New Cobalt-Free Lithium-Ion Batteries

Researchers from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have a cobalt-free high-energy lithium-ion battery that reduces the costs of producing batteries while boosting performance in some ways. They have a new class of cathode that uses 89% nickel.

Cathodes can make up roughly half of the materials costs for the entire battery, with cobalt being the priciest element. Cobalt is $28,500 per ton and it makes up 10% to 30% of most lithium-ion battery cathodes.

“Cobalt is the least abundant and most expensive component in battery cathodes,” Manthiram said. “And we are completely eliminating it.”

There are many groups competing to make the best cobalt-free battery.

SOURCE- University of Texas at Austin
Written By Brian Wang, (Brian owns shares of Tesla)

29 thoughts on “New Cobalt-Free Lithium-Ion Batteries”

  1. I was not against ammonia, more as to how it, and/or H, would help with Space Solar, and the low cost of same.

  2. Is there a strong magnetic field where the drivers & passengers sit? I would expect the fields from currents flowing in opposite directions to mostly cancel out in that part of the car

  3. For stationary application hydrogen energy storage isn’t horrible, but for vehicles the much higher energy per liter of ammonia makes ammonia a much better option.

  4. It is true that having something that is legally considered toxic in your production process can greatly increase production costs.
    That’s the reason that so many chemical processes have moved to being water based over the past few decades, compared to previous use of various hydrocarbon solvents (or even nastier stuff like C Cl4.)
    And THAT is an example of why I think the “rate of perceived technological progress” has just about stalled, while attempts to measure tech progress keep showing that we are progressing just fine. We’ve got all this new tech, but mostly it’s used in the background to reduce rates of pollution or lower death rates in some application from 1-in-5000 to 1-in-5-billion. Yes, that should be done, and for the people who are now alive it’s great, but the average person looks around, sees a world that mostly looks like 1955, and asks “where’s my flying car?”

  5. EVs will be dominate at some point. I think the aggressive folks said 2025 and the tipping point for oil vs EV was 2040. Things could accelerate, but there are too many issues currently that make me think 2040 is about right. Charge times and infrastructure alone are huge issues. Current battery chemistry is most likely not the future, but we don’t know the replacement yet. EVs are better in certain aspects, # of parts in the car favor EVs, but total cost of ownership is no better than ICE. ICE is not sitting still either. If the tech that is out there right now can all play nice in together, 30-40% MPG is possible well before battery costs get low enough to make economic sense. Oil extraction costs will most likely continue to fall as well. EV cars just ask too much of the average consumer to make the jump any time soon. Some day, just not today.

  6. You’re absolutely right, but what’s keeping people up at night about it is the desire to scale worldwide battery production by 10-20x. What’s the cobalt price at that demand level?

    EDIT: And I forgot to mention, already half the world’s supply of cobalt is used for batteries. Bringing new cobalt supply online in areas that are objectively pretty bad for cobalt mining could get very very expensive, but at 100k per tonne it probably is doable.

  7. I wouldn’t say $266 to $800 per car is nothing. Every $ saved is profit for the corporation or savings for the consumer. And today with zero or negative interest rate saving money is a pretty good investment.

  8. Sounds like exaggeration. Cobalt is an essential mineral, after all, so the body ought to have some resistance to it.

    Of course, anything in excess is a poison, and there are dosages where it has toxicity and those aren’t difficult to reach with careless management of the residues and trash ( with a median lethal dose of 150 – 500 mg/kg ).

    So we should be careful with it, but it’s not the worse pollutant. I think the panic around cobalt mostly comes from radioactive isotopes of cobalt, which are so bad precisely because it gets very easily into the body and into the bones, and remains there for a long time while being radioactive.

  9. No more cobalt. There you go, you got your wish, now stop complaining and fishing for ‘other’ excuses.

  10. I think this actually applies to the majority of us. Though 20 years is probably pessimistic at this stage, unless oil stays below $40.

  11. LFP batteries have been around for years now… At 160Wh/kg energy density, they are suitable for 50-60kWh EV batteries giving 200+ miles of driving range. They have a long cycle-life of 2000 cycles before reaching 80% of their original capacity. They aren’t made using problematic materials like cobalt. They can handle charging rapidly, BYD claims their electric cars using LFP cells can charge to 80% in 15 minutes.

  12. 1c per watt.hour applies to all batteries. If your iphone has a 11 w.h battery, 11c of the final cost is the paying for the cobalt. You pay more for the roaming charge to give you the privilege of sending all your data to the NSA.

    The issue of toxicity adding to production costs is a different matter, and one I’ve not seen mentioned before.

  13. Are Lithium-Air and Lithium-Sulfur off the table now? It’s been a while since I heard anyone bragging about their potential.

  14. Fortunately, the H system automatically removes the need for batteries, replacing *more* batteries with a bigger tank. Think of the fuel cell as the electronic control in a battery car, and the tank as very cheap batteries. And, Space Solar as well as Earth renewables are made difficult and expensive if electricity is required as output, but have problems of intermittancy and load balance solved with H!

  15. Batteries for cars is like 1% of the market, other devices will benefit more where the cost of the batteries is more significant. Also cobalt is very toxic (from extraction to waste)

  16. Cobalt is $28,500 per ton and it makes up 10% to 30% of most lithium-ion battery cathodes.

    And the weight of a cathode appears to be typically 25% of the total, though the internet seems remarkably reticent to give this number.

    So that means cobalt is at most 30% x 25% x $28500
    $2140 per tonne
    $2.14 per kg.
    Current high end liion batteries are about 250 wh/kg. So roughly 1c per watthour.

    If a decent Tesla is running 80 kW.h, that’s $800 in Cobalt. $266 if you get the low cobalt 10% cathodes.

    All the cobalt could disappear tomorrow and it wouldn’t affect the price of the car as much as the specification of the paint.

    I mean $266 to $800 isn’t nothing, but it’s hardly the big issue.

  17. That’s like evaluating the health effects of sodium chloride in your diet by looking at the use of Chlorine in World War 1.

  18. Enough of it will stop teeth. Ever hear of hydrofluoric acid? It makes HCL look like Dr. Pepper.

  19. Totally, if you ask me, we should move to directly ammonia burning next stage engines. Can be made Totally clean. We haven’t evaluated yet the impact of the strong magnetic field inside electric cars and there are hints of damage.

  20. The article mentions ammonia, which would be more of a fuel for a fuel cell than a battery. Ammonia could also be burned as a fuel for a heat engine. Currently the hydrogen to make ammonia comes by reacting high temperature steam with a fossil fuel like natural gas, which makes hydrogen & carbon dioxide. But some sort of non-fossil energy source could be used to split water for the hydrogen. The problem is just getting that energy source to be *cheap*.

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