The struggle: material availability and consumer needsAs the struggle on critical raw materials continues to be a problem in vehicle electrification, we are going to need to mine a huge number of metals like cobalt and lithium to electrify the world’s vehicle fleet. This is where smaller batteries become important.
– Currently, manufacturers of the next generation’s electric vehicles are competing on range. This means putting big and powerful batteries into future cars so they can travel farther between charges, says Otto Kivi, Senior Business Development Specialist in battery materials at Stora Enso.
The need for powerful batteries leads to mining and refining more minerals to build those bigger cars, which means having a bigger impact on the environment. Furthermore, a report published by the Geological Survey of Finland suggests that there are not enough raw materials in global reserves to allow for a worldwide fleet of electric vehicles (EVs).
Moreover, EV batteries do not charge very fast – especially when compared to petrol-powered cars where a refill takes minutes. EVs, in contrast, typically take at least half an hour to get charged at the fastest available charging stations.
– Issues with charging speed and range are not insignificant for the automobile industry: the worst-case scenario is that is the masses will only start buying EVs once they can drive them for a long time without taking frequent and time-consuming stops for charging, Kivi explains.
The solution: Lignode® by Stora Enso – an alternative to graphiteEV batteries are based on lithium-ion constructions made up of lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and graphite. The last-mentioned is used for the negative end of a lithium-ion battery known as the anode. While graphite deposits are not scarce, the supply of battery-grade graphite used in EV batteries is much tighter. In addition, graphite is a strictly layered material which can be slow to charge.
However, Stora Enso has come up with a solution where graphite is replaced with hard carbon. Lignode® by Stora Enso has an amorphous, highly open structure enabling faster charging/discharging and higher cycling stability. This lignin-based hard carbon can replace natural or synthetic graphite either in parts or completely.
– Because the material properties enable faster charging and discharging, Lignode® is currently the cheapest way to increase charging speed, Kivi states.
As the battery charges to full capacity faster, it also means a lower burden for charging networks. In addition, better capacity increases the attractiveness of EVs as charging time decreases.
In addition to fast charging and smaller batteries per car, lignin-based hard carbon provides a bio-based alternative or supplement to graphite. An existing by-product in the production of pulp, lignin is renewable, traceable and is already being produced in millions of tonnes in Europe – enabling the fast-growing battery business to become more sustainable.