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10 Things to Know About the Future of Batteries

Though batteries play a crucial role in powering nearly all the devices we depend on throughout our lives. As the world begins a shift towards a more sustainable future driven by electricity, and technology plays an ever-increasing role in society, batteries are becoming more important than ever. It’s critical to understand the complex dynamics of the global supply and innovation that drive the battery industry.

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  1. Batteries are a critical part of our everyday lives. Batteries of varying sizes and technologies power devices from phones and laptops to power tools and toys. The EPA estimates Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power their electronics.

  2. Scientists are working to improve battery technology. Researchers have discovered batteries powered by new materials with new structural designs that will upgrade the dated lithium-ion battery technology we have relied upon for decades. Seawater, sand, and several other new materials will eventually fuel our electric vehicles, smartphones, and other devices. These battery technologies are more efficient at charging and staying charged, sustainable to source and produce, and hold more energy to power devices.

  3. Demand for batteries is growing rapidly. Researchers estimate that between 2021 and 2030, the worldwide lithium battery market is expected to grow by a factor of 5 to 10. Increasing demand for consumer electronics as well as the rise of electric vehicles are expected to drive the growth.

  4. Battery costs have begun to rise again after a decade of decline. While the 2010s saw declining battery prices due to manufacturing and production advancements, in the last year supply has failed to keep up with rising demand leading to a severe shortage. In January 2022, the prices of lithium carbonate – a critical component for lithium-ion batteries – rose more to more than 5 times their price in January 2021.

  5. New types of batteries are being developed and growing in popularity. Technologies like lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries provide benefits over lead-acid batteries, frequently used today in automotive and solar settings. LFP batteries also offer benefits over other lithium-based batteries, including better aging and greater material availability of iron over nickel or cobalt. Other technologies, like solid state or sodium-sulfur batteries, also offer unique benefits like lighter weights, faster charging, and simplified manufacturing processes.

  6. Though batteries power new, cleaner devices, the manufacturing process often carries a massive environmental toll. Mining minerals like lithium, cobalt, and nickel is a highly destructive process, frequently requiring massive amounts of water and involving widescale destruction of the surround landscape. Across the U.S., environmental groups have been working to block the opening of the country’s first major lithium mine.

  7. Batteries are expected to play a massive role in the transition to clean energy. The ability to store energy for later use is critical in solving the inconsistency of wind and solar power generation. Massive batteries able to store excess energy generated by solar panels during highly productive daylight hours can power the grid when they go offline after dark. Read more about investment into the technology here.

  8. China has taken a sizable lead in the production of batteries. According to the Washington Post, China currently operates 93 “gigafactories” manufacturing lithium-ion battery cells compared to the United States’ 4. By 2030, their lead is expected to grow with 140 gigfactories in China, compared to 17 in Europe and 10 in the US.

  9. The recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates approximately $6 billion for grant awards for battery technology. The funding will work to expand research and development capacity for the U.S. battery industry, aiming to reduce foreign dependency and potential fallout from supply chain shocks.

  10. Recycling of lithium-ion batteries remains expensive and limited in scope. The Department of Energy estimates that only about 5% of lithium-ion batteries are currently recycled. Researchers are developing new techniques to improve the cost and accessibility of lithium-ion battery recycling.

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