Trouble with Lithium
of Future PHEV Demand for Lithium Supply and Resources
Ion batteries are rapidly becoming the technology of
choice for the next generation of Electric Vehicles
- Hybrid, Plug In Hybrid and Battery EVs. The automotive
industry is committed increasingly to Electrified Vehicles
to provide Sustainable Mobility in the next decade.
LiIon is the preferred battery technology to power these
achieve required cuts in oil consumption, a significant
percentage of the world automobile fleet of 1 billion
vehicles will be electrified in the next decade. Ultimately
all production, currently 60 Million vehicles per year,
will have to be replaced with highly electrified vehicles
– PHEVs and BEVs.
of Lithium's geological resource base shows that there
are insufficient economically recoverable Lithium resources
available to sustain Electrified Vehicle manufacture
in the volumes required, based solely on LiIon batteries.
Depletion rates would exceed current oil depletion rates
and switch dependency from one diminishing resource
to another. Concentration of supply would create new
geopolitical tensions, not reduce them.
on other hypothetical, unproven potential sources of
Lithium such as Seawater is not a realistic or practical
strategy on which to base a technology revolution in
the automotive industry.
alternative battery technologies of ZnAir and NaNiCl
are not resource constrained and offer potentially higher
performance than current automotive LiIon technology.
Research and industrialisation of Electrified Vehicles
should also prioritise these alternative battery technologies.
the White Paper "The
Trouble with Lithium"
the Report "The
Trouble with Lithium 2: Under the Microscope"
the Briefing Paper "How
Much Lithium does a LiIon EV Battery really need"
the Automotive Industry Must Adopt Zinc-Air Technology
to Overcome Peak Oil and Global Warming
A Policy White Paper
Demand must be reduced greatly over the next 10 years
in line with declining oil supplies and to reduce CO2
emissions. The only practicable way to achieve this
is to electrify Road Transport and replace petroleum
with Electric Propulsion. The Lithium Ion battery has
become the prime candidate to power electrified road
vehicles in the near future.
supply and future production will be far from adequate
to sustain global electric vehicle production. The current
focus on LiIon batteries to the exclusion of all other
batteries is a grave error that will lead to EV and
PHEV production quickly becoming uneconomic due to insufficient
the Automotive Industry should adopt the Zinc Air Battery
and Fuel Cell technologies. Zinc Air Batteries have
the highest specific energy and lowest cost of any Electric
Vehicle rechargeable battery technology and are therefore
well suited for mass market introduction in millions
of electric automobiles. The Zinc Air Fuel Cell has
even higher specific energy than the ZnAir Battery.
The ZnAir Fuel Cell is the only electric propulsion
technology that could forseeably permit very quick recharge
times comparable to refuelling a conventional vehicle
with petrol. Due to its low weight, ZnAir technology
is the only viable contender to power large trucks and
heavy commercial vehicles which would require batteries
10 times as large as a car. Zinc production is the third
or fourth highest of all metals – it is therefore the
cheapest and most abundant battery metal. Indeed, Zinc
is the only metal which can sustain large battery production
in the volumes required by the Global Automotive Industry
(apart from sodium beta batteries - see below).
Air batteries must be equipped with a filter to absorb
CO2 from the entry air. Therefore vehicles equipped
with this technology can be designed to permanently
reduce atmospheric CO2 levels, contrary to conventional
light of the logistical, temporal, environmental and
financial constraints with which the world is faced,
National Governments should prioritise the development
of Zinc Air Battery powered automobiles and the development
of a refuelling infrastructure for Zinc Air Fuel Cell
powered commercial and utility vehicles. A “Zinc Economy”
using already available and simple technology presents
a viable, practicable and quickly implementable path
for society to transition from oil power to renewable
electric power, to maintain the essential transport
infrastructure on which society depends and lay a foundation
for further more advanced developments in Electric Propulsion
technology to follow.
the Policy Paper "The
Zinc Air Solution"
technology has always been attractive due to its very
high specific energy and very low cost. Set against
this has been its low specific power, low cycle life
and need for carbon dioxide absorption.
