Alternative Energy Storage Solutions Beyond Lithium Batteries

Sarah Wall

Alternative Energy Storage Solutions Beyond Lithium Batteries


Energizing The Future: Exploring Innovative Solutions Beyond Lithium for Battery Storage

With countries across the globe aiming to switch to clean energy to achieve climate change goals and decarbonize the world, which means the electrification of cars, buildings, and cities, the use of energy storage is gaining increasing attention.

In recent years, lithium-ion batteries have become the kingpin of the energy storage ecosystem. Lithium, which is the lightest metal on Earth, was first proposed in the 1970s and produced commercially in the early 1990s by Sony. It is more commonly used in rechargeable batteries for laptops, mobile phones, and electric vehicles (EVs).


Alternative Energy Storage Solutions Beyond Lithium Batteries

Increasing demand

Lithium-ion batteries have become the preferred battery for the majority of current technical advancements due to their superior performance, efficiency, and safety, compared to conventional batteries.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a global intergovernmental agency, battery lithium demand is projected to increase tenfold over 2020 to 2030, in line with battery demand growth, helped by the growing demand for EVs. A report by IRENA showed that electric car batteries accounted for 34% of lithium demand in 2020 but are set to rise to account for 75% of demand in 2030.

IRENA further stated that within this decade, it is imperative to develop additional lithium production and processing capacity, with the main issue in this regard being the quality assurance between lithium suppliers and battery producers.

For the transportation industry to transition successfully to electromobility, the availability of affordable lithium-ion batteries is important. A single EV’s lithium-ion battery pack contains about 8 kilograms of lithium, according to data from Argonne National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy’s science and engineering research center.


Alternative Energy Storage Solutions Beyond Lithium Batteries


Therefore, lithium supply needs to expand, and mining and materials processing industries need to be developed at an accelerated pace in a way that is both environmentally and socially sound, according to IRENA’s report The Critical Materials For The Energy Transition.

In recent months, the prices of lithium have been rising sharply, reflecting rapidly growing demand due to the rapid growth in electromobility. By 2025, it was predicted that there would be a lithium supply deficit.



Beyond lithium batteries


Considering a possible supply shortage of lithium has encouraged research into other options. Below are some alternative solutions to lithium batteries:


Metal-hydrogen batteries – this option has improved safety, lower material costs, and a battery lifespan that exceeds 30 years. This alternative storage is a rechargeable electrochemical power source based on nickel and hydrogen.


Flow batteries – this alternative to lithium-ion batteries store liquid electrolytes in external tanks, which leads to the decoupling of energy sources from the power generation. Such batteries are safer, more scalable, and have a longer lifespan.


Sodium-ion batteries – this is another significantly cheaper alternative to lithium-ion batteries and uses more environment-friendly and readily available raw materials. Sodium ions are used as charge carriers for this type of battery and are rechargeable.

Alternative Energy Storage Solutions Beyond Lithium Batteries


A real need for energy storage diversification

For decades, lithium-ion batteries dominated the energy storage landscape, but escalating lithium demand and concerns over its sustainability have prompted the search for alternative solutions. In addition to improved safety, longevity, scalability, and environmental friendliness, metal-hydrogen batteries, flow batteries, and sodium-ion batteries have emerged as promising alternatives.

As the world strives to transition to clean energy and decarbonize various sectors, diversifying the energy storage ecosystem becomes imperative. By embracing alternative technologies, the global energy transition is not only made more resilient and sustainable, but also addressed the limitations of lithium. Future generations will benefit greatly from continued innovation and integration of these solutions.


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