Energy costs of lithium ion batteries?

This data-file estimates the energy costs of lithium ion batteries across 17 lines. Our best estimate in 2024 is that manufacturing 1 kWh of lithium ion batteries requires 175 kWh of useful energy and emits 100kg of CO2. When a lithium ion battery is used in an electric vehicle, these up-front energy and CO2 costs should be repaid 10x over.

The energy intensity of lithium ion batteries depends on dozens of variables. We have attempted a full breakdown of the energy costs of lithium ion batteries simply by looking line-by-line, reaching a build-up of 175 kWh/kWh and 100kg/kWh. This means making the 70kWh battery for an electric vehicle will use 12MWH of energy and emit 7 tons of CO2.

Half of the energy use in lithium ion batteries is in materials, such as lithium, nickel, graphite, fluorinated polymers, fluorides, copper, aluminium and other plastics. The other half is in manufacturing, as input materials need to be powdered, shaped, slurried, sintered and dried, and then conditioned.

The energy costs of lithium ion batteries are likely to be repaid around 10-times over, when a lithium ion battery is deployed in an electric vehicle, which achieves 1,500-3,000 charge-discharge cycles over a 10-20 year operating life. Likewise, over its entire life, a lithium ion battery in an electric vehicle will save 10x more CO2 than was emitted in its manufacturing. Calculations are in the data-file.

It is interesting how these numbers have changed, when we updated our calculations in 2024, versus our previous calculations in 2019. Compared to five years ago, we think the energy intensity of lithium ion batteries is 40% lower and the CO2 intensity is 15% lower. This is mainly a function of manufacturing improvements, and a more detailed understanding of the supply chain.

The largest opportunity to reduce the energy intensity of lithium ion batteries further is switching to a dry process for electrode manufacturing. Specifically, today’s cathodes are formed by slurrying active materials in NMP, then evaporating off and recovering the NMP. This process may use as much as 40 kWh/kWh of energy. Some sources say that Tesla acquired Maxwell for its dry manufacturing process (notes in the data-file).

The second largest opportunity to improve the energy intensity of batteries is to switch away from NMC cathodes to LFP cathodes. This could save c10% of the total energy costs. Please see our comparison file for different battery compositions and their costs.

The third largest opportunity is raising the voltage and energy density of batteries. This amortizes the same energy costs over a higher output.

The total CO2 emissions per mile of ICE vehicles, electric vehicles and hydrogen cars are also built up in the data-file. After amortizing the CO2 emissions of producing the battery, the CO2 emissions per mile are 50% lower for an electric vehicle that is charged by the US power grid, compared to a base case ICE. Although an EV is not always cleaner, for example, if it is charged by a small diesel generator! Likewise hydrogen cars are only cleaner than ICEs if powered by low-carbon electricity.

Financial costs of ICEs versus EVs per kWh can also be stress-tested in the data-file. In Europe, EVs are almost 50% cheaper per kWh or per mile. While in the US (charts below), it is not entirely clear that EVs are cheaper on a per kWh or per mile basis, especially compared to hybridization and other efficiency initiatives in combustion vehicles. Numbers can be stress-tested in the data-file.

The full data-file estimates the energy costs of lithium ion batteries across 17 lines, built up line by line, and readily stress-tested. Our best estimate in 2024 is that manufacturing 1 kWh of lithium ion batteries requires 175 kWh of useful energy and emits 100kg of CO2. When a lithium ion battery is used in an electric vehicle, these up-front energy and CO2 costs should be repaid 10x over.

Smart Energy: technology leaders?

Smart energy systems

Smart energy systems are capable of transmitting and receiving real-time data and instructions. They open up new ways of optimizing energy efficiency, peak demand, appliances and costs. Over 100M smart meters and thermostats had been installed in the United States (including at c90M residences) and 250M have been installed in Europe by 2020.

The purpose of this data-file is to profile c40 companies commercializing opportunities in smart energy monitoring, smart metering and smart thermostats. The majority are privately owned, at the venture or growth stage. We also tabulate their patent filings.

We find most of the offerings will lower end energy demand (by an average of 7%), assist with smoothing grid-volatility, provide appliance-by-appliance demand disaggregations and encourage consumers to upgrade inefficient or potentially even defective appliances. Numbers are tabulated in the data-file to quantify each of these effects.

