Electric vehicles are just like ordinary gas guzzlers in some respects, including their lifespan. They need to be replaced every once in a while. That kicks a whole ecosystem of automotive supply chain activity into gear, with a new carbon footprint piling up along the way. A longer-lasting solid-state EV battery would help cut those lifecycle emissions, and the startup EnergyX is among those hammering away at the problem.
Here’s Some Sustainable Lithium To Go With That New Solid-State EV Battery
The lifespan of a typical electric vehicle battery has a lot to do with driving habits as well as local road and climate conditions. The generally accepted rule of thumb is 10-20 years, though the current practice is to warranty the battery for eight years.
In terms of the electric vehicle lifespan, the lithium supply chain has raised concerns over lifecycle environmental impacts related to surface mining and the use of open-air evaporation lagoons, among other issues.
The US Department of Energy has been searching for alternative solutions in the form of Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technologies. If you’re familiar with the Hell’s Kitchen geothermal lithium project at the Salton Sea in California, that’s one example.
Last July, the Energy Department tapped EnergyX (aka Energy Exploration Technologies) to share a funding pot with nine other alternative lithium supply projects, aimed at extracting lithium from geothermal brine for the EV battery market.
The company received $5 million in funding, to be applied to a project called “Simplified High Purity Direct Lithium Hydroxide Production from Salton Sea Brines.”
In October, EnergyX got another shot of financial adrenaline from a group of Korean investors including Elohim Partners and IMM Investment Global, which counts the leading EV battery materials supply firm POSCO among its participants.
“POSCO will provide financial and strategic benefits to EnergyX to help the company accelerate its transition towards full commercialization,” EnergyX observed, noting that POSCO has also made a $4 billion commitment towards its lithium operation in Salta, Argentina.
One Step Closer To The Forever Solid-State EV Battery Of The Future
If POSCO rings some bells, you may be thinking of the company’s solid-state battery venture with GM.
Meanwhile, on November 10 EnergyX drew attention to its integrated Direct Lithium Extraction operation, called the LiTAS™ DLE Platform.
The soup-to-nuts system is engineered to optimize the renewable energy from the geothermal operation. It “combines multiple technologies including Adsorption (AX), Solvent Extraction (SX), and Selective Membranes (MX) using both Electrodialysis (EDR), and Selective Bipolar Electrodialysis (sBPED) to create the most robust DLE system for lithium production,” EnergyX explains.
Patwardhan, EnergyX’s Chief Technology Officer, offers this explanation in somewhat plainer language:
“We have taken a ground up approach. Our team of industry leaders and experts in each area surveyed the competitive technologies and addressed specific shortcomings of each technology by developing new adsorbents, extractants, membranes, operating and control philosophies, and process arrangements to deliver the best techno-economic solution for every brine.”
“The platform we have built around LiTAS™ is a game changer for the entire industry. Not only have we proved recovery rates at higher than 94% lithium, but our technology uses a fraction of the freshwater to other DLE competitors,” adds EnergyX founder and CEO Teague Egan.
The Forever Solid-State EV Battery Of The Future
EnergyX provided CleanTechnica with an advance look at the latest news on its proprietary SoLiS electrolyte for new solid-state EV battery technology, which it broadcast earlier today.
Compared to the liquid electrolytes used in conventional EV batteries, new solid-state batteries offer longer lifespan, better range and charging performance, and less cost. The solid-state field is still relatively new, but the pace of innovation has been accelerating towards full commercialization (see more CleanTechnica solid-state coverage here).
EnergyX’s new solid-state EV battery electrolyte is still in the development phase, but the company is reporting a lifespan of more than 600 cycles for the technology under the proprietary name EnergyX SoLiS, with a goal of more than 1,000 cycles in its sights.
“While still in the development cycle, batteries constructed with these materials have exceeded 600 cycles. These solid electrolytes have extraordinary properties including high conductivity,” EnergyX reported.
“Not only that, the materials are extremely cost-effective and simple to process,” they add. “The company is confident that a solid-state, lithium metal battery derived from EnergyX’s discovery could power an electric vehicle for about 500,000 miles and 600+ miles per charge. Batteries with these capabilities will make EVs more affordable, and accelerate the green energy transition.”
Recycling The Forever Car Of The Future
Of course, a longer lasting, solid-state EV battery is just one element in the lifespan and environmental impacts of a car. For that matter, alternative transportation including bicycles and e-bikes, mass transit, and walkable communities would help reduce those impacts considerably.
However, to the extent that a long-lasting EV battery helps reduce supply chain impacts, that’s a good thing. For example, the average driver in the US goes 13,476 miles per year, though mileage varies considerably by age group and from state to state. Doing the math, that comes out to an average of 37 years of driving for an EV battery that lasts 500,000 miles. All else being equal, the average driver would only cycle through two cars, more or less, during their years of driving.
That sounds pretty impressive, but wear and tear on other parts, plus the ever present desire for a new car, would probably ratchet the lifespan of an average EV closer down to the average of 11.4 years generally cited for gasmobiles.
That underscores the importance of improving the cradle-to-grave impacts of a solid-state EV battery. The sustainable materials that go into a battery also need to be recycled coming out.
The Energy Department’s Lawrence Berekely National Laboratory is among those working to improve the recycling environment for a solid-state EV battery. Last August the lab issued an update on its efforts to develop a new, recycling-friendly approach to solid-state technology.
You can get all the details in the team’s latest paper, published in the journal Science Advances under the title, “Closed-loop cathode recycling in solid-state batteries enabled by supramolecular electrolytes.”
For those of you on the go, the lab explains that liquid electrolytes are tough to recycle, but solid-state technology also raises obstacles due to the difficulty in separating metals from two different parts of the battery, the electrolyte and the cathode.
To get around the problem, the research team is creating a solid electrolyte with a new class of lithium conductors called organo ionic (ORION), or ORION conductors for short.
The ORION conductors function normally while the battery is under use. When the battery is decommissioned, the conductors can be heated and dissolved. That opens the door for a relatively simple process for recovering the cathode particles and re-using them to make new batteries.
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Photo: A new solid-state EV battery features a more sustainable lithium supply chain (courtesy of EnergyX).
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