Presentation to the Association of Mining Analysts, London, 14th March 2019

Presentation to the Association of Mining Analysts’ Battery Masterclass, London, 14th March 2019

Mar 15, 2019

It was great to speak at the AMA Battery Masterclass in London, the session was attended by over 200 people, with excellent speakers from Talga Resources, Terraframe, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and SRK Consultants, as well as Adam Panayi of Rho Motion. You can download our presentation here.

If you have any questions or comments please get in touch on info@rhomotion.com or +44 (0) 

 

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Anodes and the future of energy density

Anodes and the future of energy density

Mar 13, 2019

We recently had the pleasure of presenting to a working group at the German Association of the Automotive Industry, VDA, in Berlin. The topic under discussion was Trends in downstream anode and battery markets, and the impact of these on cell formulation, energy density and future battery technology.

This edition of our EV Spotlight provides a summary of the main points from the discussion, if you would like to discuss any of the issues in depth please get in touch. Additionally, if you would like to receive a free copy of our new EV Energy Density Monthly Assessment simply email info@rhomotion.com and we will send one out to you.

We consider there to be the three main issues in anode technology that are likely to affect battery cell cost and energy density. These are the role of natural versus synthetic graphite, for which we are grateful for the input of Simon Moores at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, the role of silicon and the development of solid state technology.

The key development for anodes in the short term is the level and rate of substitution of synthetic graphite for natural graphite. To date the level of substitution has been relatively slow compared to expectations. Most anodes now contain a blend of synthetic and natural material, at a ratio of roughly 65%-35%, but we assert that the rate of substitution is likely to grow as the quality of processed natural flake graphite increases and the market expands.  

Natural flake graphite is relatively cheaper and less energy intensive to produce than synthetic material, and, with a few exceptions, this energy is largely derived from coal. This poses both economic and corporate social responsibility costs, especially for a green technology such as EVs.  There is also limited new synthetic capacity being added, while there will be a marked increase in availability of natural flake graphite owing to a number of greenfield and brownfield capacity investment projects.

In the medium term, the role of silicon is a key issue for anode technology. R&D is ongoing for a silicon dominant anode which would theoretically provide a 20% increase in energy density over a conventional graphite anode. At present blending already takes place, and it is not uncommon for anodes to be composed of around 4-6% silicon, with swelling of the material the main stumbling block to the inclusion of more silicon. There are a number of companies in R&D stage with the silicon dominant anode, with commercialisation posited for 2023, which at this stage still seems relatively optimistic.    

The long term outlook for anodes takes in solid state, probably the highest profile issue in the space. Solid state technology introduces a lithium metal anode and a solid – likely polymer – electrolyte. Theoretically this could lead to a 70% increase in energy density combined with higher voltage and faster charging. The technology is early stage however, and lithium metal is a limiting factor in terms of its cost, availability and its reactivity. The reality is that when solid state arrives it will have to compete against a mature Li-ion battery technology, with a developed supply chain and significantly lower costs and higher energy density than we see today.  

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Energy density and the challenges of electrification for heavy duty vehicles

Energy density and the challenges of electrification for heavy duty vehicles

Feb 13, 2019

The topic of electrification for truck and buses comes up more and more frequently when we talk with people interested in the EV supply chain; while the prospects for battery powered passenger cars and light duty vehicles are by now fairly clear, we see a more nuanced story for larger vehicle classes. In this spotlight we examine the key issues and practical applications for electrification within the heavy and medium duty space.

We have recently teamed up with heavy duty and non-road powertrain experts KGP to launch our new EV Energy Density Monthly Assessment. This publication tracks the development of battery pack sizes across vehicle classes and for the industry as a whole and this spotlight draws on this research. If you would like to learn more about the assessment register your interest here and we will be in touch to discuss.

 The push towards electrification of heavy duty vehicles is essentially driven by three factors. The first is the long-standing trend in the commercial vehicle and haulage industry towards greater efficiency and lower total cost of ownership. Commercial vehicles are operated as business assets that are expected to generate a return, with fuel a major cost input.

The second factor is the pressure from legislators for emissions control, both in terms of carbon-reduction and fuel efficiency, but more importantly to improve ambient air quality standards particularly in urban areas. The third arises from the corporate social responsibility concerns of major fleets and operators, with a desire to act, and be seen to act, in an environmentally ethical manner.

