The battery future can only be studied with respect their historical development, as detailed by Jean-Marie Tarascon in this document and summed up here below:

  • 1859: First lead acid battery by Gaston Planté. As indicated in the figure below, there is a material transformation at each electrode with migration of species in between them;
    Lead acid electrochemistry

Lead acid battery electrochemistry – Source : Jean-Marie Tarascon, Collège de France

  • 1980 : The LiCoO2 is the first invented material for lithium-ion insertion at the positive electrode;
  • 1900: Waldmar Jungner discovers the principle of the Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) battery with an insertion material at the positive electrode (no material transformation) ;
  • 1947: The first marketing of a Ni-Cd battery;
  • 1975: Invention of a Nickel-Metal Hydride (NIMH) by A. Percheron and J.H. Van Vucht with insertion materials at both electrodes (no transformation of material) ;

Lithium ion working principle

Insertion materials at cathode and anode of a lithium battery – Source : Jean-Marie Tarascon – Collège de France

This is the famous « rocking chair » principle with lithium-ions migrating from one electrode to the other without any chemical transformation.

  • 1988: First marketing of a NiMH battery by Toshiba ;
  • 1991: First marketing of a lithium-ion cell with LiCoO2 as active material ;
  • 2000–2010 : Development and marketing of lithimu-ion batteries in the consumer electronics market (cf figure below from Avicenne), mainly with material;

Worlwide battery market

Evolution of the worldwide battery market (excluding lead acid batteries) between 1990 and 2015 – Source Avicenne Energy

Between the discovery of a new electrochemical cell technology and its development in mass market, 20 to 30 years have passed. One could notice that for an improvement of the lithium-ion technology, like the evolution towards NMC (LiNi1/3Mn1/3Co1/302), the time to mass market is shorten:

  • 2001 : Invention of the active material LiNi1/3Mn1/3Co1/302
  • 2005 : Beginning of the marketing for niche markets
  • 2010 : High scale production

Lithium cathode market

Positive electrode sales between 2000 and 2015 – Source Avicenne Energy

Time to market for new battery material

Future battery materials & Time-to-market forecast – Source Avicenne Energy

If future battery cathode materials are awaited between 2015 and 2020, these are materials permitting to increase the voltage of lithium-ion cells and must be associated with an electrolyte capable of withstanding 5V. Such an electrolyte does not exist today but should be mature enough in the 2020-2025 range.

The lithium-sulfur technology is the next promising technology to increase energy density by 10 to 20%; this technology should come to the market between 2024 and 2028. Oxis Energy is a start-up working to bring this technology to mass market. Lithium-air technology is not foreseen to come to market before 2030.

The solid electrolyte batteries are also promising technologies to lower battery cost thanks to a simplified manufacturing process. Avicenne’s time to market forecast is around 2030. Toyota claims working on this topic, so as Bosch, who bought the American start-up Seeo.

The near battery future belongs to classical lithium-ion technology. Potential improvements of the technology are already identified. This brings optimism for the long term battery future.

Bonus : link towards a very clear course on battery cell technology from EV Tech explained.