Advances in Battery Technology

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Advances in Battery Technology

by James G. Barr

Docid: 00018027

Publication Date: 2206

Publication Type: TUTORIAL


Until recently, when most people thought about batteries they thought
about those small alkaline cylinders that powered flashlights, children’s
toys, and household appliances. Today, batteries (usually
the lithium-ion variety) occupy a more prominent space: Powering smartphones and laptops; enabling hybrid, and now all-electric, vehicles;
and storing energy generated by rooftop solar panels. Of these
applications, the ability of batteries to match or even exceed the
performance of gasoline-powered internal combustion engines is critically
important, as conventional cars are a major contributor of climate
change-inducing greenhouse gases.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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Until recently, when most people thought about batteries, they thought
about those small alkaline cylinders that powered flashlights, children’s
toys, and small household appliances.

Faulkner Reports
Mobile Device Fires: Their
Cause and Prevention Tutorial

Today, however, batteries (usually the lithium-ion variety) occupy a more
prominent space:

  • Powering smartphones and laptops;
  • Enabling hybrid, and now all-electric, vehicles; and
  • Storing energy generated by rooftop solar panels.

Of these applications, the ability of batteries to match, hopefully
exceed, the performance of gasoline-powered internal combustion engines is
critically important, as conventional cars are a major contributor of
climate change-inducing greenhouse gases. While electric car
companies like Tesla have gained considerable media attention, the truth
is that “less than one (1) percent of the 250 million cars, SUVs, and
light-duty trucks on the road in the US are electric,” and “getting
drivers to switch from gas-powered to electric vehicles (EVs) is essential
for the US to be carbon-neutral by 2050.”1

Notwithstanding the need for safe, efficient, and affordable EV
batteries, the technology is still maturing. At present, the
batteries are generally:

  • Too big (volume-wise)
  • Too heavy
  • Too time-consuming to charge (relative to a traditional gas station

EV batteries also lack the “energy density” of gasoline given that
gas-powered vehicles generally travel farther on a single tank than
electric vehicles travel on a single charge.

Other obstacles include:

  • The lack of readily-accessible charging stations, particularly in rural
  • The reliance of EV batteries on rare earth minerals like cobalt
  • The potential for cabin fires (especially in the aftermath of accidents);
    and, of course
  • The concerns relative to disposal and recycling

This report will examine the current state of battery technology and
preview recent advances.

Lithium-Ion Battery Technology

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A battery – in all its various forms – is basically a device that
converts chemical energy into electrical energy by means of,
appropriately, an electrochemical reaction.

Today’s most popular form of rechargeable battery is the lithium-ion
, which is widely deployed in smartphones, laptops, and
electric vehicles, among other use cases. As described by the US Department of Energy, a lithium-ion battery, like
all batteries, consists of an anode, cathode, separator, electrolyte, and
two current collectors (positive and negative). The anode and
cathode store the lithium. The electrolyte carries positively
charged lithium ions from the anode to the cathode and vice versa through
the separator. The movement of the lithium ions creates free
electrons in the anode which creates a charge at the positive current
collector. The electrical current then flows from the current
collector through a device being powered (like a smartphone or laptop) to
the negative current collector. The separator blocks the flow of
electrons inside the battery.

While the battery is discharging and providing an electric current, the
anode releases lithium ions to the cathode, generating a flow of electrons
from one side to the other. When plugging in the device, the
opposite happens: Lithium ions are released by the cathode and received by
the anode.2

Note: For an historical perspective, the first true battery was
invented by the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta in 1800. Volta’s
battery featured stacked discs of copper and zinc separated by cloth
soaked in salty water.3

National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries

The US government is heavily invested in lithium – and non-lithium –
battery technologies as reflected in the “National Blueprint for Lithium
Batteries: 2021-2030,” produced and published by the Federal Consortium
for Advanced Batteries (FCAB).4

Electric Vehicles Market

For electric vehicles, the leading battery technology is expected to be
lithium-based, which offers high energy, high power, and long lifetimes
compared to other currently available battery systems. (Figure 1
shows a typical EV charging station.) EVs are a critical driver of
the demand for lithium-ion batteries and are the primary market focus when
outlining the need for domestic lithium-ion battery manufacturing.

