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Five reasons why battery-grade graphite needs an alternative

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Mineral graphite is particularly suitable for lithium-ion batteries. Therefore, if EV battery makers are to meet the increasing demand for EVs, a dependable and plentiful supply of specialized graphite is important. But what happens if future demand exceeds supply?
The increasing electrification of vehicles means that we will need to mine a huge number of battery materials in the future. This is especially true with graphite, an outstanding material for battery anodes. While graphite deposits are currently not scarce and synthetic graphite is also readily available, there still is a clear need for alternative materials for making battery anodes.

Why do we say this, though? How come do we need alternative materials in the first place? Below, our experts present five essential reasons why the automotive industry and battery manufacturers should consider alternative solutions for battery anodes.

1. Europe needs to become self-sufficient in battery materials

Raw materials are crucial to Europe’s economy. According to the European Union, they form a strong industrial base, producing a broad range of goods and applications used in everyday life and modern technologies. Currently, over 90% of all anode materials are produced in China – a fact that makes electric vehicle (EV) and battery manufactures dependent on players in said market. However, decision-makers in the EU have already stated that it is necessary to increase the degree of self-sufficiency within the EU to reduce dependence on the monopoly. This helps avoid material shortages caused by potential geopolitical changes and helps bring new jobs inside the European union.

2. European battery production needs to have excessive scale-up possibilities

If electrification continues at its current speed, the global market will not be able to cater for the rapidly increasing demand, creating a risk of structural supply shortages. This requires a fast, low-risk solution into scaling anodes production at a European level. Stora Enso is addressing this by developing an anode material from existing side streams of pulp production. Using a hard carbon from lignin, a by-product of pulp manufacturing, Lignode® by Stora Enso taps into existing side streams of abundant material availability and is thus scalable to significant volumes. As there are millions of tonnes of lignin circulating in the processes in Europe and globally, it has the future potential to supply for the entire anode demand in the world.

3. Graphite-based anodes do not have the most superior charging capacities

When compared to refilling petrol-powered cars, EV batteries do not charge very fast. While it typically takes at least half an hour to get an EV charged at the fastest available charging stations, the refill of a petrol car takes minutes.

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, time-consuming stops for charging.

Lignode® by Stora Enso has proven to provide faster charging and discharging capacities compared to graphite, making it one alternative to replace or complement the use of graphite in future battery anodes.

4. We need to become greener and more responsible

Electrifying the world’s vehicles means a massive increase in mining which is is destructive for the environment responsible for much of the toxic waste entering the environment. Moreover, mining is often done under less than satisfactory social conditions.

The most accurate scenario today is that mining will be set up outside the European continent – in places like Africa, Turkey, and China – causing that anode manufacturing may reside in Europe. This comes with its own environmental, social, and governance challenges.

Despite synthetic graphite being an extremely good alternative for natural graphite and decreasing the need for mining, it still has one major drawback: it is made out of oil and coal. This means that the key ingredient in the batteries that supply power for those EVs and the grid battery storage for cleaner electricity is, in fact, made out of fossil fuels.

5. Sustainably produced battery materials make it easy to stand out from competitors

What if you could say that your car battery anode was made from a tree? Or imagine saying in your value proposition that your battery anode is extremely sustainable, comes from a renewable source and is supplier-certified for responsible forest management. Lignode® by Stora Enso offers an unmatched sustainability footprint, enabling differentiation against other regions automotive manufacturers.


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