Battery megafactory pipeline capacity reaches 2TWh, but there may be a sting in the tail
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Battery metal bulls, do you want the good news or the bad news first?
The good news is that the amount of battery gigafactory capacity in the works from now until 2028 new exceeds 2 terawatt hours, according to the latest figures from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (BMI).
There are now 96 battery plants that have been announced from proponents, either new-builds or expansions, meaning there’s going to be a lot of call for minerals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel.
While a lot of capacity has been added from the automotive sector, stationary and utility-scale batteries are quickly becoming part of the pipeline.
For example, earlier this year Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) tipped energy storage solutions around the world to reach 1059GW by 2040 — which would require a 122-fold boom of stationary energy storage over that time.
Its 2019 outlook said that the sector would see more than $40 billion of investment into non-EV batteries.
“Two big changes this year are that we have raised our estimate of the investment that will go into energy storage by 2040 by more than $40 billion, and that we now think the majority of new capacity will be utility-scale, rather than behind-the-meter at homes and businesses,” BNEF analyst Yayoi Sekine said.
Given it’s also forecasting wind and solar to make up more than 40 per cent of the world’s electricity mix, the place for batteries is looking solid.
For example, Tesla recently brought out the utility-scale ‘Megapack’ — with each pack coming with 3 megawatt hours (MWhs) of storage and 1.5 MW of inverter capacity.
So, where’s the bad news?
Well, the first solid-state battery plant was added to BMI’s tracker.
Well, yes and no.
Qing Tao New Energy is constructing a 1GWh plant in China, and it would be the first of its scale delivering solid-state batteries to market.
As opposed to stock-standard lithium-ion batteries, solid-state batteries replace the flammable liquids that act as an electrolyte with one that isn’t flammable.
This, in turn, allows engineers to put more lithium atoms into the battery without increasing volatility.
This has the consequence of giving solid state batteries a longer lifecycle than their lithium-ion counterparts.
Invariably, that may mean fewer batteries need to be made to meet power demand and replace used-up batteries in the future.
But the good news is that solid state tech won’t be coming to a car near you any time soon, as there are still numerous technical kinks to work out.
“Solid state technology still has a number of significant hurdles to overcome before mass adoption of the technology, particularly for the electric vehicle market,” BMI wrote.
“Benchmark Minerals expects that this development will happen over a 10-year timeframe for electric vehicles as a minimum, with the technology likely to be used in military and high-end electronic applications prior to this.”