Figure 1. Tesla Charging Station

Figure 1. Tesla Charging Station

Source: Pixabay

While US-based manufacturing of lithium ion batteries needs to greatly
expand to meet the needs of the growing domestic market, the country has a
strong foundation on which to build additional manufacturing capacity.

Stationary Storage Market

With greater duration requirements and less stringent density and weight
constraints, non-lithium storage technologies may emerge as the most
cost-effective long-term solutions for stationary storage. However,
through the first half of 2020, lithium-ion batteries accounted for 98
percent of commissioned utility-scale stationary storage projects.

Stationary energy storage can benefit the electricity grid by providing
many services such as enabling high penetration of intermittent renewable
energy sources, serving remote communities, supporting transportation
electrification, increasing resilience, optimizing energy production and
usage, and supporting critical services like healthcare.

Electric Aviation Market

As with electric vehicles, electric aircraft have the potential for
emission-free air travel. A near-term developing market is electric
vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft (see Figure 2) used for
urban package delivery and air mobility for up to four passengers. The next aviation market segment is expected to be the all-electric or
hybrid-electric commuter aircraft with about ten passengers.

Figure 2. SureFly eVTOL Aircraft

Figure 2. SureFly eVTOL Aircraft

Source: Wikimedia Commons

There are strong global growth opportunities for the hybrid electric
regional aircraft market following the introduction of the first 50- to
70-seat hybrid electric aircraft which is planned for 2028. Advanced
lithium-ion batteries with high specific energy and power density have the
potential to enable electric aircraft propulsion. Current and
developmental lithium-ion batteries could enable the initial commercial
introduction of eVTOL aircraft; however, significant advances in
lithium-ion battery technologies will be required for expansion of the
commercial electric aircraft market to multiple classes of aircraft such
as large regional and single-aisle 737-class aircraft.

Emerging Battery Technologies

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While lithium-ion still dominates the battery market, researchers are
pursuing other promising technologies.

Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP)

Although lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries offer a lower energy density
than their lithium-ion counterparts, LFP batteries have the virtue of being
exceedingly safe, a key feature, especially for electric vehicle
manufacturers. As analyst Anton Beck observes, an LFP battery “has exceptional thermal
and chemical stability at higher temperatures, and consistent power at
room temperatures. The battery normally stays cool as it will not
explode or catch fire during overcharging or when experiencing
overheating. In addition, lithium iron phosphate is not toxic. Disposal of this chemistry is easier and more cost-effective for

In addition, LFP materials are easier and cheaper to source since they
contain no nickel or
cobalt, which has prompted Tesla to shift more of its shorter-range
vehicles to LFP batteries.6


Created by engineers at the University of Texas at Austin, the
sodium-sulfur battery is attracting attention because, like the lithium
iron phosphate battery, the raw materials, in this case sodium and sulfur,
are easier and cheaper to source.

“I call it a dream technology because sodium and sulfur are abundant,
environmentally benign, and the lowest cost you [can] think of,” said
Arumugam Manthiram, director of UT’s Texas Materials Institute and
professor in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. “With
expanded electrification and increased need for renewable energy storage
going forward, cost and affordability will be the single dominant factor.”7

Graphene Aluminum-Ion

As reported in Light Metal Age, the “Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMG),
located in Brisbane, Australia, [has] developed graphene aluminum-ion
battery cells that the company claims charge 60 times faster than the best
lithium-ion cells, and can hold three times the energy of the best
aluminum-based cells.

“The battery cells use nanotechnology to insert aluminum atoms inside tiny
perforations in graphene planes. The specific aluminum-ion battery
composition consists of an aluminum foil anode, a graphene cathode, and an
aluminum-chloride electrolyte. No lithium, copper, manganese, or
cobalt are used in the design.