Further research. Our recent commentary that summarises the key points on Smart energy systems is linked here. Our outlook on the most conductive metals used in the energy transition is linked here.

Lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles: what challenges?

Challenges for lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles

This data-file tabulates the greatest challenges for lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles, which have been cited in 2020’s patent literature. Specifically, the work contains a sample of 100 patents aiming to overcome these challenges, as filed by companies including Tesla, CATL, GM, GS Yuasa, LG, Nissan, Panasonic, Sanyo, Sumitomo, Toyota, et al.

(1) The industry is now more focused on execution than radical technology breakthroughs. c40% of patents were focused on simplifying manufacturing (#1). Only 27% were focused on energy density (#3) and these were mostly small incremental tilts.

(2) Pursuit of the “million mile battery” is substantiated by a heavy focus on avoiding battery degradation (#2) and improving resiliency (#4), especially in CATL’s impressive patents.

(3) Trade offs. Greater energy density often comes at the cost of safety risks (#5) or degradation. Greater longevity often comes at the cost of lower power and slower charging. So be wary of “breakthroughs” heralded on any one dimension until all of the trade-offs are clear.

(4) Electric semi-trucks are unlikely (we prefer supercapacitors). Many patents noted great challenges scaling up larger battery packs, which adds complexity, cost and safety risks.

(5) The future problems are likely the ones on the right hand side of the chart: The industry is still exerting less focus on battery recycling, energy intensity or maintenance.
Deeper technical details on all of the points above are elaborated in the data-file…

Deeper technical details on all of the points above are elaborated in the data-file, as well as other challenges for lithium ion batteries.

Oxycombustion: economics of zero-carbon gas?

CO2-EOR in shale

Oxycombustion is a next-generation power technology, burning fossil fuels in an inert atmosphere of CO2 and oxygen. It is easy to sequester CO2 from its exhaust gases, helping heat and power to decarbonise. We model that IRRs can compete with conventional gas-fired power plants and base case oxycombustion costs are 6-8c/kWh.

This data-file models oxycombustion costs, which is a next-generation power generation technology, burning natural gas (CH4) in a pure atmosphere of oxygen, so that the power generation cycle yields an output of pure CO2 and H2O.

We have built up our economic assumptions by reviewing technical papers, public information from leader NET Power, and based on thermodynamic modelling, from the power cycle through to super-critical CO2 compression.

Our model of oxycombustion costs, averaging 6-8c/kWh in our base case, is based on assumptions for capex, opex, utilization, efficiency, gas prices, oxygen costs and CO2 disposal.

Project cash flows and unit economics for oxycombustion power technologies.

We first looked at NET Power in a research note in 2019, exploring how next-generation combustion technologies could facilitate easier capture of CO2 (note here). However, we updated the model in 2022-23, with further disclosures, released as the technology has progressed, and as Rice Acquisition Corp acquired NET Power.

Reliable and low-carbon baseload power are increasingly important in our power grid research. We estimate CO2 intensities of 0.04-0.08 kg/kWh for oxycombustion, including the embedded CO2 of cryogenic oxygen production.

Competition? It is also under-appreciated that the utilization rates of developed world power grids have progressively been falling, inflating unit costs, which generates a growing incentive to self-generate clean and reliable power (note here).

Another key debate is how the reliability of oxycombustion power cycles will compete with smaller-scale CHPs and fuel cells. Fuel cells have historically had high decline rates, averaging 5% per year, but recent fuel cells are slowly improving.

Input assumptions that impact oxycombustion costs can be stress-tested by downloading the model. Further discussion here.

Ten Themes for Energy in the 2020s

This short presentation describes our ‘Top Ten Themes for Energy in the 2020s’. Each theme is covered in a single slide. For an overview of the ideas in the presentation, please see our recent presentation, linked here.

Aerial Vehicles: Which Ones Fly?

top aerial vehicle concepts

We have compiled a database of over 100 companies, which have already flown c40 aerial vehicles (aka “flying cars”) and the number should rise to c60 by 2021.

