The causes behind lithium-ion batteries’ fast value decline


Nov 22, 2021 (Nanowerk News) Lithium-ion batteries, these marvels of light-weight energy which have made potential at this time’s age of handheld electronics and electrical autos, have plunged in value since their introduction three many years in the past at a charge much like the drop in solar panel costs, as documented by a examine revealed final March (Energy & Environmental Science, “Re-examining rates of lithium-ion battery technology improvement and cost decline”). But what led to such an astonishing value decline, of about 97 %? Some of the researchers behind that earlier examine have now analyzed what accounted for the extraordinary financial savings. They discovered that by far the most important issue was work on analysis and improvement, notably in chemistry and supplies science. This outweighed the positive factors achieved by means of economies of scale, although that turned out to be the second-largest class of reductions. The new findings are being revealed within the journal Energy & Environmental Science (“Determinants of lithium-ion battery technology cost decline”), in a paper by MIT postdoc Micah Ziegler, current graduate scholar Juhyun Song PhD ’19, and Jessika Trancik, a professor in MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society. The findings might be helpful for policymakers and planners to assist information spending priorities in an effort to proceed the pathway towards ever-lower prices for this and different essential power storage applied sciences, in accordance with Trancik. Their work suggests that there’s nonetheless appreciable room for additional enchancment in electrochemical battery applied sciences, she says. The evaluation required digging by means of quite a lot of sources, since a lot of the related info consists of intently held proprietary enterprise information. “The data collection effort was extensive,” Ziegler says. “We looked at academic articles, industry and government reports, press releases, and specification sheets. We even looked at some legal filings that came out. We had to piece together data from many different sources to get a sense of what was happening.” He says they collected “about 15,000 qualitative and quantitative data points, across 1,000 individual records from approximately 280 references.” Data from the earliest occasions are hardest to entry and may have the best uncertainties, Trancik says, however by evaluating totally different information sources from the identical interval they’ve tried to account for these uncertainties. Overall, she says, “we estimate that the majority of the cost decline, more than 50 percent, came from research-and-development-related activities.” That included each personal sector and government-funded analysis and improvement, and “the vast majority” of that value decline inside that R&D class got here from chemistry and supplies analysis. That was an fascinating discovering, she says, as a result of “there were so many variables that people were working on through very different kinds of efforts,” together with the design of the battery cells themselves, their manufacturing programs, provide chains, and so forth. “The cost improvement emerged from a diverse set of efforts and many people, and not from the work of only a few individuals.” The findings concerning the significance of funding in R&D have been particularly vital, Ziegler says, as a result of a lot of this funding occurred after lithium-ion battery expertise was commercialized, a stage at which some analysts thought the analysis contribution would turn into much less vital. Over roughly a 20-year interval beginning 5 years after the batteries’ introduction within the early Nineties, he says, “most of the cost reduction still came from R&D. The R&D contribution didn’t end when commercialization began. In fact, it was still the biggest contributor to cost reduction.” The examine took benefit of an analytical method that Trancik and her group initially developed to research the equally precipitous drop in prices of silicon solar panels over the previous couple of many years. They additionally utilized the method to know the rising prices of nuclear power. “This is really getting at the fundamental mechanisms of technological change,” she says. “And we can also develop these models looking forward in time, which allows us to uncover the levers that people could use to improve the technology in the future.” One benefit of the methodology Trancik and her colleagues have developed, she says, is that it helps to type out the relative significance of various elements when many variables are altering unexpectedly, which usually occurs as a expertise improves. “It’s not simply adding up the cost effects of these variables,” she says, “because many of these variables affect many different cost components. There’s this kind of intricate web of dependencies.” But the group’s methodology makes it potential to “look at how that overall cost change can be attributed to those variables, by essentially mapping out that network of dependencies,” she says. This will help present steerage on public spending, personal investments, and different incentives. “What are all the things that different decision makers could do?” she asks. “What decisions do they have agency over so that they could improve the technology, which is important in the case of low-carbon technologies, where we’re looking for solutions to climate change and we have limited time and limited resources? The new approach allows us to potentially be a bit more intentional about where we make those investments of time and money.” “This paper collects data available in a systematic way to determine changes in the cost components of lithium-ion batteries between 1990-1995 and 2010-2015,” says Laura Diaz Anadon, a professor of local weather change coverage at Cambridge University, who was not related to this analysis. “This period was an important one in the history of the technology, and understanding the evolution of cost components lays the groundwork for future work on mechanisms and could help inform research efforts in other types of batteries.”

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