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Batteries

Published on December 20th, 2015 | by James Ayre

102

$3 Million Awarded To Solid-State Sodium Battery Project By ARPA-E

December 20th, 2015 by  


Originally published on EV Obsession.

A new solid-state sodium battery development project being worked on by researchers at Iowa State University (amongst others) was recently awarded $3 million in new funding via ARPA-E’s 2015 OPEN funding initiative, according to recent reports. (ARPA-E stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy.)

The new research project in question is headed by Steve W Martin — an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in materials science and engineering and an associate of the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. Along with the research team at Iowa State University, other collaborators include the University of Colorado, the University of Houston, Solid Power Inc, and Washington State University.

Arpa-e

The solid-state sodium (Na) battery in question (the one that the project is developing) is intended to work at room temperature, while utilizing “a benign and scalable solid-stack design for a long cycle life.” The expectation is that the new battery will possess a roughly 20% increase in energy density, as compared to state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries.

Research head Steve W Martin commented: “When we look at ways to efficiently store energy from wind and solar sources, lithium-based batteries are expensive and world-wide geological resources of lithium are actually quite limited. A sodium-based battery, on the other hand, has the potential to store larger amounts of electrical energy at a significantly lower cost. And, nearly all countries have access to large amounts of sodium.”

Green Car Congress provides more:

Martin’s new battery will use a solid anode, cathode and electrolyte separator. This construction will eliminate all of the flammable and reactive materials from the battery and make it safer. Martin’s group at Iowa State will develop the new solid electrolyte separator; Martin has been exploring new glass compositions with very high ionic conductivities for some time.

A team led by Yan Yao at the University of Houston will create a new cathode for the battery. A team led by Sehee Lee at the University of Colorado Boulder will develop the new anode for the battery. Scott Beckman and Soumik Banerjee at Washington State University will lead a team using theoretical modeling techniques to optimize the construction and operation of the assembled battery. And Solid Power, led by Dr Josh Buettner-Garrett, will oversee the commercialization of the completed battery.

The design is, notably, not a “new” one — but has until now not seen a market-viable offering.






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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Miller Plant

    Molten Salt batteries were not “new” since Nikola Tesla used molten salt in Colorado Springs in 1899, he patented dozens of electrolytic capacitors, transformers and meters, patents for a battery for Niagara Falls and later used super-conductive and/or cold temperature salt water in his 120′ telescopic Wardenclyffe Tower Water Well, that had to stay at a specific temperature.

  • vensonata

    Lithium nations like oil nations have to be nimble. They need to hold out for a good price but they also risk the possibility of stranded assets if the technology shifts. Although lithium is theoretically “abundant”, easily accessible lithium is less so. I suspect Bolivia, as the Saudi Arabia of lithium, would probably be better off dumping it on the market, taking the money and running.

  • Dannyvn

    Dannyvn
    I have read about the carbon battery development from a company EnergyJapan
    The tests said to be encouraging, doubling the density and range of Lion, also said to be without the dangers associated of Lion. Any comments, ecar mnfrs going this route…

  • nakedChimp

    good on them.. $3M won’t get them far though.. esp when scattered over a couple of teams it evaporates to nearly nothing.

    As for beating some Li-Ion.. cool, send one of the prototypes to Tesla, they sure are going to support you with 10x as much money if you’re talking reality here.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If there’s real promise try 100x as much.

      • JamesWimberley

        One difficulty with long-range battery research is that there are so many possible battery chemistries. Picking a winner too early would be a very costly mistake. It is probably wise for the DoE and other public funders of battery research to cover the field and leave the big bets to practical businesspersons in Tesla, Nissan, LG and the like.

        • rockyredneck

          So true. Battery development will follow the money in the long term and all our arguments are only exercising our gums.

  • Matt

    I hope they hit it out of the park, but whenever i see “and world-wide geological resources of lithium are actually quite limited” then the rest of the PR piece falls into the bull shit pile.

  • JamesWimberley

    A project with five teams scattered over the USA will be difficult to coordinate. Did ARPA-E fudge making a clear choice?

    • Calamity_Jean

      Maybe that’s the point. Maybe the teams have different approaches, and ARPA-E wanted to pursue them all.

