An international study into the potential of batteries to power energy storage systems and electric vehicles of the future is to be reviewed, after it was admitted that research focused purely on lithium-ion.
According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2017 report, “in recent years, the momentum behind battery storage— and lithium-ion batteries in particular— has increased significantly”.
The report added: “Energy storage, specifically lithium-ion batteries, and the digitalisation of the power sector, represent two emerging market developments with the potential to change the nature of the sector.”
However, the Paris-based agency’s “flagship” study made no mention of other major battery chemistries such as lead-acid and failed to tackle environmental concerns over Li-ion recycling.
The study also failed to factor in the potential impact of supply chain issues surrounding Li-ion— such as concerns about mining practices for raw materials in some countries.
Asked by BBB if it was IEA policy to only consider Li-on, or if this was an oversight, a spokesperson for the agency said promised “further investigation” into the report’s findings.
“Depending on the chemistries that emerge, there may be supply issues for specific elements. In the case where supplies of specific elements are restricted, this may serve to reduce their availability and the related uptake of batteries.”
“Given the importance of the topic, the IEA is going to further investigate these issues in the following months,” the spokesperson said.
“On power, it is not clear that lithium-ion batteries will prevail for grid applications,” the spokesperson added. “The example of lithium-ion was of interest due to the recent and projected cost reductions linked with electric vehicles and mobile devices.”
“On transport, we model two learning curves, according to the different characteristics requirements of pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles,” the spokesperson said.
“The parameters of these learning curves are based on the US Department of Energy’s advanced battery R&D programme overview. However, we have not made strong assumptions on the specific chemistry of the redox couple or the cathode alloy, under the assumption that there are technology options to reach the floor cost we assume.”
According to the IEA’s report, battery storage “is still a relatively expensive option to provide flexibility to power systems, but it is starting to grow both at utility-scale and (particularly in countries with significant solar PV capacity) in the nascent market for behind-the-meter storage installations”.