What are electric car batteries made of?

power supply connect electric vehicle charge

Cutting-edge batteries are playing an increasingly important role in the sustainable mobility transition. Battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs) are transforming how we move. But few users fully understand the technology behind them – or the remarkable materials characterization that makes it all possible.

The different types of EV batteries

Most common Li-ion battery chemistries used in present-day EVs are nickel manganese cobalt (NMC), and Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP). While NMC chemistry provides highest energy density (driving range per charge) it comes with a high price tag and environmental concerns due to the use of Cobalt. LFP is cheaper and safer but has lower energy density. In research and development, many chemistries target higher energy density at lower cost and eliminate the use of toxic and costly elements. Lithium-Sulphur, Na / K ion batteries, and solid state batteries (with solid electrolyte) are some of the emerging alternatives to the currently used chemistries.

What goes into a Li-ion battery?

EV Li-ion batteries contain cathode (NMC or LFP), anode (Graphite or Silicon), separator (PVDF polymer) and Electrolyte. Cathode and anode are coated on Al and Cu current collectors respectively. So, in the case of NMC batteries, main metals present are lithium, manganese, cobalt, nickel, graphite, Aluminum and copper. As an example, Tesla Mode 3 (75 kW-Hr battery) uses 12 kg Li, 50 kg Ni, 4.5kg Co, 4 kg Mn (= 105kg NCM811), 70kg Graphite, 20kg of Al foil and 25kg of Cu foil. In addition to this each cell has a steel casing and the whole battery pack also has Aluminum and steel casing.

Sustainable solutions for EV battery components

Li-ion battery manufacturing faces materials supply challenges as Li, Ni and Co reserves are limited. Also, there are environmental concerns in mining these minerals. Sustainability in battery manufacturing can be achieved with a three-pronged approach – waste management in production, battery recycling and new chemistries utilizing less amount of more abundant minerals. Production waste in battery manufacturing can range from 5% to 20% depending on the process optimization. Industry 4.0-based solutions can bring it down to below 5% levels. Battery recycling not only avoids toxic battery materials going into landfills but also acts as an alternate materials supply chain to mining. Finally, the new chemistries will not only eliminate toxic and costly materials like Co, but they will also provide a higher driving range with same amount of material, when perfected and commercialized.

World-leading analysis for better battery technology

Whether it is about optimizing the production of present-day batteries or the development of new battery chemistries, nothing can be achieved without robust and reliable analytical tools that give a deeper insight into the materials and the processes. This is where Malvern Panalytical has been helping the battery industry with state-of-the-art analytical solutions;

Aeris and Empyrean range of X-ray diffractometers are high-performance, versatile, user-friendly tools providing insights into materials properties at an atomic scale. Whether it is the crystalline perfection of anode/cathode materials, defects like cation mixing or graphitization degree or the growth of single crystalline particles, our XRD systems can provide accurate results in just a few minutes. In turn, this ensures EV battery designers can optimize factors like accelerating power, range, and scalability.

Elemental analysis with our Zetium and Epsilon range of XRF can quickly and accurately determine the elemental composition of synthesized precursor and electrode materials. Also, it can be your key tool in determining the elemental concentration in hydro-metallurgical solutions during battery recycling.

Particle size and shape play an important role in optimizing the performance of battery electrode materials. Our Mastersizer and Morphologi range of solutions can be used as QC and R&D tools for automated measurement of particle size and shape with high accuracy and repeatability.

Finally, to help you achieve Industry 4.0, we have in-line / at-line / online process control solutions for particle sizing (Insitec range), elemental composition of liquid precursor (Epsilon Xflow) and elemental composition of electrode coating (Epsilon Xline) and laboratory automation of all our analytical solutions.

Driving the future of the EV battery industry

With our technologies and instruments, and in partnership with researchers and industry stakeholders across the globe, Malvern Panalytical is revolutionizing battery development processes – and powering the innovation needed to drive the sustainable mobility transition!

Find out more about the instruments that are making a greener mobility future possible on where we discuss the materials driving solutions to contemporary challenges.

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