The Lithium-ion battery problem

The Lithium-ion Battery Problem

The first marketable battery was invented in 1836 by British chemist John Frederic Daniell. Since then, battery technology has advanced at snail pace.

The first cellular phones—launched in 1979—used nickel-cadmium batteries. In the late ’90s nickel-cadmium batteries were replaced by nickel-metal-hydride batteries, which were replaced in the early 2000s by lithium-ion batteries, still in use today.

Since the ’90s the computational power of cell phones has increased 10,000 times. During this period, the energy density of the batteries powering these cell phones has increased only 50 times, limiting the development of more powerful cellphones, tablets and laptops.

The slow pace of the lithium-ion technological progress is not its only shortcoming. There’s more:

  • Overheating

    They overheat and explode if charged too fast.

  • Short life time

    They die after less than 1,000 charge/discharge cycles.

  • Flammable

    They use chemicals that are flammable. This causes electric cars to explode when hit in certain ways (among other problems).

  • Toxic

    These chemicals are toxic, requiring special care when disposed.

  • Underperform in extreme temperatures

    The chemicals underperform when temperatures are lower than 0°C (32°F) or higher than 50°C (122°F), limiting the applications.

  • Expensive casing

    The chemicals are liquid, requiring rigid and expensive casing to prevent leakage.

  • Expensive to transport

    Extra precautions are needed to avoid explosions and additional approval is required to ship these batteries.

And this is not all.  At the current rate of consumption lithium will start to become scarce at current prices by around 2020.  To open up today’s non-economical lithium deposits, prices would need to double.  Cobalt, which is a component of lithium-ion batteries, is already scarce today and in addition to this there have been cases of human exploitation in its mining, as well as lack of proper handling from mining companies causing contamination of rivers and soils.

It’s time to stop looking for snail pace performance increases. It’s time to think outside of the box. It’s time for a paradigm shift. It’s time for a viable fast charging battery solution.