Why Is Cathode Material So Important for Automotive Lithium-Ion Batteries?

Due to the strong concerns regarding the degradation of the environment by carbon emissions, the demand for electric vehicles (EV) is skyrocketing around the world. As per the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2010, there were merely 17,000 electric cars on the roads, and by 2019, their number had swollen massively to 7.2 million! As these vehicles either do not have an internal combustion engine (ICE) or have one, which is supplemented by another power source to cut down on the emissions, the battery becomes really important.

Cathode Material for Automotive Lithium-Ion Battery

Thus, as per P&S Intelligence, the burgeoning EV sales will propel the cathode material for automotive lithium-ion battery market size from $1,744.9 million in 2019 to $3,777.8 million by 2030, at a 6.9% CAGR during 2020–2030 (forecast period). Every battery, be it for transportation purposes or any other, has three components: the negatively charged cathode, positively charged anode, and the electrolyte, which is the medium for the ion exchange. The power output of the battery depends on the cathode; thus, more the electrons the cathode has, the stronger will be the current.

Among these, the LFP category held the largest share in the cathode material for automotive lithium-ion battery market in 2019, as this material displays a slower self-heating rate than others. Another major reason automakers prefer batteries with the LFP chemistry is their higher energy density, which allows for a longer driving range on a full charge. With the number of charging stations agonizingly low in most parts of the world considering the number of EVs being bought, having a battery that offers a longer driving range is important.

Apart from the range anxiety, the other major factor discouraging many to purchase EVs is their high price. Presently, the battery, being the most-critical component of EVs, accounts for almost 40% of their total purchase price. Since the cathode itself holds an around 30% share in the price of the battery, research is being done to source cost-effective cathode material. However, in their quest to develop cheaper cathode, material providers are taking care not to degrade its quality, which would have a severe impact on the energy density, in turn, the driving range.

Due to the high demand for EVs, Asia-Pacific (APAC) dominated the cathode material for automotive lithium-ion battery market during the historical period (2014–2019), and the situation is expected to be the same during the forecast period. As per the IEA, almost 47% of the 7.2 million electric cars operational in 2019 were on the roads of China! This is because its government has been relentlessly offering substantial purchase subsidies and tax rebates to encourage the usage of EVs, as is India, under its FAME India scheme.

Therefore, with the range anxiety and high prices hampering the adoption of EVs to some extent, efforts are being made to come up with more-effective and cheaper cathode material.

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