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Here We Go Again

Here We Go Again

I keep hearing about battery innovation, but it never makes it to my phone.” – Evan Spiegel

For those that have been in and around alternative energy research for the better part of long careers, nothing makes the eyes roll harder than loud proclamations of breakthrough advances in battery technology. Consider this fun exercise: open up Google, search “battery breakthrough,” click “News,” and customize the results for any random six-month window in the past 20 years. Select an article that catches your eye and you’ll find exciting claims like this one from 2005 (emphasis added throughout):

A rechargeable battery that can be fully charged in just 6 minutes, lasts 10 times as long as today’s rechargeables and can provide bursts of electricity up to three times more powerful is showing promise in a Nevada lab.

New types of battery are badly needed. Nokia’s chief technologist Yrjö Neuvo warned last year that batteries are failing to keep up with the demands of the increasingly energy-draining features being crammed into mobile devices.

And another from 2011, with the humorously ironic title “No joke: This is the biggest battery breakthrough ever”:

A pioneer in battery research who already successfully launched a $350 million company to supply batteries to the likes of GE and Chrysler has done it again — only this time, ‘it’ represents the complete reinvention of battery technology as we know it.

This technology is in the research phase, but if it can be cost-effectively brought to market — and there’s every reason to believe that it could be — it could revolutionize the way we store and transport energy, in the process fully replacing fossil fuels and especially oil.

(If you have to forewarn that your article is “no joke,” the odds of it being unserious are, as it turns out, pretty high.)

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Are Green Resource Wars Looming?

Are Green Resource Wars Looming?

The Burden of Massive EV Batteries Will Be Borne by People and Ecosystems

Much of the excitement over the Inflation Reduction Act, which became law this summer, focused on the boost it should give to the sales of electric vehicles. Sadly, though, manufacturing and driving tens of millions of individual electric passenger cars won’t get us far enough down the road to ending greenhouse-gas emissions and stanching the overheating of this planet. Worse yet, the coming global race to electrify the personal vehicle is likely to exacerbate ecological degradation, geopolitical tensions, and military conflict.

The batteries that power electric vehicles are likely to be the source of much international competition and the heart of the problem lies in two of the metallic elements used to make their electrodes: cobalt and lithium. Most deposits of those metals lie outside the borders of the United States and will leave manufacturers here (and elsewhere) relying heavily on foreign supplies to electrify road travel on the scale now being envisioned.

Adventurers and Opportunists

In the battery business, the Democratic Republic of Congo is referred to as “the Saudi Arabia of cobalt.” For two decades, its cobalt — 80% of the world’s known reserves — has been highly prized for its role in mobile-phone manufacturing. Such cobalt mining has already taken a terrible human and ecological toll.

Now, the pressure to increase Congo’s cobalt output is intensifying on a staggering scale. Whereas a phone contains just thousandths of a gram of cobalt, an electric vehicle battery has pounds of the metal, and a quarter-billion such batteries will have to be manufactured to fully electrify the American passenger car fleet as it now exists.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The dark side of Tesla: gigafactories need gigamines

The dark side of Tesla: gigafactories need gigamines

The production of electric vehicles requires vast amounts of raw materials such as nickel: Around 32 kg of this metal are needed for the lithium batteries of a mid-range car. To secure access, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is encouraging global nickel mining and is considering investing in the mining industry in Indonesia and elsewhere.

“Any mining companies out there … wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel,” was the urgent appeal to the mining industry by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, a US manufacturer of electric cars. “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way,” he added.

Huge quantities of metals and other raw materials are needed to build Tesla’s electric vehicles. Tesla is in early talks with the government of Indonesia about a possible investment in the nickel industry, Reuters reports. The Southeast Asian country is one of the world’s largest nickel producers.

In the rainforests of the islands of Sulawesi and Wawonii, nickel is already being mined by Chinese companies, as well as Vale, a Brazilian mining company – with catastrophic consequences for the environment and the people who live there. Ecosystems of great biodiversity are being destroyed, rivers and coastal waters rich in marine life are being polluted, and people are being displaced and poisoned. Nickel mine operators have applied to the Indonesian government for permission to dump the tailings, which are corrosive and laden with heavy metals, in the sea.

