Lithium-ion batteries are a pivotal component of the EV revolution. They impact the power, driving distance and charging speeds of electric vehicles. And while battery technology may change, the importance of lithium doesn’t. Every lithium-ion battery needs lithium. It’s right there in the name. So, what are the different battery options? Before we answer that, it might be helpful to get a better understanding of what makes a lithium battery.
The basic structure of a lithium battery involves a cathode, anode, and an electrolyte and/or separator of some type. The separator, as you may have guessed, separates the negative anode from the positive cathode. This separator is where the electrolyte is found, passing ion charges from one side of the battery to the other. When a battery is charging, lithium ions travel from the positive cathode to the negative anode. During the discharge, ions flow from the anode to the cathode. The electrolyte is a medium that helps the ions flow freely from one electrode (cathode) to the other while the separator blocks electrons from traveling freely through the device. The material used in the anode is pretty consistent, usually graphite, which is readily available. Most of the hard science occurs in the cathode and the separator.
The cathode can be made using different formulations and percentages of minerals like nickel, carbon, cobalt, phosphate, aluminum, and manganese. The make-up of the cathode has a direct impact on different performance attributes. Different kinds of lithium-ion batteries offer different features, with trade-offs between specific power, specific energy, safety, lifespan, cost, and performance. As you change the amounts of metals used, you change the way each battery performs.