  • Mike Shurtleff

    ” roughly 20% increase in energy density, as compared to state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries”
    That’s a very meaningless metric. Different “state of the art” lithium batteries can be used for different purposes (eg power storage or EVs) and have a wide range of energy densities (~100kWh/kg to 265kWh/kg)

    “lithium-based batteries are expensive and world-wide geological resources of lithium are actually quite limited”

    Currently expensive? Yes. Limit lithium resources? No. I wish you guys would quit echoing these false claims of limited lithium resources. Sure sodium will be more common, but there is plenty of lithium available …as has been stated here at cleantechnica before.

    I hope this group is successful. A higher energy density solid state sodium battery could be an improvement over lithium. …but lithium batteries are going to be good enough to get us there.

    • sjc_1

      100kWh/kg to 265kWh/kg
      You need to remove the k before the W.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        RIght you are. Fixed. Thank you.

        • sjc_1

          You are welcome, if we had that “k” we would need no fuel for cars.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Sakti3 has a k. 😉 Will be interesting to see if they can scale. Wonder what their cycle life is?

    • jeffhre

      20% increase in density is a little more than two years of Li Ion evolutionary development. If it takes more than a few years to get this to a prototype, they are going to have to move very quickly to make ongoing gains, for it to be marketable.

      • Jamset

        True. Li-ion batteries in phones are improving in density every year by 5-10%.

        I read that the Model S now offers a 90 kWh battery because Tesla are adding a bit of silicon to their cells.

        No idea if mobile phones or Tesla cars are compromising cycle life by adding silicon.

    • Dominik Waechter

      We will not get less limitations on lithium just because you deny it. In fact everything in the world is limited. And the price usually states pretty clear how easy something is to get and how limited it is. It usually states as well the ecological footprint to get a material like that to use.
      I agree that we can make plenty of batteries for all the EV in the world. And for sure it is at the moment not a bad solution. But if there is a less limited material which can do the same task, then please try it. And i am sure we will find better solutions.

      • Bob_Wallace

        At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth’s crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel and lead have about the same abundance. There are approximately 39 million tonnes of accessible lithium in the Earth’s crust

        The Nissan Leaf contains 4 kg of lithium. Assume we use 3x as much for each EV in the future. 39 million tonnes = 3,250,000,000 EVs.

        At some point we start recycling. And if we’re still using lithium further down the road there are approximately 208,652,550,000 tonnes of lithium in seawater.

        • Jamset

          Electric ships is are a concern.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What do you mean by “concern”?

          • Jamset

            What batteries would electric ships use.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Must ships use batteries?

            How did ships get into this thread?

          • Jamset

            Musk does not want ships to be powered by high sulfur diesel/oil.

            Boeing has been putting Li-ion batteries in aircraft, I presume to save jet fuel.

            If electric cars are the way to go, then what batteries would electric ships use?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I haven’t done the math. (I’ve also not pushed the ideas that we would use batteries for oceanic shipping.)

            If you’d like to do the math then look up the amount of bunker fuel a freighter uses to cross the ocean. Calculate the volume. Look up the efficiency of ship engines. That will let you the current MWh per trips and space use.

            That should allow you to calculate the watt-hours/liter you’d need.

            I suspect space is going to be more important than weight.

        • Dominik Waechter

          OK Bob agree. Seems you are right. It is the best technology ever. We should stop all the research in new technologies. Because there is enough of it. You know what we have also enough. H2. Plenty around. So maybe we could also use that.

          Ohhhh wait was there not something with the carbon footprint to get H2……

          Think about. I hope it widens your horizon a bit…..

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s some feedback. You haven’t mastered the art of sarcasm.

            First step, actually understand the other person’s position. If you don’t and try to riff off a faulty foundation you fall flat.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Nobody here is saying this research is not worthwhile. Please grow some perspective.
            btw I don’t think Bob favors H2. Think he understands where most of it comes from already.

        • rockyredneck

          Aluminum is the third most common element in the crust and iron is the fourth, but it is still cheaper to produce steel. Abundance does not determine price until it is actually in the marketplace.

          • Jens Stubbe

            Questionable actually. Aluminum requires less and less expensive energy and the sources are abundant and large whereas steel in so far requires coke. From an environmental point of view Aluminum is far cheaper than steel.

