Why China Is Dominating Lithium-Ion Battery Production

The world is becoming increasingly electrified. Not only are developing countries increasing the availability of electricity to their populations, but the electrification of existing transportation infrastructure is proceeding at a rapid pace. By 2040, over half of the cars on the roads are projected to be powered by electricity.

Batteries play a critical role in this transition, but a relatively new type of battery seems certain to dominate in both personal electronics, as well as in transportation and heavy industrial applications.

In fact, that domination is well underway.

A Brief History of Batteries

Batteries have been a part of our daily lives for a long time. The world’s first true battery was invented in 1800 by the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta. The invention represented a remarkable breakthrough, but since that time there have been only a handful of significant innovations.

The first was the lead-acid battery, which was invented in 1859. This was the first rechargeable battery and is still the most common battery used to start internal combustion engines today.

There have been some innovative battery designs in the past two centuries, but it wasn’t until 1980 that a real game-changer was invented. That was when breakthroughs at the University of Oxford and Stanford University led to the development of the lithium-ion battery. Sony commercialized the first lithium-ion battery in 1991.

What’s so special about lithium?

In a lithium-ion battery, lithium metal migrates through the battery from one electrode to the other as a lithium-ion. Lithium is one of the lightest elements, and it has the strongest electrochemical potential of any element. This enables a lithium-based battery to pack a lot of energy storage in a small, light battery. As a result, lithium-ion batteries have become the battery of choice in many consumer electronics such as laptops and cell phones.

Lithium-ion Batteries Gain Momentum

Because of the inherent advantages in lithium-ion batteries, sales have grown exponentially since the turn of the century. This has helped drive down costs consistently. Falling costs have also helped lithium-ion batteries gain a solid foothold in new applications.

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