Many of us are not aware of the glorious past electric vehicles once had in the 19th century. Electric vehicles were the primary mode of transportation for short-distance travels were loved by all types of people. The period between 1881 and the early 1920s was considered to be the golden era for electric vehicles. Back then the rivals of an electric vehicle such as gasoline-powered and steam-powered personnel carriers or cars were very difficult to operate.
Though steam was doing well powering the trains and factories incorporating a steam engine into a personal car was not a practical and efficient way and soon became obsolete mainly due to the long starting time and the need to fill water in a short span with other numerous other inconvenience.
On the other hand, the gasoline-powered vehicles were also in trouble because of the trail of exhaust gas, the gear shifting, and the cranking required to start the engine. Electric vehicles were seemed to be the perfect solution as it doesn’t have any of these issues.
The Great Fall
The developments and innovations that happened in the Internal combusting engine and the newly found oil reservoirs along with other few reasons made the gasoline cars favourite among the growing middle-class families in the U.S during the early 1900s
The main causes for the fall of Electric vehicles are considered to be,
- The introduction of Model-T by ford in 1912.
- Model T was cheaper and had more range.
- Newly found reservoirs of petroleum and crude oil decreased the oil price.
- The improvement of roads and related infrastructure made people explore new territories.
- The range and speed of electric vehicles back then were against the new driving habits of mankind.
These factors and other economical and geographical reasons have a significant impact on the fall of Electric vehicles.
Now let us look into the one thing that helped Electric vehicles regain popularity and momentum the most.
Lithium-Ion Batteries: The Game Changer
Tesla Motors began production in 2008 with the Roadster, which was essentially an AC Propulsion vehicle with kit-car parts replaced by one-grade-above-kit-car Lotus Elise pieces in the first generation. The Roadster used three-phase, four-pole AC induction motors and was the first to install lithium-ion batteries in a production car and the first to demonstrate a 200-mile driving range. As the production run progressed through 2012, these became increasingly strong.
Tesla and other modern electric cars (except a few) owe lithium-ion batteries to their success.
The advantages of lithium-ion batteries are,
- High energy density – potential for yet higher capacities.
- Does not need prolonged priming when new. One regular charge is all that’s needed.
- Relatively low self-discharge – self-discharge is less than half that of nickel-based batteries.
- Low Maintenance – no periodic discharge is needed; there is no memory.
- Speciality cells can provide very high current to applications such as power tools and power trains.
How Does A Lithium-Ion Battery Work
A lithium-ion battery is a rechargeable battery in which lithium ions pass between the anode and cathode, allowing energy flow that can be used in electronic devices. Lithium in the anode (carbon material) is ionized and discharged to the electrolyte during the discharge stage.
Lithium ions pass through a porous plastic separator and the cathode’s atomic-sized gaps (lithium metal oxide). Electrons are expelled from the anode at the same time. This transforms into an electric current that travels to an external electric circuit. Lithium ions pass through the separator from the cathode to the anode while charging. The battery should be recharged and this is a reversible chemical reaction.
Read: How do LI-Ion Batteries work?
How Much Lithium Does It Take To Power An EV
EV batteries have a few grammes of lithium, which is about equal to half a teaspoon of sugar. An electric vehicle can have 5,000 battery cells and require up to 10 kg of lithium. One tonne of lithium is enough to power 90 electric vehicles.
The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs are not a single unit but a large number of individual cells connected. To make one million electric vehicles, around 60,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent are required.
Lithium Deposits In The World
On the periodic table, lithium is a soft, silver-white metal belonging to the alkali metal group. Lithium is only found in compounds in nature due to its high reactivity. Chile has the world’s highest lithium deposits by a huge margin. In 2020, Chile’s lithium reserves were expected to be 9.2 million metric tonnes. With reserves valued at 4.7 million metric tonnes that year.
With reserves valued at 4.7 million metric tonnes that year, Australia came in second. Mineral reserves are defined as extractable or producible minerals at the time of estimation. In terms of lithium mine output, Australia was the leading country in 2020, delivering 40,000 metric tonnes.
The Lithium Rush
The United States, China, Europe, and other major powers are engaged in a race. Governments are competing for superiority over minerals that could enable countries to gain economic and technical domination for decades to come, similar to previous contests and wars for gold and oil.
Lithium is one of the most important minerals they are looking for as the global lithium battery demand is expected to rise significantly in the coming years, from $30 billion in 2017 to more than $100 billion by 2025.
If the number of hybrid and electric vehicles fueled by rechargeable lithium batteries grows, the lithium industry will benefit. CATL, LG Chem, and Tesla are expected to be the largest suppliers of lithium battery cells by 2028, based on production volume.
Germany, China, Japan, U.S and France are predicted to be the top producers of electric vehicles and they will be eagerly looking for new reserves of minerals or developing the existing ones to their fullest potentials.
As manufacturers scale up the production of electric cars, countries will need to locate new lithium sources fast. Lithium is used in electric car batteries because it is lightweight, has a large energy storage capacity, and can be recharged several times.
Analysts predict that demand for lithium will more than tenfold by the end of the decade, when Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors, and other manufacturers launch dozens of electric vehicles.
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- Lithium Ion batteries are important in the electric vehicle industry
- Li-ion reserve in the world is discussed here