Low-Cost High-Performance Graphite for the Future of Electric Vehicles and Electricity Storage Batteries
Graphite is the primary material used to manufacture anodes in lithium-ion batteries and it accounts for about 10 to 14 percent of the total cost of a battery cell. In most cases, graphite is manufactured from high-grade petroleum needle coke and coal tar pitch, two expensive feedstocks derived from fossil fuels. Developing alternative sources of graphite can offer significant cost savings and technological advantages over current methods.
Saratoga Energy has developed an electrolysis process to create graphite that relies on molten carbonates and carbon dioxide. The company estimates that graphite produced from this process could result in 70 percent cost reductions compared to current graphite stocks and charge up to three times faster than incumbent products.
Such applications are critical for bringing down the cost of electric vehicles, electricity storage batteries and other growing technologies.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
Saratoga Energy aims to perfect its graphite synthesis process by working with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to test the rate capability and capacity of the graphite produced under a variety of electrolysis conditions. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been working on electrode quality and fabrication – and associated vehicle test protocols – for many years. The company will also rely on in-house equipment and expertise at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which does leading-edge research in carbon-based materials.
The market for graphite is estimated to be $14 billion in 2015 and is only expected to grow as vehicle electrification expands. Individual electric cars require up to 154 pounds of graphite. Developing lower-cost methods of battery production would allow U.S. manufacturers to compete more readily in the global market.
Finding alternatives to petroleum-derived products reduces the need for mining and drilling those commodities. Further, utilizing carbon dioxide to synthesize graphite can create a valuable market for the gas, which is otherwise wasted and emitted into the atmosphere where it traps heat and contributes to climate change. Developing electric vehicles would help reduce lifecycle carbon emissions from vehicle use, especially as the electricity grid grows cleaner.
Developing alternative supplies for graphite makes the United States less dependent on global markets for petroleum and derivative products. At the same time, vehicle electrification can dramatically reduce oil use by allowing vehicles to operate off the grid instead of on gasoline.