“If GMG’s research proves fruitful, the graphene aluminum-ion batteries
could provide an answer to a lot of the concerns surrounding EV car
batteries. They would provide a longer range and charge much
faster. They would also be a more sustainable solution, as the
batteries are easier to recycle due to their stable base materials. The new graphene aluminum batteries are also safer, with no upper ampere
limit to cause spontaneous overheating.”8


As reported by analyst Pranshu Verma, a number of prominent car makers,
including Toyota, Ford, and Volkswagen, have been engaged “in a fierce
contest to perfect the solid-state battery, long-viewed as a ‘holy grail’
for electric vehicles.”9

As compared to the prevailing lithium-ion technology, solid-state

  • Contain no liquid electrolytes
  • Charge quicker
  • Last longer
  • Are less prone to catching fire

Solid-State Operations

As shown in Figure 3, the operation of a solid-state battery is similar
to a non-solid-state battery, only simpler. In both cases, an
electrical flow is generated by ions moving through the electrolyte
between the cathode and the anode. In a solid-state battery,
however, the electrolyte is solid, meaning there is no need for a
separator, or a barrier to keep the solution surrounding the cathode from
mixing with the solution surrounding the anode.

According to Murata Manufacturing, “The key to research into solid-state
batteries is the discovery and/or development of solid-state
materials. In the past, no solid-state material had been discovered
that could allow ions to move around inside and create a sufficient flow of
electricity to the electrodes. But the discovery of such materials has
given momentum to the development of solid-state batteries. By
changing from a liquid to solid electrolyte, the ions will move well in
batteries, making it possible to create batteries with larger capacity and
higher output than lithium-ion batteries.”10

Figure 3. Solid-State Battery with Polymer Separator

Figure 3. Solid-State Battery with Polymer Separator

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Lei Cheng, a chemist and material science expert at Argonne National
Laboratory, said there’s ‘no doubt’ that solid-state batteries will
replace lithium-ion batteries in the future. The new batteries,
which would replace flammable liquid electrolytes with a solid layer of
graphite, could be safer, reduce dependency on nickel and cobalt, and hold
more power in a cheaper way, she said, making them alluring to car


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Advances in battery technology can also advance enterprise interests,
enabling, for example:

  1. A more aggressive vehicle replacement strategy, with the aim of
    creating an environmentally-friendly, all-electric enterprise fleet.
  2. As a secondary effect, a more ambitious posture relative to
    decarbonization, as gas-guzzling cars and trucks are eliminated from
    enterprise inventories.
  3. The opportunity, as appropriate, to start a government-funded battery
    business. Last year’s “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act”
    allocated $6 billion for initiatives aimed at expanding US-based
    research and development, bolstering domestic battery production, and
    shoring up an American supply chain frequently reliant on foreign metals
    and raw materials.12
  4. The chance to devote more enterprise assets to business-building, and
    fewer assets to fighting climate change.

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1 Fielding Cage. “The Long Road to Electric Cars.” Reuters.
February 7, 2022.

2 “How Does a Lithium-ion Battery Work?” US Department of Energy
| Office of Energy
Efficiency & Renewable Energy. September 14,

3 Io Eindhoven. “Batteries All Around: Let’s Take a Good Look
at the State of Battery Technology.” Innovation Origins. March 29, 2022.

4 “National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries: Executive
Summary.” US Department of Energy | Federal Consortium for Advanced Batteries. June 2021:12-13.

5 Anton Beck. “Lithium-Ion vs Lithium Iron Phosphate: What
Markets They Support.” Epec, LLC. January 5, 2022.

6 Fred Lambert. “Tesla is already using cobalt-free LFP
batteries in half of its new cars produced.” Electrek. April 22, 2022.

7 “Battery ‘Dream Technology’ a Step Closer to Reality with
New Discovery.” University of Texas at Austin | Science Daily. December 6,

8 “EV Range Breakthrough with New Aluminum-Ion Battery.” Light
Metal Age
. June 17, 2021.

9 Pranshu Verma. “Inside the Race for a Car Battery That
Charges Fast — And Won’t Catch Fire.” Washington Post. May 18, 2022.

10 Ryoji Kanno. “Part 4: What Are Solid-State Batteries? An Expert
Explains the Basics, How They Differ from Conventional
Batteries, and the Possibility of Practical Application. Murata
Manufacturing Co., Ltd. March 28, 2022.

11 Pranshu Verma. “Inside the Race for a Car Battery That
Charges Fast — And Won’t Catch Fire.” Washington Post. May 18, 2022.

12 Ashley Murray. “Battery Manufacturers Look to Grants in
Infrastructure Bill.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 16, 2021.


About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst
and business writer with more than 40 years’ IT experience. A member of
“Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business
BY Really Trying
, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a
senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices.
Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at

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