energy insights

EV Batteries to Continue Reliance on Lithium

As long as people have been going places, they have been inventing better ways of getting there. Ground transportation has evolved from traveling by foot to riding pack animals to wagons and carriages to motor-powered vehicles.

Since their inception, motorized vehicles have been powered by engines fueled primarily by wood, coal, and gasoline. Today, the pursuit of emissions-free clean mobility has given rise to electric vehicles (EV) powered by lithium-ion batteries (LiB).

The performance and reliability of lithium-ion batteries have led the transportation industry to embrace the technology’s key element — lithium. As a result, companies up and down the supply chain are scouring the planet, taking inventory of lithium resources, and ramping up production to meet ever-growing demands. The lithium boom has hardly begun, and prices are already up four-fold in the past three years with concerns of demand exceeding supply by 2026.

Given the concern over future supplies, efforts are being made to improve EV battery technology. These improvements include longer-lasting charges, faster recharge rates and longer battery life spans.

While there is no doubt that modern technologies leading to longer driving distances and shorter pit stops will be celebrated, the most important questions may center around conductivity. Is lithium the only medium that can conduct a charge efficiently enough to serve the EV revolution?

Maybe, but maybe not.

While studies indicate alternative battery chemistries, such as sodium, could offset lithium demand, experts state lithium will remain the dominant battery material for many years. With new research on solid-state batteries leading to high energy density batteries and, consequently, fewer batteries to power an EV, the increased concentration of lithium would continue to put pressure on the lithium supply chain.

Though we may not know which new EV battery technologies will eventually emerge, one thing is sure — progress never stands still.