The data substantiates our conclusion that aerial vehicles will gain credibility in the 2020s, the way electric vehicles did in the 2010s. Our latest updated in early-2020 shows strong progress was made in 2019 (chart below).

The database categorizes the top vehicle concepts by type, company, year-founded, company-size, company-geography, backers, fuel-type, speed, range, take-off weight, payload, year of first prototype, target commercial delivery date, fuel economy and required battery weights.

Some vehicle concepts are extremely impressive and credible; but a few may find it more challenging to meet the ranges they have promised at current battery densities…

Distribution Costs: Ships, Trucks, Trains and Delivery Vans?

Distribution Costs and CO2 for Consumers

This data-file breaks down the financial and carbon costs associated with a typical US consumer’s purchasing habits. It covers container-ships, trucks, rail freight, cars and last-mile delivery vans; based on the ton-miles associated with each vehicle and its fuel economy.

We estimate the distribution chain for the typical US consumer costs 1.5bbls of fuel, 600kg of CO2 and $1,000 per annum.

The costs will increase 20-40% in the next decade, as the share of online retail doubles to c20%. New technologies are needed in last-mile delivery, such as drones.

Please download the model to for a full breakdown of the data, and its sensitivity to oil prices, consumption patterns, international trade and exciting new delivery technologies.

Lubricant Leaders: our top five conclusions

Oil Major lubricant technologies

This data-file presents our “top five” conclusions on the lubricants industry, after reviewing 240 patents, filed by the Oil Majors in 2018. The underlying data on each of the 240 patents is also shown in the ‘LubricantPatents’ tab.

We are most impressed by the intense pace of activity to improve engine efficiencies (chart above), across  over 20 different categories. As usual, we think technology leadership will drive margins and market shares. ‘Major 1’ stands out, striving hardest to gain an edge, by a factor of 2x. ‘ Major 2 has the ‘greenest’ lubricant patents, across EVs and bio-additives. Major 4 has the single most intriguing new technology in the space.

The relative number of patents into Electric Vehicle Lubricants is also revealing. It shows the Majors’ true attitudes on electrification, in a context where they are incentivised to sell new products into the EV sector. Our lubricant demand forecasts to 2050 are also noted.

Drones attack military fuel economy?

Drone Attacks on Oil Supplies

This data-file quantifies the fuel economies of typical military vehicle-types, as $1.7 trn per annum of global military activity consumes c0.7Mbpd of total oil demand on our estimates, which are also included in the data-file.

Military drones  are transformational. Almost all the incumbent military vehicles in our data-file have fuel economies below 1 mpg. But the Reaper and Predator drones, famous for their deployment in recent conflicts, have achieved 3mpg and 8mpg respectively. But small, next-generation electric drones will achieve well above 1,000 mpg-equivalent.

Swarms of small-scale electric drones could emerge as the most devastating military weapon of the 21st century, according to a book we read last year on the topic, arguing that “A swarm of armed drones is like a flying minefield…they are so numerous that they are impossible to defeat… each one presents a target just 4-inches across… and shooting down a $1,000 drone with a $5,000 missile is not a winning strategy”. Our notes on the book are included in the data-file.


Subsea Robots: the next generation?

Subsea Robots

This data-file tabulates over 20 next-generation subsea robots, being pioneered around the industry. Each one is described and categorized, including by technical readiness.

These electric solutions could be very material for offshore economics, improving oilfield decline rates and maintenance costs. Innovations include:

  • Residing subsea for c1-year at a time, by re-charging in subsea “docking” stations. This provides greater availability for lower cost.
  • Increasing autonomy means these robots can be free-swimming, as a communications tether is no longer necessary, improving ranges.
  • More intervention work will be conducted, rather than just inspections.

8 of the concepts in our database have all three of these capabilities above. They are at TRLs 5-6, and should be commercially ready in the early 2020s.

The leading companies are tabulated in the data-file, by Major and Service firm (chart below).

These solutions can save c$0.5-1/boe for a typical offshore oilfield, we estimate: performing inspection tasks 2-6x faster than incumbents, as well as halving costs and eliminating the weather-dependency associated with launching-recovering traditional ROVs.  For full details, please download the data-file.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2019-2024.