A Greater Lithium Battery Value Chain

Greater, Faster, Greener: Enabling the lithium battery revolution

The market for lithium batteries has grown enormously since the turn of the century, powering everything from toothbrushes to tractors. There are currently 3.2 billion smartphone users in the world today, while annual passenger electric vehicle sales are forecast to reach 28 million by 2030.

But as these batteries become more and more ubiquitous in our daily lives, we demand more from them. We want batteries that not only last longer, cost less and charge faster but to do so in a safe and sustainable way that reduces their impact on the environment.
 
In a three-part series, we look at how the industries powering the lithium battery value chain can use digital technology to work together to meet these multiple and sometimes conflicting demands and thrive in a rapidly growing market.

The average price of a lithium-ion battery pack has fallen by 85% since 2010

Consumers expect every new phone, power tool or toothbrush to be better than the last. And that means the lithium battery powering it has to continuously be updated and improved. Battery technology, therefore, has to move as fast as the markets for these products.
 
For battery cell designers and engineers, the focus is on improving technology in three key areas – safety, cost, and performance. A solid-state battery, for example, would have a higher energy density, meaning greater ranges and quicker charging times for electric vehicles, while also being more stable, safer batteries. And that is just one of a number of cutting-edge innovations that could revolutionize the next generation of lithium batteries.

However, developing new technologies faces a number technical and logistical hurdles. While the industry is accelerating efforts to bring these batteries to market, mass production for solid state batteries is thought to be at least five years off. In the meantime, there will need to be significant adjustments to manufacturing systems so production can be scaled effectively. End products also need to be designed with the next generation of batteries in mind – there’s no use building next generation batteries if there are no products into which they can fit.

All this requires effective supply chain integration. While in some parts of the world, such as Europe, there remains very little integration, in Asia, large electronics companies like Samsung have built extensive, integrated value chains, to improve efficiency and provide stability in battery supply. Similarly, the American electric car pioneer Tesla has been looking to get involved further and further down the value chain, from cell design and manufacturing all the way to mining their own minerals. 

But even where companies have integrated parts of the value chain, these units often still work in a siloes, failing to work closely with one another and efficiently share information. If the industry wants to be in a position to quickly implement and scale up new game changing technology this needs to change. 

By sharing technical advances on a collaborative platform, battery and product design and manufacturing processes can be adapted more quickly, and businesses will be able to roll out the most advanced battery types ahead of their competitors. 

We do all the upfront design work theoretically (in a computer), and that gets us about 95% of the way to perfecting a system.

Porter Harris
Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer | Romeo Power

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform provides the tools to simulate battery cell design, to create a digital twin that enables designers to model and test new theories and formulations to find the next groundbreaking equivalent model. They can then choose to share that data, while protecting their valuable IP, with the battery pack and systems manufacturers, so industry stakeholders can collaborate better to accelerate the introduction of next generation technology. 

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform can also help the entire supply chain from mining to final product integrate more effectively. The platform allows greater collaboration, so sourcing and production can be optimized to meet demand, and form factor design can be incorporated so end products can accommodate the most advanced batteries.

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