• 12 February 2021

    CE and Lithium-ion Batteries

    English Version By Alessandro Innocenti, Tondo Associate and PhD student at Helmholtz Institute Ulm A Circular Future for Energy Storage The lithium-ion battery is the key technology that is allowing the widespread adoption of electric vehicles,portable electronic devices, and renewable energy storage.Every year, an increasing number of batteries are put into the market: we passed from an installed capacity of 200 GWh of 2014 to more than 700 GWh in 2019, with a forecast of about 8000 GWh by 2030. This also means that more and more batteries will have to be retired every year after their use in one of the mentioned applications. In fact, lithium-ion batteries must be replaced after a certain time, since they show a decrease of the performances caused by inevitable chemical degradation reactions. Spent batteries can be directly sent to recycling for the material recovery, but the economic sustainability of lithium-ion battery recycling strongly depends on the presence of precious metals as cobalt (which is getting phased out for its toxicity) and nickel inside. This is the preferred route for the batteries used in consumer electronics and personal mobility systems, which are usually quite small and with a lower quality if compared to other possible applications. In fact, stricter requirements for batteries are present in the electric vehicle industry, because of the high standards in terms of autonomy and of power set by the manufacturers to be competitive with classic vehicles. Moreover, these standards must be assured for a long time, since no one wants that after one year or two from the purchase, the electric car makes 10-20% less kilometres with each “refill”. In the industry, the common threshold for the end of life of a lithium-ion battery is when it retains 80% of the initial capacity or power. The actual time needed...
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