Lithium Ion Battery Use Could Be 'Playing With Fire'

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By Sohrab Darabshaw

Lithium-ion is having a bad time – aliases year. In fact, depending connected nan source, “years” mightiness beryllium much appropriate. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) has powered batteries for portable consumable electronics, electrical vehicles (EVs), and different products for complete 2 decades. But now, pinch Tesla cars and millions of different products utilizing nan technology, nan imaginable hazards are overmuch much apparent. So while nan surging lithium value remains problematic, countries for illustration nan U.S. besides spot nan batteries arsenic a awesome occurrence risk.

Almost each day, there’s a study of an electrical conveyance catching occurrence location astir nan world. Given nan company’s nickname arsenic a marketplace leader, fires involving Teslas often make nan beforehand pages. For instance, successful California, spontaneous artillery combustion precocious caused a car to drawback fire. According to firefighters, nan conveyance needed almost 6,000 gallons of water to put out.

A fewer days ago, Ford Motor Co. (F) suspended accumulation and halted shipments of its F-150 Lightning electrical pickup. The move came aft a artillery caught occurrence during a trial thrust successful Michigan. Ford continues to analyse nan origin of nan blaze. However, until they get to nan bottommost of things, F-150 Lightning accumulation will stay offline.

Lithium Price Now Part of a Bigger Problem for Automakers

The car manufacture has agelong been alert of nan problems concerning lithium-ion batteries. However, manufacture leaders chiefly focused connected precocious costs, constricted rhythm count, and aging-related issues. Now they request to adhd spontaneous combustion to that list.

It would not beryllium far-fetched to opportunity li-ion batteries are losing fame owed to these fires. However, successful reality, it’s conscionable “one much thing” automakers person to woody with. High costs stay nan awesome issue, arsenic lithium – besides known arsenic “white gold” – continues to bask sky-high prices owed to surging EV sales. Indeed, Elon Musk personally raised concerns complete rising lithium costs conscionable a fewer months ago.

Costs aside, automakers person had to contend pinch nan biology effect of lithium-ion for years now. It seems nan much they position their merchandise arsenic green, nan faster group constituent retired nan imaginable problems of li-ion artillery disposal. The truth that these batteries are now getting a estimation for overheating and causing fires is only nan icing connected nan barroom for EV critics.

Just a fewer days ago, nan New York Fire Department sounded nan siren connected nan dangers of Li-ion batteries. This came aft nan metropolis saw arsenic galore arsenic 22 fires successful nan first 2 months of 2023. The section moreover posted a video of a occurrence started by an electrical skateboard. Elsewhere, different occurrence departments are grappling pinch nan aforesaid issue. Many do not moreover person modular procedures for putting retired specified fires. After all, astir experts opportunity li-ion artillery fires are still excessively caller for location to beryllium a statement connected nan fastest measurement to woody pinch them.

That Was nan Ugly: Now nan Good and Bad From China

As if that weren’t capable of a headache, caller developments from China will origin moreover much worries for lithium buyers. The world lithium proviso is astir to acquisition a caller disruption owed to shutdowns successful Yichun City. The metropolis lies successful China’s Jiangxi province, which accounts for astir a 10th of nan world’s lithium supply. Unfortunately, it presently faces sweeping closures owed to an biology investigation.

According to nan Yicai newspaper, nan Chinese authorities has ordered that lithium ore-processing operations successful Yichun unopen down amid a probe for alleged biology violations. The investigation adds uncertainty to a lithium marketplace wherever prices person conscionable begun petering off. So those companies hoping for a value break whitethorn not want to observe conscionable yet.

Adding to nan rumor is nan truth that nan artillery manufacture successful China is connected nan cusp of a value war. According to a news study successful 36Kr, CATL was actively considering a battery value simplification plan for cardinal car companies, though this did not see Tesla. CATL moreover projected a value simplification request of astir 10% to its earthy worldly suppliers. The study stated that nan scheme would travel into play successful nan 3rd 4th erstwhile each nan agreements were successful place.

CATL’s move targeted only important customers for illustration Li Auto (LI), NIO (NIO), Huawei, and Zeekr (OTCPK:GELYF)(OTCPK:GELYY). It group nan projected value of lithium carbonate astatine 200,000 yuan ($29,053) per metric ton. However, nan car companies that motion nan statement must work together to acquisition astir 80% of their artillery measurement from CATL. The existent value per ton of battery-grade lithium carbonate is astir 470,000 yuan. Therefore, this represents a immense opportunity for those companies that motion on.

New Research Could Improve Lithium Battery Potential

Amidst each nan punishment and gloom comes a somewhat much optimistic development. U.S. researchers precocious announced they had developed a lithium-air artillery pinch a coagulated electrolyte. The researchers claimed they could perchance summation nan battery’s power density fourfold complete today’s lithium-ion batteries. Moreover, during tests, nan prototype achieved an awesome 1,000 complaint and discharge cycles.

Leading nan task were nan Illinois Institute of Technology and nan U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. According to a merchandise connected nan project’s findings, nan caller artillery utilizes a coagulated electrolyte made of a ceramic polymer material, carrying “relatively inexpensive elements successful nano-particle form.” Meanwhile, a lithium anode and a cathode pinch an air-permeable building complete nan compartment structure. The researchers declare nan artillery is suitable for usage successful electrical cars, trucks, and planes. The improvement should bring cheer to nan Biden administration, which has a argumentation to fortify home supplies of captious elements, including lithium.

Back successful nan 1970s, nan U.S. was a starring lithium producer. Not agelong after, however, processing moved overseas. Fortunately, nan U.S. still has nan 4th largest world lithium reserves, though nan state only mines and processes astir 1% of world lithium. It’s hoped that nan government’s argumentation connected captious elements will soon adhd much home accumulation capacity to substance nan cleanable power transition.

Editor's Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.

This article was written by

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MetalMiner presently ranks arsenic nan largest metals publication successful nan United States according to 3rd statement ranking sites. Geared toward business metallic procurement professionals, MetalMiner has attracted a wide assemblage successful nan finance organization arsenic good arsenic a world following. MetalMiner principals person appeared connected, MSNBC, NPR Marketplace, BBC Radio among others. The squad has besides received sum successful The Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, American Metal Market, American Iron and Steel Institute, Automotive Industry Action Guide, among galore others. The team's principals person extended world metals sourcing and trading acquisition having worked for consulting powerhouses Andersen and Deloitte Consulting and starring trading companies specified arsenic Stemcor and Glencore. Updated 14 times a week, MetalMiner continues to turn and pull an assemblage everywhere.

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