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Raw materials for lithium-ion batteries are running out

Lithium and cobalt are essential components of the positive electrode in today’s batteries. A Helmholtz study warns of a possible shortage of the required elements by 2050.

29 Apr. 2018
Raw materials for lithium-ion batteries are running out (Photo: Deutsche Messe)

Lithium and cobalt are crucial for the life, energy, and power density of today’s lithium-ion batteries (LIB). Due to the increasing importance of LIB, especially as part of electromobility, the replenishment of these elements could become vital by 2050. This is the result of a study by the Battery Research Center of the Helmholtz Institute Ulm which was published in the Nature Reviews Materials journal .

The scenario-based analysis shows that cobalt is likely to become scarce and expensive, as the cobalt reserves identified today will not be sufficient for the presumed increase in demand. This is also supported by the fact that prices already increased by more than 120% in one year in 2016/17. In contrast to cobalt, the lithium reserves are indeed sufficient, but production would have to be increased depending on the situation by up to ten times. The results of the study also confirm a global scenario for battery applications in electromobility up to 2050.