Trends Shift Around Li-ion Batteries In EVs

by Mat Dirjish

As per the researchers at IDTechEx, global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) beat expectations in 2020. Investment in EV and lithium-ion (li-ion) battery development also grew in 2020 and is set to continue through 2021. And over the past year, Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors, SK Innovation, and LG Chem revealed their vehicle electrification and battery technology strategies. Therefore, it’s becoming more important to understand the lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries that power those designs, the diverse design choices available, and emerging trends.

Trends in Cathode Chemistry

Of particular interest is cathode-chemistry choices available to battery companies and automotive OEMs. Currently, there is a shift towards higher-nickel-content lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) batteries. For example, SVolt is currently producing nickel-manganese (NMX) cells and Renault will rely on NMC cathodes. Additionally, SK Innovation intends to produce NMC cells using 90% Ni during 2021. The company also plans to develop a 94% Ni NMC by 2025.

The researchers claim there is also a resurgence for lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) in 2020. Several automotive OEMs plan to use the chemistry due to its lower cost and added safety, while the imminent expiry of IP relating to LFP will make it easier to manufacturer and export LFP outside of China. IDTechEx researchers believe layered oxide materials like NMC and nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) will remain central to the success of vehicle electrification.

Trends in Battery Design

Shifts in battery pack design are also shaping the EV market. Promising fast charging and more efficient operation, 800V architectures are the choice of several automotive of OEMs. However, charging infrastructure need to expand and the battery itself has to be able to handle faster charging. Battery-pack electrical isolation will also need to evolve.

Another choice, cell-to-pack (CTP) designs offer greater packing efficiency to compensate for the energy-density reduction that comes from using certain cathode chemistries like LFP. EV companies like Tesla and Stellantis intend to use LFP cathodes in combination with CTP battery designs.

Other Considerations

Cathode chemistry and battery structure are primary concerns, however cell design and form factor, solid-electrolytes, anode material choices, thermal interface materials, and battery management systems all form part of the battery ecosystem. For further analysis on the developments in battery and EV technology, review the “Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles 2021-2031” report. Also check out more of IDTechEx’s energy-storage and EV research.

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