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In the future, car batteries can be made from trees – and this is why European EV and battery manufacturers should care

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Graphite is the dominant anode material used in lithium-ion batteries. In fact, almost 30% of a lithium-ion battery consists of this material. However, as demand is increasing, material availability becomes topical. What if European EV and battery manufacturers could say that their anode is made from a tree?

The challenge: Demand for EV battery anode ingredient expected to exceed supply

As major economies are transitioning away from fossil fuels and introducing e-mobility policies, the EV market is booming. This means that the demand for batteries and battery materials will be rising considerably in the coming years. Today, graphite is the dominant anode material used in lithium-ion batteries. According to the World Bank, graphite accounts for nearly 54% of the mineral demand in batteries.

– In the future, the availability of materials might face a drastic drop, as policy interventions driven by climate change concerns further increase the electrification trend, says Otto Kivi, Senior Business Development Specialist in Battery materials at Stora Enso.

Accounting for 4% of the EU’s GDP, the automotive sector is important for the EU economy. However, the major market for electric vehicles is nowadays in China, which is also where the raw material is produced: 

– Right now, global EV battery manufacturing is a crucial part of the EV value chain. Up to 95% of anode materials are produced in China, but the growing demand requires us to find a European solution, Kivi states.

The solution: Stora Enso’s Lignode®: a battery material made from trees

Lignode® is a material that replaces synthetic graphite with lignin, a by-product in the production of cellulose fibre and one of the largest renewable sources of carbon anywhere. Lignin-based carbon can be used in batteries, typically those used in consumer electronics and the automotive industry, and in large-scale energy storage systems. What comes to quality, hard carbon from lignin is comparable to other non-graphitic carbon anode materials.

For the automotive industry, investing in this fossil-free and renewable alternative could mean a significant marketing advantage and a feasible answer to new environmental policies driven by climate change and the need for green energy.

The benefits: faster charge rates, European supply chain, sustainable, fossil-free origin

As EVs become more common, the need for charging infrastructure increases. A clear advantage is that the structure of Lignode® enables the battery to be charged and discharged faster than with graphitic carbon.

–  Faster charge rates reduce the demand for charging infrastructure and enable solutions for smaller batteries per car. Currently, a lignin-based anode is the cheapest way to increase charge rates, Kivi explains.

Finally, the raw material is extremely sustainable, helping to reach policy-driven environmental goals and providing a significant marketing advantage.  New trees grow back, and the material comes from a certified supplier for responsible forest management:

–  We use FSC® and PEFC™ certified lignin to produce Lignode®. We can proudly say that we are using one of the only raw materials in the battery industry to have a certificate of origin, Kivi points out.

Forerunners get a marketing advantage

To serve the fast-growing anode materials market, Stora Enso is currently exploring strategic partnerships to drive self-sufficiency in the European battery supply chain.

- In case you believe that sustainable anode materials produced in Europe are an opportunity you would like to invest in, be sure to reach out so we can explore our opportunities together, Kivi concludes.