          • rockyredneck

            A very questionable argument. You are putting dollar values on things that do not have a market.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, but the price of lithium is not an issue. The Leaf uses only 4 kg. Not a tonne. A 200 mile range EV is likely to use less than 10 kg.

          • rockyredneck

            It probably isn’t at this point, but the future is unpredictable. The price of platinum in mufflers is not an issue either, but if manufacturers find cheaper alternatives, they will be used.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure, we’ll move to sodium or sulfur or zinc or whatever might give adequate performance at a better price. But there’s no way to guarantee that any of those technologies will deliver. We need do our planning on a ‘worst case’ basis and replan if something better comes along.

            Lithium is working. We’re making it affordable (in terms of purchase price parity). Worst case, we power our personal transportation vehicle with lithium-ion batteries from here on out.

          • rockyredneck

            That is true, but the price of lithium batteries is still high enough that we should not discount possibly cheaper alternatives.

          • eveee
        • Frank

          Elon Musk says battery recycling being built into gigafactory. He considers old batteries high grade ore. Youtube 2 days ago Elon Musk talks carbon tax…

      • Mike Shurtleff

        As I stated “sure sodium is more common” and “I hope this group is successful”. However lithium is going to be able to do the job and the lithium resource is plenty big enough to do this. A better solution would be great! I would welcome that. …Just say’in don’t piss on the solution we already have in hand.

        • rockyredneck

          Lithium batteries have been a tremendous advance in portability and many other aspects. They are, however, still too expensive for many applications and that still limits their use.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Sure, but cost is coming down quickly. I can name five different companies, with very different approaches, who plan to drop the production cost below $150/kWh in a few years, below $100/kWh by 2022. That’s going to change things.

            You are not entirely correct anyway. EVs are selling. When oil cycles around to higher cost, or when some catastrophe strikes the supply chain, EVs will sell like hot cakes on a cold winter morning.
            Tesla’s Powerwall ($3,000 for 7kWh = $428/kWh) sold out 1.5 years production in a week.

          • Bob_Wallace

            LG Chem will be at $145/kWh next year. They’ve already contracted with GM.
            Tesla has been paying Panasonic less than $200/kWh for over a year. That should drop to about $130/kWh when the Gigafactory is manufacturing cells in 2016.

          • rockyredneck

            Yes, EVs are selling, and especially so in jurisdictions with high incentives and/or extra high fuel prices. Most of the world cannot be compared to Norway, though, and although we can depend on taxes staying there is no guarantee that they will be returned as incentives. So far, EV sales are not making much of a dent worldwide and American sales might slump as well if the government continues to refuse to raise gasoline taxes.
            The powerwall is a great concept, but I am not sure it is not basically filling a niche market. It remains to be seen if it will stand up to future competition which may come in the form of sodium batteries. I do believe, that if sodium works out, Elon Musk will be one of the quickest to switch.

        • Jens Stubbe

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobalt 0.0029% of the earth crust is Cobalt. And it is expensive though it has declined in prices just like most metals in recent years. http://www.infomine.com/investment/metal-prices/cobalt/5-year/

          Unlike Lithium that for sure will be cheaper with rising demand there is a real likelihood of Cobalt shortage. http://www.wallstreetdaily.com/2015/01/13/cobalt-electric-car-battery/

          • rockyredneck

            Commodity pricing does not follow the same rules as manufacturing. More demand will always raise prices if production does not keep pace. Gold prices escalated rapidly at the beginning of the recession because of demand. It doesn’t even have many practical uses.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Diamond prices stay high and rise not because there’s a shortage of diamonds. But because there’s a mine monopoly.

            Lithium is spread around too many countries.

            Production is increased by building more processing plants.

          • rockyredneck

            You are a little behind. The diamond monopoly has been severely weakened by the Canadian diamond industry and the entry of other countries into the game.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You got my point.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            When there is a plentiful resource, then some increase in price stimulates increased production, including discovery and opening of new mining sites. The increased scale usually results in lower prices, not higher. The higher prices is a short term phenomena when the resource is plentiful. Lithium is plentiful.
            The recent history of bulk silicon production is an excellent example of this …and that has a longer reaction time because manufacturing scale is required for the purification step.
            Gold is a foolish example, FUD. Gold is not common.

