Do we have enough Lithium-ion batteries?
The Lithium-ion batteries have some very evident advantages over its lead-acid energy storage alternative. As a result of this, the worldwide demand for these batteries is expected to triple by 2025. The applications of these batteries are increasing at a rapid pace. Starting from the cell phones to the commercially feasible electric vehicles are also turning to Lithium-ion when it comes to energy.
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In the auto industry, the revolution has just started taking shape with all major car brands announcing their electric or hybrid products that will hit the market in coming years.
Where does Lithium come from?
There are two sources of lithium: brine and mineral deposits. Electrolysis of igneous minerals is done to separate the metal from other minerals. The underground pools of brine are concentrated by solar evaporation, which takes about 18 to 24 months. Brine mining is a very long, costly and energy extensive process.
Between 2010 and 2014, the production levels of lithium increased by 28% to meet the growing demand but that was not enough to meet the increased lithium-ion battery consumption of 73%. Most of the world’s Lithium comes from South America. which takes us to our next topic.
The intersection of three South American countries Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina make up the high-quality salt flats. The Lithium Triangle is believed to have 75% of the existing known lithium reserves. The Atacama salt flat in Chile is the richest sources of high-quality and low-cost lithium in the world. At the end of the foot of the Andes mountains in Argentina lies Olaroz salt flat. Argentina has started to capitalize on the opportunity and is making up for the lost ground. Bolivia, on the other hand, is still lagging in the race with lack of consideration on the resources in hand.
However, the growth of this region has flattened that allows Australia to take the podium with the increasing foreign investment, as everyone wants to have a bite of this unique pie. The ease of doing business and less corruption are also contributing to the rise of the Australian Lithium empire.
The price rise has also been an evident phenomenon in the Lithium business. One metric ton of Lithium which was going out for 5,180 US dollars in 2010 rose to 6,000 US dollars in 2012 and at the end of 2017, it was already at 14,000 US dollars.
Now to get to the measurement terms
1 Watt-hour is equal to a power of one watt doing work for a duration of one hour.
1 GigaWatt Hour is equal to one billion watts doing work for a duration of one hour.
This amount of energy is enough to power a single bulb of 100 KW for 1141 years and send a Tesla Model S to the moon and back 8 times.
The Giga factory in Nevada can produce 35 GigaWatt Hour of battery cells per year which are enough for 500,000 vehicles. However, last year the count of vehicles produced was 7.2 million which includes buses and trucks.
“It’s not 10 or 1000, about 100 Giga Factories are required to make a full transition to sustainable sources.” – Elon Musk
The replenishing cycle of Lithium is fairly slow and it can not be made available for use again to meet the ever-growing demand of Lithium. Scientists have tried to make an estimate of the total Lithium available but the estimates are not accurate.
Can we recycle it?
Although the devices having Lithium can be recycled but there is no provision to recycle the lithium and make it pure enough to use in new lithium-ion batteries. For recovery of rare elements from the battery like cobalt and graphite, proper infrastructure needs to be established.
I hope the post gives you an idea about the Batteries. You can also check out more blogs on Opinion, technical, and Formula One. Also, Let me know what you think about it in the comments.
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