Story 2014-03-24 3GV Tesla's Lithium-Ion batteries causing a ruckus in the USA and China

Tesla's Lithium-Ion batteries causing a ruckus in the USA and China

in science on (#3GV)
story imageLithium Ion batteries are a big deal: they are used in smartphones, laptops, and many other electronic gadgets, as well has electric and hybrid vehicles. But they're a bigger deal when hybrid vehicle producer Tesla gets involved. The sheer size of electric vehicle batteries makes Tesla potentially one of the largest consumers of the world's natural graphite production; some analysts estimate that the opening of the Tesla gigafactory will double the world's demand for graphite.

But that graphite might soon be in short supply. Bloomberg recently reported that the material commonly used for the anode of those batteries - graphite - will soon be in short supply because of environmental issues. Graphite mining and processing has produced substantial air and water pollution in China, leading authorities to close dozens of mines and processing plants in Shandong province. (China currently produces the vast majority of the world's supply of natural graphite; other countries, including Australia and Canada, could potentially ramp up to take up a portion of the slack).

But building Li-Ion batteries for Tesla is causing the politicians to sit up and take notice. At present, four southwestern American states vie to be selected as the site of Tesla Motor's announced 'Gigafactory' , a 1000-acre factory for lithium-ion batteries projected to cost $5 billion and support 6500 local jobs.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk quickly tweeted that the Bloomberg story was 'beyond ridiculous' and promised to post an environmental impact blog. After a week, the proposed statement has still not been posted.
Reply 7 comments

Battery Recycling (Score: 3, Interesting)

by on 2014-03-24 11:49 (#S0)

The lead acid battery recycling program (for automobile batteries) is one of the most successful recycling programs ever. Here's hoping that a similar program will exist for all these new Lithium car battery packs.

Re: Battery Recycling (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2014-03-24 19:28 (#SK)

If you believe this article, Lithium is currently not worth recycling...but may be in the future,
Other parts of e-car batteries may be recycled before Lithium becomes economical. At this time there are several different battery technologies being used which makes it hard for anyone to develop a recycling technology.

Re: Battery Recycling (Score: 1)

by on 2014-03-25 19:26 (#TQ)

There is just not enough known lithium deposits for every car owner to go out and buy an electric vehicle. Heck, according to this article, there isn't enough lead for a similar massively scaled lead-acid battery. Recycling old batteries would at least help.

Graphite can be manufactured. (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2014-03-25 01:49 (#SR)

You don't need natural graphite mines.

Re: Graphite can be manufactured. (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2014-03-25 02:59 (#ST)

Yeah, but that's like getting drinking water from desalination.

Wired... (Score: 1)

by on 2014-03-25 18:48 (#TM)

I have always intensely disliked the mobility part of most mobile technologies: cordless telephones, walkmen, mobile phones, laptops... because the battery is often dead or about to run out and you have to run to a cord somewhere for charging, but you've lost your charging cord, and then over time the battery wears out and so on... I've gotten interested in e-reader technology, in large part, because the battery life spans weeks and not just hours or days. I pretty much always use my laptop in a plugged-in state except for emergencies because I prefer the inconvenience of a wire then the inconvenience of my battery dying.

Anyway, I am curious if there are ways to return to wires in more applications to lower the demand for batteries across industries? In other words, would it be possible to innovate away from a dependence on batteries towards a different model of electricity access in those industries where mobility is a luxury rather than a necessity? Cars may need long-lasting batteries, but do all of our computing devices?

Re: Wired... (Score: 1)

by on 2014-03-25 19:16 (#TP)

I think mounting a pad under your desk surface to covert it into a wireless charging top would be neat. Just place your mouse, phone, music player, etc on top of the desk and the field created by the pad would power the device and begin trickle charging it. There are already some products that do something similar, but the pad is placed on top of the desk (very short range transmission) and the phone normally needs a bulky case to hide the receiver coil (not many phones have this built in).