          • rockyredneck

            According to my sources lithium is the 33rd most abundant element. Gold is the 79th. The are many more less abundant, which makes it relatively common.
            I was giving an example of the effect of demand on price. I think gold is an excellent example, since in its case, demand is the dominant factor determining price.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’ve mined the easy to reach gold. We haven’t even started going after the easiest to obtain lithium.

          • rockyredneck

            That is a fact. The lithium production industry is in its infancy. There is probably a steep learning curve ahead.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Not all that steep. We know where to find massive amounts. And we’ve been processing it for years.

            Will we learn some new tricks and bring the price lower? Hopefully.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            25th most abundant, as Bob has already stated, here:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium
            “At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth’s crust,[46] lithium is the 25th most abundant element.”
            Also take note: KNOWN reserves 13,500,000 tonnes …and lithium has not been used much in the past so reserves are poorly known.

            Gold is a poor example. Is silicon getting more expensive for PV panels? You might as well worry about running out of seawater. Dominik Waechter said “everything is limited”. Well that’s true. He might as well give up, go home, and die now. I’m going to go with reasonable alternatives, myself. Don’t know why, guess I’m just funny that way.

            Think you guys might want to drop that argument.

            I remember a story. A shortage of copper was occurring several decades ago. One experienced businessman said he bet any comers copper would be cheaper in ten years time. He turned out to be correct. Won’t always happen that way because of how dang many people we have, but your obsession with lithium supply being limited is goofy right now, goofy for the next 30 years, maybe still goofy after that.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Yes, cobalt is not in large supply. Won’t slow down use of lithium chemistries that do not use cobalt, eg LiFePO4 typically 3,000+ cycles.

      • rockyredneck

        You just shared something that is rarely considered.
        “It usually states as well the ecological footprint to get a material like that to use.”
        It seems to be true for almost all material products. A handful of diamonds requires huge environmental disruption and great expenditure in FF and other resources.
        It would also suggest that we cannot spend our way out of our predicament.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          Yes, increased lithium mining and battery manufacturing will have an increasing environmental footprint. Consider this is going to replace the huge environmental damage caused by oil mining, transport, refining, and distribution. This increased environmental footprint argument against lithium battery is one for fools and nay-sayers. It’s FUD. There is clearly a huge environmental net positive to going with lithium battery EVs and home/business/grid storage of electricity.

          • rockyredneck

            We seem to keep getting away from what this commentary is all about, comparing sodium and lithium in battery manufacture. I agree that lithium batteries are the best available alternative at this point. That does not mean that I would not welcome a more reasonable cost alternative if one becomes available. I can see no point in defending lithium batteries in this context

          • Mike Shurtleff

            I agree with everything you’ve written here accept the last sentence. As I said above, lithium batteries are the solution at hand, there is plenty of lithium, and they can do the job. I’m all for a better solution, but only a fool throws away a known good solution and bets everything on an unknown. This article in particular provides information on a possible solution in theory only. They have built nothing yet. I wish them luck but I’d hardly bet the farm on them.
            To you too Dominik Waeckter.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Both of you are trying my patience. You are very stubbornly defending bad positions and false information. Why would that be?

          • rockyredneck

            I may be trying your patience but I am tired of being called foolish for a position that I do not even take. I have never advocated throwing out lithium battery technology.

            You do not seem to understand that it is foolish to not embrace better technology when and if it comes along. Why can you not admit that there is room for improvement with lithium batteries which may either come from better lithium battery technology or from other types.

            I repeat, I can see no point in defending lithium batteries in this context.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Of course there is room for improvement in lithium batteries, including other chemistries. I’ve already said I would embrace other better solutions. This sodium battery is not one …yet …that I’ve seen. I hope they succeed though.

            I’m defending lithium battery because they are a known solution and you are spreading falsehoods about this known solution. There is no visible danger of lithium shortage on the horizon. I’m an engineer. I like to make things that actually work. I like known solution. I have to be quick to recognize newer better solutions, but lithium is where it’s at right now, from what I can see and I’m not an insider in the battery industry. I’m hoping for surprises in the future.

