producer, graphite's significance cannot be understated, especially as a short-term and medium-term critical material for the US.
This comes after a quarter of oversupply of batteries in China (418 GWh produced, 219 GWh installed YTD), resulting in lower costs overall which can be a risk to wash out budding non-Chinese companies.
This is a big deal as graphite typically makes up 15-20% of the overall battery cell, and its restricted export can give China a strategic advantage in battery manufacturing. Such a move might escalate prices globally, further emphasizing China's influence. It also highlights the importance of developing domestic supply chains with free trade agreement parties, as well as solutions non-reliant on battery grade graphite that originates from a single country. Probably the most up-and-coming anode materials include silicon anodes which we’ve written about extensively, and more nascent synthetic graphite from bio sources / carbon capture / etc1.
In a similar light, Geely has launched their Zeekr EV model in Europe and expected to start selling towards the end of this year, pretty mindblowing considering the model was announced in 2021. BYD has also made inroads into Europe this year with Grace Donnelly from CTVC writing a really good roundup of BYD).
Our friend Ulderico Ullissi put it perfectly: “it is quite exciting, as it also brings the opportunity of more affordable EVs, as well as cutting age technologies. However, it is becoming more and more evident how European legacy carmakers are lagging behind.”
Meanwhile, EU is investigating Chinese any illegal subsidies of electric vehicles and whether EU EVs are at risk.
🔋 Full steam ahead on investments and partnerships in the value chain
LGES will invest $3b into their Holland, Michigan facility to supply batteries to Toyota in Kentucky. LGES is investing a lot into partnerships with other companies and now has fingers in several pies including GM, Stellantis, Hyundai, Toyota.
In a move that bridges traditional sectors and their slow evolution, Toyota has partnered with Japanese petroleum company Idemitsu Kosan to co-develop a sulfide-based solid state electrolyte aiming for release in 2027-28. We would love to learn more about the expertise in petroleum translating to solid state electrolytes because this seems like a stretch.
VW Powerco and Umicore are buddying up, in a JV called IONWAY, to produce 160 GWh of cathode active materials (CAM) and pCAM per year.
Argentina Lithium raised $90m from Stellantis. This investment is directed at bolstering lithium development in Argentina, with an eye on ensuring a consistent supply for the broader Stellantis family.
Northvolt Six lands in Quebec, Canada. Sweden based manufacturer is setting up its sixth site as a 60 GWh factory to maximize reach to the North American market and take advantage of IRA credits.
🚀 Startup movements
Peak Energy has launched from stealth mode working on Na ion battery pack manufacturing, increasingly important for lithium alternatives.
Making batteries and vehicles continues to be hard. Swedish company Volta Trucks filed for bankruptcy follow a few other EV bankruptcies this summer including Proterra, Nikola, Lordstown, and Arrival.
Energy Vault, disrupting Li-ion batteries with gravity storage, has pivoted to Li-ion batteries.
🔬 Research world
The UK government is investing £89m into startups developing net-zero battery technologies. There seems to be an increase in focus on upstream raw materials. This includes several companies like Talga (graphite / graphite-silicon anodes), Greenroc Mining (UK graphite processing plant), Aberdeen Minerals (cathode raw materials), Cornish Lithium lithium extraction in Cornwall), Altilium (battery recycling), Green Lithium Refining (lithium plant in Teeside).
🎧 What else we’re reading and listening to
Intercalation: Battery Component Price Report - October 2023
Our contributor Issy published an article in the IOM3 journal this month on critical minerals, and you can read it here!
Kaggle: ESO Battery Forecasting Hackathon. Forecast battery behaviour for Great Britain's Electricity System Operator.
Energy Wire: Unionizing UAW battery factories (very interesting article covering the labor force in battery factories, especially when it comes to cost of labor and working conditions)
Energy Policy Now: The U.S.'s Critical Mineral Supply Challenge
The Walrus: The Future of Mining Small (great article about mining with microbes, but more specifically an idea of a database of all the “fingerprints” of microbes at different mine sites").
🌞 Thanks for reading!
📧 For tips, feedback, or inquiries - reach out
It would be interesting to do a review of graphite… will plan it in for 2024.