In a glorious end of summer weather, I have just attended the Battery Tech Europe Conference in Munich, Germany. Impeccably organized by the iQHub team, the event focused on battery-related issues, mostly in relation to transportation and electric vehicles. Modest in size, the event welcomed a good caliber of international participants, mainly from Europe, who were highly engaged, knowledgeable, and enjoyed the perfect central location, service and surrounding of the Hilton Hotel Munich.
I maintain that there are always things to learn, new people to meet and contacts to be made at such events, regardless of their size. This event did not disappoint in that respect. Data analysts Inovev kicked off the program with some sobering research and forecasts: they expect that even by 2035, the majority of the world will not have turned to electric when it comes to transportation. Whilst Europe and China are legislating their way to an all-electric future, this represents about one third of the world vehicle fleet. The USA are only going partially electric, whilst the rest of the world, including BRIC countries, Japan and Korea, will likely still rely on ICE. More controversially, they expect that out of the 800 GWh LIB production committed in Europe by the same date, over half of this will represent overcapacity since the projected demand in Europe is 350 GWh. It is not clear which non-European countries will buy this surplus, and why they would. Focusing mainly on materials sourcing in Europe, it was encouraging to hear from Inovev that Europe has plenty of Li deposits, from France to Portugal and the UK, but 78% of the world's processing of Li is done in Chile. Clearly an opportunity missed by Europe.
Whilst I used the world “committed” above to describe the plans for LIB manufacturing in Europe, the reality of identifying a site for the build of a gigafactory was described in great colour by the speaker from Newmark. He reminded the audience of recent horror stories - from a Tesla site in Germany abandoned due to lack of the high volumes of water required for manufacturing, to discarded plans for a Northvolt site simply because a local farmer would not sell their land (despite the promise of becoming a millionaire). Get to know the local community early was one of the take-home pieces of advice. Morocco was suggested as a new, very promising location for gigafactories, which is not surprising when you think that this is a country with high potential for green electricity (lots of sun, lots of wind). The challenges do not stop once a site is secured: thankfully both camLine and Kalypso described how they can model streamlined, sustainable and energy efficient battery manufacturing lines by way of digital twins and the use of AI and machine learning.
It was good to hear Bob Zollo of Keysight again, a very recognizable friendly face from the battery tech conference circuit. Bob’s knowledge of battery testing was clear again, here giving some great advice on techniques for defect detection, appropriate for R&D as well as volume manufacturing: from using Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (rather than DC methods) for the determination of state of health and state of charge; to using potentiostatic methods to measuring self-discharge. Last but not least, David Thackray from Tevva Motors (himself 4th generation in the haulage industry) presented some simple but clever data crunching, explaining how the well-known graph showing the cost decrease of LIB cells over time did not show the whole story: using metrics like cycle life and reference duty cycles allows for calculations of cost per km driven, which is more appropriate as method for comparison of battery chemistries (in the case of Tevva’s LFP pack, he calculated 4 cents per km).
Of course I am not mentioning all talks here, but all were of great interest. Again, well done to the iQHub team and good luck for the future.