Is the competition between battery manufacturers and the solutions that scientists work on, going to affect the shape of not only the automotive industry, but the transport of the future? It is very probable. As soon as electric buses become popular, electric delivery trucks will also appear. Many analysts agree on this. The better the energy storage systems, the more vehicles will be able to use alternative drives. But what about lithium – the element on which the commonly used storage and production method of lithium – ion batteries is based? – writes Agata Rzędowska, editor of BiznesAlert.pl.
Different factions and different ideas
Analysts who comment on the future of battery technology can be divided into different camps: those who claim that lithium will not disappear and batteries will become cheaper; those who think that lithium will not disappear but batteries will not be much cheaper at all; the third group, according to which the demand for lithium is going to fall because other ways of energy storage will become more common. Work in chemical laboratories are underway, the industry is preparing to the launch of production of further electric car models, and in our pockets and backpacks we have not only cell phones and laptops or tablets but also small power banks that allow us to recharge equipment during the day when we do not have electrical sockets at hand. Before the new solutions are in production, sometimes a dozen or so years pass. Testing and preparation for the production of safe products also requires considerable financial expenditure. To make a profit for the introduction of technologies in the future, companies must sell a lot now.
Batteries of the future
Battery giants such as LG Chem or Panasonic have signed long-term contracts for the supply of batteries for the automotive industry, but they are also researching on the development of other methods of energy storage. Car manufacturers such as Tesla or Toyota, are also looking for new solutions. In this context, technologies using silicon appear, replacing liquid electrolyte with solid one and graphene. Companies from almost all continents compete with each other, but especially the Chinese have access to rare earths deposits. How will trade relations between suppliers of raw materials and battery manufacturers develop, it is difficult to say unequivocally. A scenario is possible in which the source of lithium in Europe will be recycled batteries (contrary to today’s declarations that batteries will be the basis for building energy storages). Everything will be clear in the next decade.
A large investment by LG Chem has been carried out for over a dozen months near Poznań. In the assumptions, it was to be the largest plant producing batteries for electric cars in Europe. The investment in Kobierzyce is to be completed in 2018 and 2.5 thousand people will find jobs there. A research and development center is also to be established at this facility. Critics say that the value of investments from the perspective of our industry is small, because it is not Polish companies that will be the recipients of manufactured batteries, it is also not clear at this stage of implementation of investments whether there will be facilities in Poland for the disposal of this type of batteries. In parallel with the investment in Poland in the Hungarian city of Göd, works were underway to build a Samsung SDI battery factory. This factory has already been put into operation (production will start from the second half of 2018). The Samsung SDI plant in Hungary is the third largest facility of this type after factories in Korea and China. The factory in Göd will employ approximately 600 people. In the context of the construction of Tesla Gigafactory, Poland also appeared as the European location of the investment. Finally, Elon Musk has not yet announced where he is planning to invest in Europe. Among the probable locations, representatives of the Ministry of Development talk about the Czech Republic, Portugal and Poland as the most serious candidates. Another large investment of this type will appear in Sweden.