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Major Research and Advancements in Lithium Batteries/Tesla and Panasonic Plan Gigafactory, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

There remain many obstacles to all-electric vehicles: a shortage of battery charging stations available to the driving public, battery cost and driving range.  Another challenge is the increasing demand for lithium, which is a major component of these batteries.  Cobalt, nickel and manganese are also used in lithium-ion batteries.  There is concern as to whether miners can keep up with demand.  Mining of these metals often creates significant environmental problems.  Some are produced largely in nations with terrible records of labor abuse and environmental disdain.  Meanwhile, governments and auto industry leaders in many nations are concerned about China’s dominance in the EV battery supply chain.
For EVs to gain high market share, there are several logistical challenges.  EVs in massive numbers would not only require vastly higher numbers of charging stations but could also require a very significant increase in the generation and distribution of electricity required to keep millions of EVs charged.
Batteries can account for as much as 40% of an EV’s price.  In recent years, great strides have been made in reducing the cost of batteries.  This is partly due to economies of scale since manufacturers are now able to produce batteries in greater quantities.  In addition, battery technology has progressed in efficiency and performance to the extent that costs fell 90% between 2010 and 2020, according to the director of sustainability at driving service Lyft, Paul Augustine.
Some of the biggest news in advanced batteries for automobiles is being made at Tesla, the U.S.-based maker of all-electric vehicles.  Tesla owns a massive battery factory, known as the Gigafactory, near Reno, Nevada.  The long-term plan is for a 10 million square foot plant capable of manufacturing enough batteries to power 500,000 new cars per year.  Some of Tesla’s Gigafactories produce batteries; others build cars based on batteries from other firms.  A facility known as Gigafactory 2 in the state of New York manufactures solar panels and solar roof tiles.  Gigafactory 3 is an automobile plant in Shanghai, China.  Tesla also opened Gigafactory 4 Berlin-Brandenburg (Germany) in March 2022.  However, later that year the company shifted some of its manufacturing focus back to the U.S. in order to qualify for recently passed American tax credits that require batteries to made domestically.  Gigafactory 5 opened near Austin, Texas in early 2022, with about 10 million square feet of space, making it one of the world’s largest buildings.
Toyota is investing billions of dollars to build lithium-ion battery manufacturing plants in several locations around the world.  The company plans to have 10 production lines in place by 2025 (a single plant can house several production lines).
South Korea firms plan to dramatically boost their share of the electric vehicle batter market in the U.S.  Three companies, LG Energy, SK Innovation and Samsung SDI, are investing billions to expand production in the U.S.  In early 2023, LG Energy announced plans to invest $5.6 billion in a lithium-ion battery plant in Arizona.  Production is expected to start in 2025.
There is an advanced battery technology called lithium ferrophosphate (LFP) which has a relatively lower risk of catching fire and uses iron instead of cobalt or nickel, making it cheaper to produce.  Tesla is using the battery in one version of its Model 3 made in China.  Rivian and Ford are also embracing the technology, especially since recent improvements have increased range per charge.
The holy grail of electric car research is the development of advanced battery technology that will enable a car to go 400 to 500 miles between recharges, while maintaining a competitive retail price for the car.
Samsung Electronics is working to incorporate graphene into a lithium-ion battery.  This ultra-thin form of carbon could increase a battery’s capacity by as much as 45% and significantly reduce recharging time.
Startups including Sila Nanotechnologies (, Global Graphene Group,, Enovix ( )and Enevate ( produce materials for lithium-silicon batteries which have the potential to increase capacity by as much as 40%.  Innolith AG (, a Swiss startup, built the world’s first rechargeable battery capable of powering a vehicle for more than 600 miles between charges.  In mid-2023, the company announced the commercialization of its I-State battery technology platform that cuts EV costs and increases vehicle range.  The 20% reduction of lithium, cobalt and nickel afforded by the platform will help alleviate environmental and sourcing concerns, while typically reducing the weight of an EV battery pack by 7% to 8%.
Another startup, Form Energy, Inc. ( is building its Form Factory 1 plant in West Virginia with an opening expected in mid- to late 2024.  Form Energy’s technology focuses on iron-air batteries, which inexpensively use iron pellets.  The process exposes iron to water and oxygen to create rust, and then converts the rust back into iron, thereby emitting oxygen to charge or discharge a battery.  The goal is to increase battery storage capacity for use in the U.S. electric grid.
A looming shortage of lithium is on the horizon, spurring manufacturers to acquire stakes in lithium mining companies or invest in refiners or recyclers.  General Motors, for example, agreed to invest $650 million in Lithium Americas Corp. that would afford the car maker exclusive access to a new mine planned close to the Nevada-Oregon border.  Demand for lithium-ion batteries skyrocketed from 59 gigawatt hours in 2015 to 400 gigawatt hours in 2021, with another 50% jump expected to follow in 2022 according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.
A new technology called direct lithium extraction uses salty water (brine), found thousands of feet below the Earth's surface, which contains lithium.  The brine is pumped to the surface where the lithium is separated.  The remaining brine is injected back into the below-ground aquifer and the lithium is crystallized into a battery-grade product.  Abundant deep-brine aquifers are found in southeastern U.S. states from Texas to Florida.  Companies including Exxon Mobil, Standard Lithium and Tetra Technologies are scouting the area and making plans to build lithium plants.  In Exxon Mobil’s case, a proposed facility in a small town in Arkansas may have a capacity of 75,000 to 100,000 metric tons on lithium per year, or about 15% of all finished lithium produced worldwide during 2022.

Top Producers of Lithium-Ion Batteries Include:

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