• Fayaz Ahmed

Can a Single Battery Type fit all Battery Applications?



Simple answer is No. Because no two battery chemistries are same or will have the same characteristics. Nature and type of chemical reactions that are produced inside the cell depends primarily on the type of materials i.e. electrodes and electrolytes in the cell which determines how the battery works, how much energy it can store and its voltage [1].


Therefore, even different battery chemistries (i.e. Li-ion NMC vs LFP) within the Li-ion battery family can have completely different characteristics (i.e. energy density, voltage, round trip efficiency, number of charge/discharge cycles, depth of discharge, speed of charge/discharge, operating temperature). Therefore, it’s difficult to find one battery technology that can fit all battery applications. Because each application will have its own requirements. The selection of battery technology can be influence by many factors and priorities including customer’s energy and power density requirements, sensitivity to pricing, risk of physical damage during use, purchase volume, safety issues, climate of end use region, distribution options, government regulations & incentive programs, operational peak power demands, potential tariffs & trade quotas, etc.



Following are some examples of battery applications:



For Outer Space applications: Metal-hydrogen battery has a 30-plus-year history of successful operation in Outer Space, metal-hydrogen battery has been used by NASA on space missions, including in the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars Curiosity rover, and the International Space Station. For this kind of application you need a battery technology that could withstand the harsh climate of outer space, meaning super high temperatures, super low temperatures, and then have basically an infinite cycle life (i.e. 30,000 cycles) and require no maintenance even if you have to pay $20,000/kWh for this battery [2].



For mobility applications: Although there could be many factors companies need to account while deciding which battery technology to use in their electric vehicle; the two major factors are the cost and the energy density of the battery technology. Cost is important because battery cost makes up huge fraction of current electric vehicles in the market, therefore, further cost reductions in the battery technology (i.e. as per some estimates $80/kWh) can help electric vehicles reach price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles. In terms of energy density, a typical EV battery pack stores 10-100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. For example, the Mitsubishi i-MIEV has a battery capacity of 16 kWh and a range of 62 miles, and the Tesla model S has a battery capacity of 100 kWh and a range of 400 miles [3]. Therefore, further improving the energy density of these battery technologies can lower the cost of battery pack and also allow you to have more range of miles in the same kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity battery pack.



For grid level energy storage applications: The cost is the single most important factor while talking about grid level energy storage applications because you need to install huge capacity ranging from around a few megawatt-hours (MWh) to hundreds of MWh. For grid scale applications, some researchers have estimated that energy storage would have to cost $10 to $20/kWh for a wind-solar mix with storage to be competitive with a nuclear power plant providing baseload electricity. And competing with a natural gas peaker plant would require energy storage costs to fall to $5/kWh [4]. Currently, prices of lithium-ion battery, the most popular candidate for grid level energy storage applications, are in the range of $150/kWh which still needs significant reductions for winning the grid level energy storage market.



Conclusion


When creating a battery strategy, it is vital to understand that the market is made up of multiple applications, each with different and very specific needs. Factors impacting technology suitability for each application include power density, capacity, cycle lifetime, energy density, capital cost, charging time, reliability and safety. That means, in my view, that no single technology is likely to ultimately dominate the industry at large.



References:


  1. https://www.science.org.au/curious/technology-future/batteries

  2. https://www.powermag.com/battery-technology-used-in-outer-space-could-be-a-gamechanger-on-earth/

  3. https://theconversation.com/the-road-to-electric-vehicles-with-lower-sticker-prices-than-gas-cars-battery-costs-explained-137196

  4. https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/renewables/what-energy-storage-would-have-to-cost-for-a-renewable-grid


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