Earlier this year, Indonesia stopped exporting unprocessed nickel – not for environmental reasons, but for purely economic considerations: to encourage investments in the nickel industry and the domestic production of lithium batteries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Used Car Battery Problems Take Shine Off China’s ‘Green’ New Energy Vehicles

Used Car Battery Problems Take Shine Off China’s ‘Green’ New Energy Vehicles

In the last decade, China has rapidly expanded its “green” new energy vehicle (NEV) industry but recycling and disposing of hundreds of thousands of tons of used car batteries has become a pressing issue due to environmental concerns.

Growth in China’s NEV industry took off in 2014 when nearly 78,500 NEVs were produced and some 75,000 were sold. As of September of this year, China’s NEV registration reached 6.78 million, of which 5.52 million are fully electric vehicles.

The NEV industry predicts that its production and sales growth rate will remain above 40 percent in the next five years prompting the question of how to best manage the growing numbers of discarded lithium batteries from the NEVs.

Industry data shows that the service life of lithium batteries used in electric vehicles is generally 5 to 8 years, and the service life under warranty is 4 to 6 years. That means, tens of thousands of electric car batteries will soon need to be discarded or recycled, and millions more down the road.

According to the latest data from China Automotive Technology and Research Center, the cumulative decommissioning of China’s electric car batteries reached 200,000 tons in 2020 and the figure is estimated to climb to 780,000 tons by 2025.

Presently, most end-of-life batteries are traded in the unregulated black market, raising serious environmental concerns. If such batteries are not handled properly, they could cause soil, air, and water pollution.

“A 20-gram cell phone battery can pollute a water body equivalent to three standard swimming pools. If it is buried in the ground, it can pollute 1 square kilometer (247 acres) of land for about 50 years,” Wu Feng, a professor at Beijing Institute of Technology, once publicly stated.

Electric car batteries are many times larger than cell phone batteries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Clean energy minerals shortage: Who knew it could happen?

Clean energy minerals shortage: Who knew it could happen?

The race for so-called green energy has spawned another race, one for the minerals needed to make the devices such as solar panels and batteries that produce, store and transmit that energy. A hitherto largely unchallenged economic idea—that we will always have supplies of everything we need at the time we need it at prices we can afford—is in the process of being tested.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world will need to produce six times more of these critical metals than we are producing now to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a target widely held out as an essential goal for avoiding catastrophic effects from climate change. The need for lithium—the key component in lithium batteries that are prized for light weight and the ability to charge quickly—will grow 70 times over the next 20 years, the IEA predicts.

One wonders what the price trajectories of the minerals IEA mentions will look like in the coming years. The long-term charts are concerning for nickellithiumcobalt and others since this appears to be just the beginning of the run-up.

The world is experiencing shortages already of many key commodities and manufactured items (such as computer chips). This is, in part, due to lack of investment over the last decade after a general slump in commodity prices following the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and a broad moderation in worldwide economic growth. Certainly, we can expect increased investment in these critical metals. But will it be sufficient to match our dreams for a green technology future?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Placing Energy In A Battery Results In A Loss Of Power

Placing Energy In A Battery Results In A Loss Of Power

Anyone that thinks we can simply store huge amounts of energy in large banks of batteries to use at any time has lost touch with reality. The brave new world of energy storage may not prove to be all it is cracked up to be. At this point, and for the foreseeable future storing the power we need in batteries is just another part of the “green delusion” that has infected society.  We seldom think about it but the energy we put into a battery is not what we get out. There is a loss of energy in the transfer and during the time it is stored.

An article published on the naked scientists.com years ago states, not all of the energy which you use to charge a battery will come out of the battery in the end. That remains true today. If you look at the efficiency of charging standard, nickel cadmium, or nickel metal hydride battery, the efficiency is about 60 to 70%, so you’re wasting 30 or 40% of the energy you’re putting into the battery itself.

If you feel that a battery while it is being charged you will find it gets warm. This indicates energy is being wasted. You’re also wasting some more energy in the charger because the “transfer” is not 100% efficient either. So, you might be talking about half the energy you’re using actually ending up in that battery. While 60% efficiency doesn’t sound very good, it’s far, far better than what is achieved in a throw-away battery, they are often said to be only 1 or 2% efficient. That’s because you’ve got to get materials to make the battery, you’ve got to refine them, and you’ve got to put them all into a case.