Air chemistry has been studied on and off as an EV power
source since at least the 1950s. Leesona Moos developed
a rechargeable ZnAir EV battery in the 1960s for city
car use. At 140Wh/kg, a 230kg battery provided 31kWh
capacity and 160 miles range at moderate acceleration
capability. Cycle life was only 100 cycles to 100% DoD.
the mid 1970s, the French Compagnie Generale d'Electricite
had developed a tubular cell ZnAir system that could
either be recharged electrically or hydraulically. Practical
energy density of 110Wh/kg, at a specific power of 80W/kg
and 500 cycles was projected.
the early 1990s, the leader in ZnAir development was
Dreisbach ElectroMotive (DEMI). In 1991, their converted
Honda CRX equipped with a nominal 50kWh battery pack
demonstrated 150Wh/kg specific energy in an SAE "D"
suburban cycle test. The car operated for 215 miles
at 45mph, with a 20 mile reserve still available. At
65mph, range was projected to be 150 miles. At 30mph,
the car would have a range of over 300 miles. Cycle
life did not progress much beyond 100 cycles or a two
in the 1990s, Evercel's Nickel Zinc technology showed
very promising improvements in cell cycle life, to 600
cycles 100% DoD at C/2 for both charge and discharge.
Lawrence Berkeley's flowing electrolyte ZnAir system
also achieved 600 cycles but only at C/4. Ni-Zn anode
technology is directly transferable to ZnAir. In the
late 90s, PSI in Switzerland were also making promising
progress in air cathode development and power density
improvement, while maintaining cycle life. The German
company Zoxy tried to commercialise this without success.
the leader in ZnAir fuel cell technology is currently
Electric Fuel/ Arotech in Israel, the country in which
the SOLZINC solar thermal reactor is also being tested,
commercialisation of their technology for EV applications
has stalled. A number of smaller US and Taiwanese technology
development firms are trying to develop ZnAir fuel cell
systems and Teck Cominco have bought the rights to Metallic
Power's technology. However, overall ZnAir technology
development is attracting little funding or interest
due to the overriding focus on Lithium Ion technology.
1998, Mercedes Benz were on the point of launching an
all-electric version of the A Class small car. Powered
by a 30kWh Zebra battery weighing 370kg (including control
system), the vehicle was claimed to have demonstrated
a real world range of 120 miles. A fleet of 16 A Class
cars tested the Zebra battery in all weather conditions
- some of these vehicles are still being used by Mercedes
in Zebra technology since then have reduced the weight
of a 30kWh unit to 270kg (120Wh/kg). This specific energy
is superior to any automotive LiIon battery available
or under development today.
Zebra battery is suitable for pure BEVs and could be
used for PHEVs. It is not suitable for power assist
history of Zebra development dates back to the 1970s.
The technology was first developed in South Africa.
By the 1990s, there were some 8 companies developing
sodium beta batteries and 4 pilot production plants
were in operation. Today, only MES-DEA in Switzerland
manufacture the Zebra battery, although sodium sulphur
is still undergoing extensive development by NGK for
stationary applications in Japan. A number of test installations
are in operation. [See Handbook of Batteries, Linden].
a "hot" battery, ambient temperatures have
no effect on battery performance. In sub-zero winter
temperatures, a Zebra powered EV will deliver as much
power and energy as in mid-summer. This temperature
independent capability is a unique and very significant
advantage of "hot" batteries such as the Sodium
beta variants (Sodium Sulphur and Sodium Nickel Chloride).
Zebra battery NaNiCl technology makes far more use of
cheap and readily available materials than LiIon and
NiMH. The major active materials are nickel, iron and
common salt, along with some aluminium. The separator
is ceramic beta alumina, a very inexpensive material.
The case is made from stainless steel. The only potentially
limiting active material is nickel, although MES-DEA
state that less than one third as much nickel is required
per kWh as NiMH (1.53kg/kWh compared to 6.8kg/kWh for
NiMH). Cycle life of over 1400 nameplate cycles has
been demonstrated in well over 10 years testing. The
battery has a 10 year calendar life.
nickel availability becomes constrained, Zebra technology
has the potential to be developed into an even lower
cost variant that would use little or no nickel - the
Sodium Iron Chloride battery. This has an open circuit
voltage of 2.35V against 2.58V for NaNiCl, but could
be manufactured in unlimited quantities from very cheap
and ubiquitous active materials (iron and common salt).
Specific Energy would only fall by 9% and battery operating
temperature could be reduced. We have stated before
that development of this NaFeCl battery technology should
be prioritised, with the prospect of developing an extremely
inexpensive, rugged and high specific energy battery
that could approach a cost of $100/kWh and enable widespread
adoption of BEVs and PHEVs.
information can be downloaded below.
Mercedes Benz A Class EV Brochure
Zebra Pages from "2007
Peak Oil: The EV Imperative"
European EV Fleet Demonstration
with Zebra Batteries, SAE 1999
Battery Main Page at MES-DEA with many downloadable
papers on Zebra Technology