The battery boom

As production of electric cars increases so does the need for lithium-ion batteries, raw materials and reliable and efficient heating technology. Sandvik is ready to meet the demand.

The European Commission has estimated that the world will have between 50 million and 200 million electric cars by 2028, up from 4 million in 2018, and as many as 900 million by 2040. Demand for lithium-ion batteries will follow this development, which in turn will have a knock-out effect on demand for reliable and efficient heating technology.

We have been able to develop elements with the required reliability and uniformity needed

In addition, the transition to renewable energy sources is set to increase the demand for lithium-ion batteries for storage. Since solar and wind power are intermittent sources, they are not as dependable as fossil fuels. However, by providing the capacity for storage, lithium-ion batteries could make renewable energy far more reliable and viable.

“Lithium-ion batteries are a huge technological enabler, and this is going to drive tremendous growth in manufacturing capacity, especially in Europe,” says Sachin Pimpalnerkar, Global Segment Manager at Sandvik brand Kanthal.

Sachin Pimpalnerkar

Two key parameters are fueling lithium-ion battery growth: continuous improvement in the energy density of batteries, and drastic reductions in costs.

“Electric vehicles today have a limited driving range, take too long to recharge and the costs are still too high,” Pimpalnerker says. “Almost 40 to 50 percent of the cost of an electric car is in the battery itself. However, energy density is improving, which means you can get more energy in the same space, and the price is continuously decreasing.”

Knock-on effect on demand

Current projections suggest that by 2024 the price could fall below 100 dollars per kWh, which is the point at which electric vehicles achieve parity with the traditional internal combustion engine.

To meet this demand, current production will have to grow exponentially in the coming years. By 2023, manufacturing capacity in Europe is expected to be around 198 gigawatt-hours per year – up from 18 GWh in 2019.

Dean McGabe

This will have a knock-on effect on demand for raw materials and key components such as cathode. “Demand for cathode material is rapidly increasing because of the growth of electric vehicles, and we want to help cathode manufacturers to meet this demand,” says Dean McCabe, Technical Support Manager, Kanthal.

Globar® SiC (silicon carbide) heating elements have been specifically engineered for high-tech applications with tough conditions, such as cathode material production. A key feature of Globar heating element is the unique microstructure of its substrate. This has been achieved through a thorough evaluation of the manufacturing process, starting from the initial preparation of the raw materials right through to the finished product.

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“With the right raw materials, anyone can produce silicon carbide heating elements fairly easily, but they will not necessarily be very reliable or perform as cathode producers need them to,” McCabe says. “By analyzing the material structure and how it can be affected by process changes, we have been able to develop elements with the required reliability and uniformity needed for this application.”

The Kanthal solution offers the advantage of being able to control temperatures precisely.

“Because our heating systems enable producers to achieve the exact temperatures in the zones where it is needed, they will give the best-quality cathode powder with good energy and high productivity,” Pimpalnerkar says. “This is going to be important in the coming years, as demand for lithium-ion batteries rapidly takes off.”

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