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Batteries: supercharging decarbonisation

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June 14, 2021

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In 2019, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the pioneers of the lithium‑ion battery (Li-ion). Since Sony introduced it to the market in the early 1990s, this core component of the energy transition has been transforming our carbon habits for good.

La technologie des batteries Li-ion

© MITnews

When French physicist Gaston Planté designed the first rechargeable lead-acid battery in the mid-19th century, it quickly found countless applications, including mobility. But these very heavy objects come with a number of limitations.

All that changed at the end of the 20th century with the invention of the lithium‑ion battery in the 1970s by the British chemist Stanley Whittingham, with the support of Exxon. Now it is the single most important technology on the portable electronics market. Further improvements were made by John Goodenough and by the Japanese chemist Akira Yoshino, before the Li-ion battery it made its début with Sony’s iconic Walkman.

Today it is the heart of the electric vehicle (EV). And the boom in this market is a real gamechanger: the EV is accelerating the same technology needed to electrify other industries.

© SEABUBBLES

From cars to planes, and everything in between

The cost of lithium‑ion batteries long restricted their use to small devices, such as telephones, cameras and laptop computers. But today they are shaking up the electric car industry: their increasingly lower cost and improved performance has boosted range and lifetime, sending the technology to other types of transport undergoing electrification at lightning speed. These batteries have become an inescapable reality, transforming our daily lives and habits, and giving us hope for a world free of fumes and CO2 emissions.

All this progress is down to the development of Li-ion technology, the performance (energy density, charging speed, safety, etc.) and quality (durability) of which has improved by leaps and bounds over the last 10 years. Its exponential industrialisation has also sent its cost downwards. This is why having a local battery industry, particularly in the face of Asia’s lead, has become so important to Europe and the United States.

The battery is becoming a bigger part of our lives — not unlike the electric bicycles and scooters crisscrossing our cities. There are more and more electric motorbikes and scooters, with boats not far behind, and in aviation the likes of Airbus, Uber, and the California-based start-up Joby are developing VTOL[1] flying taxis.

A fume-free world

By electrifying the automotive sector, Li-ion battery technology will help us make the changes needed for decarbonisation — a concept that up until a few short years ago seemed utopian. The rules of the game have changed. With the battery, we can now realistically expect anything using a combustion engine to be electrified.

Just imagine: diesel generators quietly replaced by batteries; the whisper of a silent Rolls Royce

From mobility to musical or construction sites, entire swathes of industry will be decarbonised. Verkor is proud to be part of this movement that is now a possibility.

 


[1] VTOL: Vertical Take-Off and Landing

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