Bloomberg NEF energy density trends. (Image Source: BNEF Energy Density)
There is another benefit to these long-lived batteries especially for the Tesla company. Even after a full life inside a Tesla EV, which have an average life of 200,000 miles, the battery can hypothetically be resold or recycled for use on a Tesla battery farm or home (Powerwall) system. Such reuse potentially means that EV companies can lease the batteries to car owners and bring down the costs of ownership to be on par with traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.
Lastly, let’s look at the importance of making EV batteries free from cobalt materials. Most of today’s EVs run on lithium-ion batteries made with heavy metals like cobalt, which are in limited supply and require less than ideal mining conditions. Further, cobalt batteries tend to catch on fire.
The move to cobalt-free batteries has been the focus of many research firms. For example, the IBM Research Battery Lab has recently developed a new battery built without heavy metals. It's made, instead, with materials that can be extracted from seawater. According to IBM, the new design could outperform current lithium-ion batteries in cost, charging time (less than five minutes to reach an 80 percent charge), power density and energy efficiency. The battery is also less flammable, and it could be used in aircraft, EVs and smart energy grids.
Returning to the earlier announcement, CATL said it is ready to begin manufacturing a cobalt-free battery that will last for 16 years and power an EV for 2 million kilometers (1.24 million miles). Naturally, other companies have been pursuing cobalt-free batteries. For example, the battery unit of Great Wall Motors China – known as SVOLT – recently announced that their new cobalt-free battery is guaranteed to work for 15 years or up to 1.2 million kilometers, close to a million miles.
At least one senior analysist in the energy sector – Peter Kelly-Detwiler, Principal at NorthBridge Energy Partners, LLC - is not surprised about the CATL announcement. When asked by Design News, he noted that the company had a large number of scientists with advanced degrees in materials science that have been focused on advanced battery technologies.
“Either way, this announcement is very good news for the industry and for the grid,” explained Kelly-Detwiler. “All of those batteries are likely to outlast the car and need a second home - literally!”
With all of these benefits, the cobalt-free, 1 million-mile, cost competitive EV and potentially reusable EV batteries should usher in a new era for energy-based technology and markets. Perhaps this is one reason why several major oil companies are investing heavily in renewable energies such as wind and solar, which will only increase the need for long-lasting and cheaper energy storage devices like batteries.