What Will Replace Lithium?


The electric cars of today utilize lithium-ion batteries in order to drive. Unfortunately, we have a relatively limited supply of lithium on the earth, and we will not be able to use lithium-ion batteries forever. As such they need to be replaced eventually by a different technology.

What will replace lithium-ion batteries? The most promising battery technology on the horizon is the sodium-ion battery. Sodium is cheaper to mine, cheaper to manufacture, and is more plentiful on Earth. This technology is still being developed and is currently held back by the lower energy density of sodium compared to lithium.

Lithium-ion batteries are quickly becoming used all over. The technology and idea behind these batteries has been around for a while now but the demand for these batteries is quickly becoming massive. Just about any electric rechargeable device that you may have at your house uses lithium-ion batteries. This includes your phone, laptop, toothbrush, and electric bike.

While this technology has been around for quite some time, the demand has not been so heavy until the large push for electric cars. Electric cars use significantly larger quantities of lithium than any other devices. This is due to the large size of the electric car batteries and also due to the power storage needs required by electric cars.

Due to this sudden shift, a lot of lithium mining facilities are having a hard time keeping up. Most of these facilities weren’t built with the capability to support such high production volumes. As such, there is currently a big bottle neck in getting the lithium. Even once those issues get resolved, there is still the concern of what we will do once we run out of lithium.

It’s important that an alternative type of battery is developed. It needs to be something that can be cheaply produced and be made of materials that are abundantly available and won’t have an impact on the environment if used.

What Future Battery Types Will Replace Lithium?

Are there other options of materials that we can look to use in place of lithium? There are actually a lot of different materials being looked at right now that could be used to replace lithium-ion batteries. A lot of research is being done to find something that can work equally well but have a better supply.

One of the most promising replacements is sodium-ion batteries. If you happen to have a periodic table nearby, take a look at where Sodium and Lithium are. It turns out, they are right next to each other on there. This means that they share a lot of similar qualities. 

First off, sodium ion batteries are a ton cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries. There are several reasons for this. First off, there is a ton more sodium on the earth than there is lithium. Secondly, it’s a lot easier to extract the sodium and process it than is the case for lithium. If you remember, sodium is found in salt. Thus, all of our oceans are chalk full of sodium.

Secondly, lithium ion also requires cobalt in order to work properly. This material is extremely expensive and also difficult to acquire. In place of cobalt, sodium ion batteries use iron and manganese. Both of these materials are cheaper and more available than cobalt.

Lastly, sodium ion batteries are significantly lighter than lithium-ion batteries. As a result, your vehicle will weigh less which helps improve your range and performance. All of these benefits help bring the overall cost of an electric car down. The battery is hands down the most expensive component in an entire electric car. The only way for electric cars to become extremely affordable, is for the price of the electric batteries to become cheaper. Sodium-ion batteries could be the solution for that.

One big downside to sodium-ion batteries is that they are less energy dense than lithium-ion batteries. As such, if you have a sodium ion battery and a lithium-ion battery of the same size, the lithium-ion battery will hold more electricity. As such, this can affect the range of your electric car and it’s performance. The reduced weight does help alleviate this problem slightly, but it does not have a big enough effect to make them equal in this aspect.

In addition, there are other types of batteries also being researched and developed. One of these is a magnesium battery. This is intriguing as it offers a higher charge than lithium and sodium. Other researchers have also developed glass batteries. These utilize glass that is filled with sodium ions. This one is intriguing as it is extremely environmentally friendly, and all of the materials used are very easy to get. Lastly, would be fuel cells. These are already in use in cars on the road. They are a way to generate electricity from elements such as Hydrogen which is very readily available.

What Future Battery Types Are The Most Sustainable and Renewable?

So, of the mentioned types of batteries, which are the most sustainable and renewable. In reality, all of the types mentioned are very renewable and sustainable. Sodium is a key component in a lot of new battery technologies being researched. Sodium is abundantly available. Sodium is one of the key components in salt. All of our oceans and most of our seas hold copious amounts of sodium in them. In addition, removing the sodium from the salt water could also serve a dual purpose of providing fresh drinking water to those who need it.

Fuel cells are also widely sustainable and renewable. Most fuel cells rely on hydrogen. This is one of the most abundant elements there is. Utilizing fuel cells can provide clean power throughout the foreseeable future.

Many of the other materials used in these new battery technologies are also very available. Iron and Manganese are often used with sodium-based batteries and these two materials are both fairly available as well. As such, any of the mentioned battery technologies will serve to be much more sustainable and renewable than the current lithium-ion technology.

Are Any Of These Other Battery Types Being Manufactured On A Large Scale Yet?

Are any of these batteries mentioned being produced on a large scale? The answer is not really. Pretty much all of the types of batteries mentioned are still very much in the research and development phase still with the exception of the fuel cell. Fuel cell cars are produced and sold today although they are not very popular. This is largely due to the fact that not many places have locations where you can fill your fuel cell back up. These are produced though, and we will likely see more being produced in the future.

As far as the other batteries go, they are all being researched. The sodium-ion batteries have been in development for over a decade. While the technology has come a pretty long ways there is still a lot of research and testing before these are ready to be mass produced on used throughout the world on a daily basis. 

Likewise many of the other types of batteries mentioned are in even earlier stages of development. The glass batteries mentioned were a university discovery of recently. There is still a lot of work to be done before we could ever see those on the road. The magnesium batteries are also still being researched and tested.

Of all the batteries mentioned, the sodium ion battery is by far the most researched and developed. If we were to see a new type of battery on electric cars soon, it would probably be the sodium ion battery. Although, you never know what new discoveries could be made.

How Many Years Until Lithium Batteries Start Being Phased Out?

So, how long until lithium-ion batteries are phased out? Experts predict that all of the world’s lithium stores will be entirely used up between 2040 and 2100. There is a limited supply and depending on demand, that supply will not last too long. Lithium-Ion batteries can be recycled but only about half of the battery is reusable. As such, recycling will only delay the impending end of lithium.

If a new type of battery were to be developed, this could greatly extend the availability of lithium. We could see electric cars with multiple different types of batteries as options. That will largely depend on the development of new battery technologies over the next couple of years.

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