      • eveee

        There is plenty of lithium. Reports of its scarcity are highly exaggerated.

        “Researchers from the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Co. have assessed the global availability of lithium and compared it to the potential demand from large-scale global use of electric vehicles. The research findings, published in the current issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology, conclude that sufficient resources of lithium exist for the next 90 years to supply a large-scale global fleet of electric vehicles through at least 2100.”

        http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/8500-university-of-michigan-and-ford-researchers-see-plentiful-lithium-resources-for-electric-vehicles

      • Mike Shurtleff

        I’m only denying it because it is false information. See Bob’s comments or I can provide many other links.
        Price of lithium is not high.
        Ecological footprint of Wind, Solar PV, and LITHIUM batteries in EVs will be far, far lower than ecological footprint of extracting, transporting, refining, and burning oil. Duh!

        “But if there is a less limited material which can do the same task, then please try it. And i am sure we will find better solutions.”

        On this I agree. I wish them success and will welcome any better technology. I’m already very interested in flow batteries, Aquion, EOS, and Ambri/LMB for stationary storage. I’m just defending lithium because we already know that is going to do the job for EVs. It would be really dumb to neglect that. Something better would be great!

  • omar

    is it good for EVs ? or only stationary ?

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Too soon. Still experimental. I didn’t see mention of them having any kind of physical prototype.

    • karrlsam

      They clearly said ‘room temperature’. But, there are millions of forklifts in factorys that work at room temp.

      And I will put 15 KWH of them in my 60 deg. F crawlspace if the price gets below $ 100.
      Think of all the businesses that will buy them to shed peak loads. ( peak load charges-month after month.) Again, ‘room temp.’

  • jeffhre

    Hopefully they can press forward quickly with technologies that are economical at commercial scale. I would love to see solid state batteries that were less affected by heat and cold than batteries with liquid electrolytes. For vehicle applications, that improves weight and cost by allowing a simpler battery temperature management system.

    ““When we look at ways to efficiently store energy from wind and solar sources, lithium-based batteries are expensive and world-wide geological resources of lithium are actually quite limited.” Uh oh. That doesn’t bode well regarding overall capacity for sound judgement. Apparently much better at battery research than resource profiles.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      “lithium-based batteries are expensive” Price is coming down. WIll probably reach $100/kWh production cost in the next 5 or 6 years.

      “world-wide geological resources of lithium are actually quite limited” This is one of the most pernicious falsehoods on the Internet. Sodium may be even more common, but there is plenty of lithium available for the huge number of batteries we are going to be producing.

      • rockyredneck

        There is no shortage of lithium sources, but there is a shortage of inexpensively produced sources. There are also not a lot of production facilities. To this point demand has been tiny, and it remains to be seen what will happen to prices.

        • Jens Stubbe

          I do not think you know what is costly in a Lithium Ion battery. The Cobalt used is actually more expensive.

          Also it is baroque to believe that Lithium alone of all widespread metal would be more expensive once the market demand rises.

          Every single other widespread metal has been on a cost trajectory towards ever lower prices.

          Cobalt however is more problematic.

          Anyway if they can pull it of with a solid state Sodium battery this will be fantastic news.

          I do however not suppose that they can outperform Sakti3 by 20% and I still do not see the point in grid scale battery storage but I guess I have to wait until the hype blows over.

          • rockyredneck

            You are right that I do not know all the production costs associated with lithium batteries. We were discussing Lithium versus sodium costs. Perhaps sodium batteries require cobalt or some other costly content as well.

            As Bob has pointed out lithium is the 25th most abundant element in the earths crust, but sodium stands at number 6 and it is pretty evenly distributed. Neither element is rare enough for that to be a factor in cost. It is the ease of production and access that will determine cost on average. They are a commodity like oil or copper and could be subject to wide price swings for the same reasons, production or demand swings..

          • Bob_Wallace

            My guess is that we will develop a better/cheaper battery than the lithium batteries we are now using in the next 10 to 15 years. For now lithium batteries are good enough and we could keep using lithium batteries for centuries by recycling and replacing what we lose from seawater sources.
            Whatever happens the task right now is to get off oil as fast as possible. We can do that with the lithium technology we have in hand right now. Best to go forward rapidly and if something better comes out of the lab we change switch over.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Here’s what will almost certainly happen if supply isn’t adequate.

