Electric vehicle (EV) batteries are intricate assemblies consisting of numerous rechargeable lithium-ion cells interconnected to create the battery pack. Lithium-ion cells are the preferred choice due to their economical nature, striking a harmonious balance between energy storage capacity and cost. Here we will go through the question How are EV Batteries Made?
The Emergence of Electric Mobility and EV Battery Fabrication
As the electric mobility trend gains momentum, the demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and, by extension, EV batteries, is witnessing an upsurge. This raises queries about how battery manufacturers can meet this escalating demand and which materials are indispensable for EV battery production. This article delves deeply into the materials utilized in EV batteries, the manufacturing process, leading EV battery producers, and the implications of the growing supply-demand gap on the future of EV batteries.
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Deconstructing EV Battery Composition
EV batteries manifest in various shapes and sizes, offering a range of cell formats and chemistries for EV manufacturers to choose from. Before delving into the materials constituting these batteries, understanding the distinct physical cell structures is paramount.
Varieties of EV Battery Cells
Electric vehicles employ three primary types of battery cells: cylindrical cells, prismatic cells, and pouch cells. Coin cells, while existent, are mainly relegated to research and development for testing, without commercial use in EVs.
- Cylindrical Cells: These are the most prevalent format, resembling household AA or AAA alkaline batteries, enclosed in a cylindrical casing that imparts shock resistance. Despite their cost-effectiveness and ease of manufacture, cylindrical cells may have limitations in power output, prompting EVs with smaller batteries to adopt prismatic or pouch cells.
- Prismatic Cells: Differing from cylindrical cells, prismatic cells can be substantially larger – up to 20 to 100 times the size. Their reduced casing material allows for higher energy storage, enhanced power delivery, and better heat management compared to cylindrical cells. Although not as popular, the use of prismatic cells is on the rise, potentially dominating the market in the coming years.
- Pouch Cells: Encased in soft plastic casings, pouch cells optimize space utilization. However, their delicate casing demands extra protection to prevent mechanical damage.
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Materials Prominent in EV Batteries
Beyond format, EV battery cells vary in chemistry – the materials used for electricity storage. While lithium-ion (Li-ion) cells predominate due to their cost-effectiveness and high-energy storage capacity, alternative chemistries also exist.
Nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) were favored in early electric vehicles due to their affordability, extended lifespan, and commendable capacity. Lead-acid cells, one of the earliest battery types, have been used in gas-powered vehicles for ignition. Despite their reparability and low maintenance requirements, they fall short in energy storage for larger EVs.
Composing Lithium-ion Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries, as the name implies, incorporate lithium. However, creating a Li-ion battery necessitates several layers. These batteries contain a positively charged cathode, a negatively charged anode, and an electrolyte that separates them. The cathode comprises lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese, while the anode commonly features graphite. The individual cells find protection within aluminum or steel casings, safeguarding against mechanical harm.
Essential Components of an EV Battery
Beyond cell materials, an EV battery entails a plethora of hardware and software components for functionality. The primary features are:
- Battery Module Array: This refers to power-storing components, including cells grouped into modules, eventually forming the battery pack.
- Battery Management System (BMS): The BMS oversees battery operations, regulating charge levels, managing cell charging/discharging, and monitoring temperature.
- Battery Electrical System: This encompasses wiring, connections, and electrical components designed to manage high voltages efficiently.
- Battery Cooling System: Due to heat production, EV batteries necessitate cooling mechanisms, often employing a coolant to dissipate heat.
- Battery Protection Case: A sturdy structure safeguards the battery’s components, designed to be airtight, waterproof, flame-retardant, and shock-resistant.
Prominent EV Battery Manufacturers
Given the resource and capital intensity of EV battery production, a handful of companies control global battery production. Leading the pack is Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL), holding approximately 34% of the EV battery market share. LG Energy Solution follows, with a 14% market share, partnering with Honda for a US battery plant. China dominates, with BYD owning a 12% share and producing its EVs and batteries. The US, Japan, and Korea hold smaller market shares.
Navigating the EV Battery Landscape
China’s supremacy in EV battery manufacturing is evident, buoyed by its production capacities and raw material resources. While the US and EU strive for domestic production, China is poised to maintain its leading position until at least 2030.
Anticipating the Future of EV Batteries
As shortages and price hikes become commonplace, the future of EV batteries is a pertinent concern. Solutions include battery recycling, reclaiming minerals for new batteries, enhancing battery performance through research, and policy-driven production expansion.
In conclusion, EV battery manufacturing entails intricate processes, reliant on scarce materials and specialized expertise. Advancements in recycling, efficient battery technologies, and global production initiatives are pivotal in ensuring the accessibility and affordability of EV batteries for the years to come.