Switching From Lithium-Ion Could Be Harder Than You Think

Date: Oct 19, 2017

Electricity storage based on cheaper materials faces an uphill struggle.

Massive investments in lithium-ion battery production could thwart the search for other battery options based on lower-cost ingredients, despite the efforts of numerous lithium-ion contenders.

Already, “There are cheaper alternatives in terms of raw materials,” said Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Caspar Rawles. “But what we have had happen over the last three years is a huge investment in manufacturing infrastructure for lithium-ion.”

Worldwide, the number of lithium-ion ‘megafactories,’ which Benchmark Mineral Intelligence defines as cell-producing facilities with more than 1 gigawatt-hour of production capacity per year, has gone from just a couple three years ago to around 20 today.

About half of those are in China, Rawles said. At the end of 2016, global lithium-ion battery production capacity stood at 28 gigawatt-hours, with 16.4 gigawatt-hours in China.

Globally, this is set to increase 521 percent, to 174 gigawatt-hours, by 2020, according to BMI forecasts.

China will account for 62 percent of production, with almost 108 gigawatt-hours a year, followed by the U.S. with 22 percent (38 gigawatt-hours), South Korea with 13 percent (23 gigawatt-hours) and Poland with 3 percent (5 gigawatt-hours).

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