          Demand will grow.

          Supplies will tighten.

          Prices will rise.

          Someone will see the potential for profit and start a new processing plant or expand an existing plant.

          Prices will drop back to a ‘ordinary profit’ level.

          At the moment I think you’d find that Panasonic, LG Chem, BYD and other battery manufacturers have already made arrangements for the lithium they will need as their new plants come on line. And they will probably stay in close contact with their suppliers in order to insure that future needs will be met.

          The silicon industry got caught out with the sudden acceleration in solar panel manufacturing and supplies ran short. It took a couple years to bring more processing plants online and take prices back to normal. With EVs the upcoming battery demand has been a lot more public and a few battery companies are going big.

          With solar panels several hundred panel manufacturers came online in a short period of time. I suspect no one company was making it clear that there was a building bottleneck.

          • rockyredneck

            You are of course accurate in stating that supply and demand will set the price. It is the lag times for developing new sources that makes mining commodities so price volatile.
            You also right that most companies try to use hedging to even out costs for supplies. I am not sure there is a futures market for lithium yet, but long term contracts can provide some security of price, as well
            However, comparing manufactured products to mining commodities would lose you a lot of cash if you were investing in mining.
            Your silicon example is apt. After all silicon is the most abundant element in the earths crust after oxygen. Even it can be in short supply under certain circumstances

          • Bob_Wallace

            Demand increase will be very easy for the lithium industry to predict.
            All they have to pay attention to is construction starts for additional battery factories. That should give them at least a two year alert.

          • rockyredneck

            Industry is all about getting ahead of the competition, but I have never noticed them being good at prediction. Oil companies are a good example, and they have had years of experience.

          • Bob_Wallace

            How often do you see factories shut down because they can’t get raw materials?

          • rockyredneck

            You can always get material, but you may have to outbid others, and factories shut down quite often because they are unprofitable

          • Bob_Wallace

            You twisted that around, R.

          • rockyredneck

            Give me a point for beating you at your own game.

          • Bob_Wallace

            My game?

          • ROBwithaB

            There is a big difference between a deep level gold mine (for example) and a lithium “mine”.
            The first entails a time-consuming and very expensive process before you can even start. Lots of environmental concerns and paperwork.
            Geological studies over a wide area. Core samples. Sinking and lining shafts, erecting headgear and cages, installing cooling and circulations systems for adequate air supply and huge pumps to keep the mine dry, providing housing for hundreds or thousands of workers, and so on. Huge electrical infrastructure needs to be installed. You need to secure open land to dump mountains of waste material.
            About a decade, and hundreds of millions of dollars, before you get the first rock into the processing plant.

            A lithium “mine” is generally just an existing salt pan. You pump some brine to the surface. It lies in shallow ponds on the surface until the sun evaporates most of the water. This evaporation happens quickly, because salt pans occur in areas of high evaporation and low precipitation (deserts).
            Ponds are hundreds of hectares. Evaporation happens at a rate of about 10mm a DAY. Instead of electricity, the sun does most of the hard work for you.
            Final processing is going to need some electrical power, but this can be sourced from solar, because deserts.
            You could probably go from certification to production in about a year.

            If you’ve seen table-salt production facilities, you’ll understand how simple the process is.

          • rockyredneck

            Actually. most lithium production to date has been as a by-product of existing salt or potash production. Hard rock mining was largely shut down as uncompetative. The concentration of lithium is very low in salt flats, “the 3,000-square-kilometer Salar de Atacama in Chile, which contains an average lithium concentration of about 0.14 percent”, is the highest known.
            That means that if lithium is the primary target the other 99.86% associated salts become by-product or waste.

            http://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/energy-investing/lithium-investing/lithium-deposit-types-brine-pegmatite-and-sedimentary/

            http://www.westernlithium.com/products/lithium/where-is-it-found-and-produced/

            Hard rock sources of lithium have higher concentrations but as much of the waste has no market value it is harder to deal with and the lithium is more expensive to extract.