Battery Charge/Discharge Efficiency
Li-ion 80% – 90%
Pb-Acid 50% – 92%
NiMH 66%
Table 1: Battery efficiencies [1-3]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Are Electric Cars Good for the Environment?

Are Electric Cars Good for the Environment?

This article is Part 5 of an 11-part series analysis of Tesla, Elon Musk and EV Revolution. You can read other parts here.

My wife loves driving the Model 3, not for all the selfish reasons I like to drive it (it is fast and quite the iPad on wheels) but because she feels she helps the environment. Is she right?

Unlike an ICE car, which takes fuel stored in the gas tank, combusts it in the engine, and thus creates kinetic energy, Tesla takes electricity stored in the battery pack and converts it directly into kinetic energy. That’s a very clean and quiet process. However, the electricity that magically appears in our electrical outlets is not a gift from Thor, the thunder god; it was generated somewhere and transmitted to us.

As I write this, I am slightly disturbed by how the topic I am about to discuss has been politicized. I am not going to debate global warming here, but let’s at least agree that an excess of carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) is bad for you and me, and for the environment. If you disagree with me, start an ICE car in your garage, roll down the windows, and sit there for about 20 minutes. Actually, please don’t, because you’ll die. So let’s agree that a billion cars emitting CO and CO2 is not good and that if we emit less CO and CO2 it is good for air quality.

Roughly two-thirds of the electricity generated in the U.S. is sourced from fossil fuels. The good news is that only half of that comes from coal; the other half comes from natural gas, which produces half as much CO2 as coal (though it has its own side effects – it leaks methane). Another 20% of U.S. energy comes from nuclear, which produces zero carbon emissions. The remaining 17% comes from “green” sources, such as hydro (7%), wind (6.6%), and solar (1.7%).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Carmakers Face Supply Bottleneck Of This Crucial Metal

Carmakers Face Supply Bottleneck Of This Crucial Metal


For Tesla and its chief competitors in the race for global domination of electric vehicle sales, it ain’t all about lithium ion.

There are other valuable metals needed to make the battery packs do what’s asked of them, with nickel being essential. Tesla and its battery producer partners, and other automakers and their suppliers, are worried about the longer-term supply of nickel according to a new study by BloombergNEF.

The study predicts that EV makers will be driving demand for nickel about 16 times to 1.8 million tons in the next years. 

Class-one nickel, a high-purity material used in batteries, is expected to see demand greatly outstrip supply in the next few years. That will be fueled by meeting the large Chinese EV market, and other global markets where demand is expected to grow.

That need for class-one nickel will outstrip supply within five years, according to the study.

One problem has been a lack of real investment in new mines for materials including nickel, Tesla’s global supply manager of battery metals, Sarah Maryssael, said at a Washington meeting in May. That could drive up prices as battery demand increases greatly.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is concerned about having enough economically viable — and available — metal to continue meeting its growing electric car demand. That will take off even more as the company taps into China’s booming markets.

“They are getting ready to have the new factory in China, and are at full capacity in North America,’’ Peter Bradford, chief executive officer of nickel producer Independence Group NL, said. “They recognize the biggest risk from a strategic supply point of view is nickel.’’

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Sustainable Living: A Primer on Batteries for Use with Solar Storage

Sustainable Living: A Primer on Batteries for Use with Solar Storage

Ready Nutrition guys and gals, this article is being posted to address questions posed by one of the readers, as well as any others who might want to know about batteries for use with solar panels. The main thing is to understand this is an overview and will give you the basics to make your own choice when it comes to choosing the right batteries for the job. Let’s get into it!

First of all, when you charge up a battery and then use it all up (until it is drained), this greatly reduces the battery’s longevity. Depth of Discharge (abbreviated DoD) is the capacity of a battery that has been used…and there is an optimal level for best performance specified by individual firms. The higher the DoD (usually expressed as a percentage), the more you can utilize before it uses its charge.

A 15 kWh (kilowatt hour) battery with an 80% DoD means that you can safely use up to 12kWh of power before you have to recharge it again. Seems simple enough, but in times of need people allow it to go beyond the DoD and then this decreases the life of their battery as well as its effectiveness. That power rating for your battery is the kWh (kilowatt hour) figure here. This power rating refers to the amount of electricity the battery can deliver one time/all at once.

