Heading to zero cobalt batteries: Page 3 of 4

October 29, 2020 //By Nick Flaherty
Heading to zero cobalt batteries
IDTechEx forecasts the share of "high-nickel" NMC batteries with over 60 percent nickel will increase significantly over the next decade, putting the electrification of vehicles at risk.
are too low to reach the cell level energy densities of cells using NMC or NCA.


Lithium-manganese-nickel oxide (LNMO), separate from the NMC/NCA/NMA layered oxides, is a cathode that operates at a high voltage of 4.7 V vs Li/Li+, up to 25% higher than NMC, and has also shown promise as a high rate material. Unfortunately, improvements to energy density are effectively lost due to LNMO having a comparatively low capacity of around 120 mAh/g, while the high operating voltage will require developments to the electrolyte to ensure stability and safe operation. Cell level energy density improvements are unlikely, but the higher voltage could allow for battery pack level cost and performance benefits so long as electrolyte stability can be demonstrated.


A cathode that is not necessarily cobalt free but can reduce cobalt content compared to current NMC and also lower cost through comparatively high Mn content. The material is one of only a few options for significantly improving the capacity of Li-ion cathodes. LMR-NMC can exhibit a 20-30% capacity improvement over current state-of-the-art NCA but is plagued by cycle life and stability issues. Another long-term project and example of the often-seen trade-off between high energy density and cycle life.

The Li-ion market is continuously pushing for new technology developments with the drive to lower the cobalt content of NMC and NCA cathodes gaining considerable recent attention. However, doing this without negatively impacting overall performance is highly challenging and cost benefits are not guaranteed, given the relatively low percentages of cobalt already used in state-of-the-art cathode formulations and the increased difficulty of synthesizing low-cobalt/high-nickel layered oxides. Other classes of cathode materials come with their own list of pros and cons. Of course, the ethical impacts of cobalt mining should not be understated and there is likely to be a need for companies to minimize their need for the metal in the medium-long term to reduce supply risks.


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