            I am not sure where you live, but in most jurisdictions it would take more than a year to get the environmental reviews done before starting a new mining project. Then a mining company has to raise the financing, obtain the property, have equipment built and delivered, build infrastructure such as, power lines, roads, railways, loading and storage facilities, staff accommodations and recruit the necessary staff. Tell me again how you do this in a year.

            Now, why is everyone trying to tell me how cheap lithium might be when all I am saying is that sodium is much more common and will likely always be much cheaper. Think table salt.
            We don’t know that, yet, that sodium batteries will be better or less costly than lithium. Any significant improvement, however, in energy density, safety and cost would be a boon to electric transportation.
            It is not time to give up on lithium battery technology, but refusing to consider alternatives, borders on the ridiculous. In particular since factories could likely switch production from one to the other quite easily.
            Lithium may never be that expensive, but you can be certain that sodium will remain less costly.
            And yes I have seen several salt(sodium) production facilities, not all quite like you describe. They can be profitable even outside of desert areas.

          • ROBwithaB

            I don’t claim to be any sort of expert, but I’m pretty sure that most of the other 99.9% of the brine is actually water.
            Some other dissolved salts, of course. But some of these are also useful and can be sold as byproduct.
            Sure, sodium is a lot more common, and easier to collect. And if it proves suitable for more efficient battery chemistry, then by all means it will be widely used.
            But I don’t think that the cost of lithium is going to be a limiting factor in battery development. There’s lots of it about, and the easiest (and cheapest) way of “mining” it is to simply pump it out of the ground.

          • rockyredneck

            Actually no, that is the percentage of solids. The Chilean mines are not brine pumping operations. The salts are simply scraped off the surface. Underground brine as from oilfields has lower concentration of lithium as a percentage of the solids. The accompanying salts, such as potash, do have a value but that could be drastically lowered by oversupply. Brining operations in Canada pump water down to dissolve the salts before pumping the brine out. The percentage of lithium as solids can be slightly higher in that case. It is not as simple as you have been led to believe. You may be right, though, about lithium prices not being a limiting factor if better technology does not come along.

          • ROBwithaB

            Thanks for the detailed info.
            Yeah, I see salt just piled up into heaps in the Salars. So they don’t even have to pump anything. Doesn’t look like a particularly technologically complex process. Which is probably why the salt flat option is the cheapest at the moment.
            It looks like the whole “lithium shortage” thing is overblown, probably by people who want me to buy their penny mining stocks.

          • rockyredneck

            No, mining the salts is simple, separating the lithium is a little more complex. These saltpan sources are the cheapest.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t think you’ll find anyone saying that we should not search for better solutions than lithium batteries and switch to better solutions if they become available.

            But right now we have no sodium/sulfur/whatever batteries that are anywhere close to being lithium replacements. We don’t have anything in the lab, as far as I know, that offers the capacity (weight and volume) and cycle life of lithium-ion. If that was developed today it would still take a few years to prove out that battery in the real world. And until something is proven we will continue to use lithium-ion.

          • rockyredneck

            I agree, but it remains to be seen if prices will come down enough to make EVs mainstream quickly. Or alternately if oil will increase in price fast enough.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think we’re short years (~5) before EVs reach purchase price parity with ICEVs. At that point even $2/gallon gas won’t be cheap enough to stop people from moving to EVs.

          • rockyredneck

            I hope you and I are still around to see if that works out.
            Happy New Year

          • Bob_Wallace

            Me too!

            And a Happy New Start to you as well.

        • eveee

          Wrong. Lithium is inexpensive. The PowerBlock price touched off a firestorm of demand. Over 620 million of orders in 7 days. There are plenty of low cost storage options.

          http://www.greentechmedia.com/content/images/articles/Lazard_Storage_LCOE_.png

          Why arent they used? They are not needed now. We don’t need storage until we are at very high levels of renewables integration over wide regions. Not there yet.

      • eveee

        Lithium batteries are not expensive. Especially compared to alternatives.

        http://www.greentechmedia.com/content/images/articles/Lazard_Storage_LCOE_.png

      • rockyredneck

        BTW, Mike, my antivirus keeps warning me about your comments forwarded to my email. I am pretty certain you would not be trying to steal personal information about me, but perhaps you should look for a problem.

        • eveee

          Look into Discus. All the comments are thru it. Nothing in my comments but text, the few links are standard stuff.

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