The reason this is important with solar panels? A battery with a low power rating, yet a high capacity can deliver power over a protracted period of time for some tools or appliances that you need. You have to figure out the cycle…and this is an amount that is estimated numerically in your warranty.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…



Batteries, mine production, lithium and the “cobalt crunch”

Batteries, mine production, lithium and the “cobalt crunch”

Growth in Li-ion batteries depends on a number of imponderables, such as how rapidly the world converts to electric vehicles, how quickly battery manufacturing capacity can be ramped up and where the electricity to power millions of EVs will come from. This post ignores these issues, concentrating instead on the question of whether the mining sector can increase production of the metals and minerals needed to support a high-battery-growth scenario without running out of reserves. The data are not good enough to reach a firm conclusion, but the main uncertainty seems to be whether cobalt production from the Congo, which presently supplies over half of global demand, can be relied on. Lithium and cobalt reserves will not be exhausted in the time frame considered (out to 2030) but will be close to it if no additional reserves are discovered. (Inset, lithium mine in Chile).

Unless otherwise specified the data used in this post are from the following three sources:

The 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, which provides annual production and price data for lithium, cobalt, graphite and rare earths since 1995 but reserve data for 2017 only.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) annual Mineral Commodity Surveys, which provide annual production and reserve data for cobalt since 1990 but incomplete data for lithium (US production is excluded) and no price data.

The British Geological Survey (BGS), which provides annual production data for all metals since 1970 but no data on reserves or prices.

Opinion is pretty much unanimous in projecting rapid growth in Li-ion batteries in coming years:

The Apricum Group predicts a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22% through 2025: Global battery demand will increase fivefold from ~100 GWh today to ~500 GWh by 2025.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Most Ethical Renewable Energy Systems


The main thing in renewable energy systems is the embodied energy: the energy over the lifetime of the product versus the energy of manufacturing it. Lithium batteries are used a lot because they are lightweight, but they don’t last. Lead-acid batteries, like car batteries, are also short-lived. An old technology, the nickel-iron battery, lasts a long time.

Lithium batteries are great when there might be a space or weight issue, but they are consumable products. Lead-acid batteries decays as they give energy. The nickel-iron battery powered the first electric cars, some of which had batteries that worked over 100 years later. These are not acid, but alkaline, made with a potassium hydroxide mix.

While they are only 1.2 volts, which means a lot of batteries and a lot weight, in a stationary situation, such as a house, the embodied energy is much, much better in nickel-iron batteries.

Key Takeaways:

– Renewable energy is best judged via embodied energy: the amount of energy it provides over a lifetime versus the amount used to produce the system.

– Lithium and lead-acid batteries both have short lifespans, decreasing their embodied energy, and as a result, they create more waste.

– Nickel-iron batteries, a very old technology, lasts an incredibly long time and have much more embodied energy.

-In a stationary situation, such as powering a house, nickel-iron batteries, though they require more space and weigh more, are a more ethical choice.


Blowout Week 240

Blowout Week 240

Finally we have an article from a respected academic institution that highlights the prohibitive costs of going renewable with Li-ion battery storage backup. This article has received minimal publicity on the web, so here we give it a little more by making it our feature story. Then on to OPEC; the oil tanker crisis; Kuwait fracks in Canada; Azerbaijan gas; Rio Tinto exits coal; Russia fuels its offshore nuclear plant; Moorside nuclear in doubt; blackouts in South Africa; Australia’s National Energy Guarantee; peaking plants in Europe; an “alarming collapse” in UK renewable investment; 5,000 UK churches go renewable and how heatwaves increase deaths in UK but decrease them in Spain.

MIT Technology Review: The $2.5 trillion reason we can’t rely on batteries to clean up the grid

The Clean Air Task Force recently found that reaching the 80 percent mark for renewables in California would mean massive amounts of surplus generation during the summer months, requiring 9.6 million megawatt-hours of energy storage. Achieving 100 percent would require 36.3 million. The state currently has 150,000 megawatt-hours of energy storage in total, mainly pumped hydroelectric storage with a small share of batteries.

