The automotive industry is inching towards a new era, thanks to the overwhelming response by major manufacturers. For the first time in the last half-decade, we are witnessing car manufacturers shifting their focus and accepting BEVs as the way forward. Even the marques that were reluctant at first, like Toyota, have succumbed to the pressure.
There were attempts by the Japanese auto giant and other players to delay the onset of BEVs. The company even tried lobbying for its interests but eventually had to secede. Toyota has since shifted its outlook and is planning to invest $3.4 billion in battery technology innovation.
A twist in the tale! But should the concerns of Toyota and its allies be taken into consideration, even though they have changed their mind? Is the world ready for EVs, or should we wait?
Extraction of Resources and Sustainability Issues
We certainly do not have the infrastructure to support the worldwide adoption of electric vehicles. On top of that, most EVs still do not have enough range to challenge ICE cars. They also do not recharge as quickly as one would like, with owners having to wait hours before getting a full charge. Could these reasons combine to become the final nail in the coffin?
Perhaps, but the aforementioned issues are trivial compared to the atrocities being committed by battery manufacturers in the name of mining. The two most important components needed to build batteries are lithium and cobalt.
Unfortunately, both of them are being extracted without companies paying much attention to the environment or human rights. Lithium, for example, is extracted from Chile and other South American countries where companies are paying no regard to the atmosphere or the surrounding environment. Mass deforestation is a norm, which ultimately increases the carbon footprint of battery-producing companies.
The story in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where cobalt is extracted, is no different. Child labor in DRC mining camps is amuck. The blatant human rights violations are alarming and a reason for the world to reconsider its priorities.
It’s all going haywire, and world leaders are calling for innovation.
Latest Innovations in Battery Technology
Fortunately, the more socially responsible entities are working together to find a long-term solution to the battery problem. At least a dozen battery tech startups have sprung up across the world and they are looking to invest billions in battery improvement. We have revolutionary companies like Solid Power Inc., Quantumscape, CATL, BYD Co, and more. According to some reports, battery storage startups have acquired more than $5 billion in investment. That’s just the figure for startups, and we aren’t including the multi-billion-dollar investments by larger organizations.
Out in the West, Ford has partnered with South Korean firm SK Innovation, to build a battery production facility with the help of an $11.4 billion investment. Tesla and G.M have a similar idea, and they intend to move forward with their partners to bring about a positive change in battery production.
All of these companies will look to steer clear of lithium and cobalt while looking for cheaper and more efficient ways to build batteries.
What’s New in The Industry?
Samsung is working on solid-state batteries to reduce dependence on lithium. Their concept will not only reduce battery production costs, but recharging times will improve, and there will be an increase in driving range.
The concept is to remove lithium anodes in the battery and replace them with a silver carbon composite layer. In doing so, the battery will provide a range of at least 500 miles compared to 300 with lithium batteries. The battery life will also increase, and BEV owners will witness faster charging times.
Apart from this, other startups are working with materials such as graphene (which is essentially a different form of carbon), Sodium Sulfur, and Sodium-Ion. There is also some work on Organosilicon Electrolyte Batteries and Zinc Manganese dioxide batteries.
The possibilities are endless, and the results will hopefully prove to be fruitful.
When to Expect Change?
The biggest drawback with all the new research and innovation is that fruition will take some time. The technologies are still in their infancy, which is why we can’t make promises about their future. Some projects might not make it to the completion stage, and some might get abandoned. But we can say for sure that something good will come out of all this because a joint effort never fails.
Ultimately, the end consumer will benefit from all the innovation and the automotive industry will smoothly transition into the new era.