As such there is a sizeable opportunity for an economically viable solution for the electrification of commercial vehicles, but also major obstacles to overcome. The key challenge, as ever, is range. Heavier vehicles require greater power, and exponentially so if they are pulling significant payloads. As such the kWh requirement per Km for heavy duty trucks and buses is around 1.1-1.3 kWh/Km depending on the type of vehicle, and for medium duty 1.0 kWh/Km or less. Compared to 0.2 kWh/km and less for passenger cars and light duty vehicles.

For heavy duty this equates to a battery size of around 800-1,000kWh to deliver 800 km (500 miles) of range. Even at battery prices approaching USD100 per kWh this represents a huge cost for the vehicle. Equally important are weight and space considerations, at current energy densities the battery weight to achieve this range would be in the region of 5,000-6,000 kg, equivalent to a payload loss of 5-10% depending on the truck compared to diesel. In addition charging times would be in the order of several hours using current fast charging technology.

The fact remains that the incumbent technology, the diesel engine, provides significantly greater energy density than lithium-ion at present. For example, a 1,000 litre diesel fuel tank weighing 800 kg would deliver the same energy as a current 20,000 kg lithium-ion battery.  Further, the major successes for electrification in larger vehicle classes seen to date, urban buses operating on a closed route with batteries of around 300 kWh, have largely been driven by subsidies and non-economic factors.

Despite this there is still a strong case for electrification for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles. Trucks with ranges of 150-300 km, with batteries in the order of 100-200 kWh, are likely to play an increasing role in urban areas where air quality concerns are higher, and therefore emissions restrictions are most stringent. This will primarily be for ‘last mile’ delivery, and for vocational vehicles that operate on a local route and return to a depot for re-charging on a regular basis. In the meantime work continues to increase energy density and range for heavier vehicles, with 500 kWh a seemingly realistic target over the coming 3-5 years.

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VW assessing its position along the whole Electric Vehicle supply chain

VW assessing its position along the whole EV supply chain

Jan 30, 2019

  • VW has been making statements in the past week highlighting its intention to strengthen its position in the EV supply chain. These announcements have come from its newly formed components division, which consolidated its various disparate procurement and development functions from the start of this year.
  • This new team aims to save the company €2bn by 2025 in cost efficiencies, which it has pledged to invest in e-mobility. It will also have responsibility for ensuring supply for the company’s EV batteries, as well as recycling and/or re-purposing batteries at the end of their useful automotive life.
  • The three key announcements made by the company give a indication of the scope of its ambition regarding electrification, as they cover charging, cell manufacture and even investments in mining of raw materials.
  • Moving upstream one announcement at a time, VW has said that it will begin production of ‘powerbanks’ capable of charging four vehicles simultaneously, with a pilot project being launched in Wolfsburg this year, and mass roll-out planned for 2020. There are even plans for second-life use of automotive batteries within these charging stations.
  • VW has also indicated that it is weighing up a move into cell production for its EV batteries, having stated that it is in intensive talks on the subject. This follows the news of the Toyota-Panasonic tie-up last week – if you missed our take see here. We expect that this is the likely direction of travel for automotive majors, and sooner rather than later, given the potential costs of not securing supply, and their current position of strength in a market that requires investment.
  • What is perhaps even more interesting is that the company has said that is also considering investing in key raw materials for its batteries, including through taking shareholding positions in mining companies. Given the resources at VW’s disposal, and the relatively small investments necessary to secure off-takes with many of the mining companies in the battery raw materials space, this could have a significant impact on the markets for those minerals.

For full analysis of the EV and battery markets see our Rho Motion Electric Vehicle Monthly publication, get started below to register your interest.

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Will we be waiting longer than anticipated for NCM811?

Will we be waiting a longer than anticipated for NCM811?

Jan 20, 2019

  • Rho Motion was in New York in the last week attending Benchmark’s Lithium Breakfast Briefings at both Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, where we spoke. Click here to download the presentation
  • Among the various excellent presentations one thing that came through was that several commentators, including Benchmark, stated that NCM811 technology may take longer than previously anticipated to become fully comercialised, with 2023 a reasonable target, a delay of roughly two years on previous ideas
  • What this means in terms of battery cost, and reaching the $100 per Kwh level to bring EVs on par with ICE is less clear, we also heard that one battery maker has already breached that floor, although the majority of market remains 5-6 years off, and that scale rather than commodity input costs will be the primary determinant of battery costs as the market grows

For full analysis of the EV and battery markets see our Rho Motion Electric Vehicle Monthly publication, get started below to register your interest.

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