Building the level of renewable generation and storage necessary to reach the state’s goals would drive up costs exponentially, from $49 per megawatt-hour of generation at 50 percent to $1,612 at 100 percent. And that’s assuming lithium-ion batteries will cost roughly a third what they do now. Similarly, a study earlier this year in Energy & Environmental Science found that meeting 80 percent of US electricity demand with wind and solar would require either a nationwide high-speed transmission system, which can balance renewable generation over hundreds of miles, or 12 hours of electricity storage for the whole system. At current prices, a battery storage system of that size would cost more than $2.5 trillion.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Battery Technologies for Off-Grid Living


There are so many battery technologies out in the marketplace, and it is highly likely between me writing this and you reading it there will be another new fandangled world’s best battery that has hit the market.

What Elon Musk has done with Tesla is to create a market awareness of wanting to install home battery storage and reduce our impact on the environment from burning fossil fuels. This has been fantastic for raising the level of awareness.

Is installing home battery storage actually the best thing for the environment though?

As any good permaculture teacher will tell you “It all depends on the situation.”

My experience with batteries is that all the technologies have a place and purpose; it’s about choosing what’s right for you and your situation.

It’s about choosing the right tool for the job and understanding the capabilities of that device. Not choosing the correct tool for the job can end up with a broken machine!

This week I got the inside on the Tesla power wall training I attended about installing home battery storage from the distributor of Tesla powerwall in Australia. It was a fascinating look on what can be done with the technology and it’s limitations.

The three top batteries sold around the world for battery storage are Lithium, Lead Acid, and Nickel-Iron Cells. Australia is currently the largest installer of nickel-iron cells around the world for stand alone solar applications.

Let’s start with the number one selling battery worldwide the Lead Acid Battery.

Lead Acid Batteries

Lead Acid cells have been the biggest selling batteries for home energy storage as they have been the most cost efficient and simple cell to use. Being the battery of choice for cars has helped bring down the cost of production.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Battery storage* in perspective – solving 1% of the problem

Battery storage* in perspective – solving 1% of the problem

The energy world is fixated on the “huge” amounts of battery storage presently being installed to back up slowly-increasing levels of intermittent renewables generation. The feeling seems to be that as soon as enough batteries are installed to take care of daily supply/demand imbalances we will no longer need conventional dispatchable energy – solar + wind + storage will be able to do it all. Here I take another look at the realities of the situation using what I hope are some telling visual examples of what battery storage will actually do for us. As discussed in previous posts it will get us no closer to the vision of a 100% renewables-powered world than we are now.

*Note: “Battery storage” covers all storage technologies currently being considered, including thermal, compressed air, pumped hydro etc. Batteries are, however, the flavor of the moment and are expected to capture the largest share of the future energy storage market.

This post is all about the difference between pipe dreams and reality. Prof. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University et al. have just published a new study that responds to the critics of their earlier 2017 study. The new study is paywalled, but Stanford’s press release describes the basic procedures used:

For the study, the researchers relied on two computational modeling programs. The first program predicted global weather patterns from 2050 to 2054. From this, they further predicted the amount of energy that could be produced from weather-related energy sources like onshore and offshore wind turbines, solar photovoltaics on rooftops and in power plants, concentrated solar power plants and solar thermal plants over time. These types of energy sources are variable and don’t necessarily produce energy when demand is highest.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blowout Week 167

Blowout Week 167

There are some people you just can’t hold down. One of them is Elon Musk, who has offered to solve South Australia’s grid problems within a hundred days by installing Tesla utility-scale batteries and not to send a bill if the fix doesn’t work, thereby displaying true confidence in the future of energy storage technology. As a reward for this generous offer he gets to be the feature story in this week’s Blowout.

BBC: Elon Musk offers to fix South Australian power network in 100 days 

Elon Musk, boss of electric car firm Tesla, says he can help solve South Australia’s power crisis within 100 days – and if not he’ll do it for free.

The offer follows a series of blackouts in the state. On Thursday, Tesla executive Lyndon Rive had said the company could install 100-300 megawatt hours of battery storage in 100 days. When asked on Twitter how serious he was about the offer, Mr Musk said if Tesla failed, there’d be no bill. “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?” he tweeted in response to Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Australian software maker Atlassian. Having offered to “make the $ happen (& politics)”, Mr Cannon-Brookes then told Mr Musk: “You’re on mate.” Mr Musk went on to quote a price of $250 per kilowatt hour for 100 megawatt hour systems. The state of South Australia has suffered from blackouts since September last year, leading to a political spat over energy policy. Battery storage is one of several options the government is looking at to help ensure reliable power supplies as Australia grows more reliant on intermittent wind and solar power.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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