As the UK has focused on converting our number of road vehicles into electric vehicles, we are also beginning to see that this revolution in the way drivers consume energy will not be easy to achieve. In principle, this is a good idea, but the logistics of manufacturing the required batteries is a daunting task for the automotive industry.
There is no doubt that global electric vehicle (EV) sales are accelerating, and automakers are investing heavily in regional supply chains and super factory networks to achieve this ambition. However, the demand for cars is growing faster than predicted before the pandemic, which has created a bottleneck in the supply chain.
The U.S. Department of Energy is also aware of the need to build an efficient supply chain: People are keenly aware of their dependence on Chinese production, and the U.S. expects that the supply of lithium-ion battery demand will be less than half of the expected demand. By 2028, electric vehicles will be on the road.
This partly boils down to the lack of national strategy and the lack of necessary raw materials. More and more attention is now being paid to whether some of these battery materials can be effectively recycled. The environmental footprint of the battery manufacturing process is being reviewed.
The lithium-ion battery supply chain is still too clumsy and too unenvironmental, and the government realizes that this needs to be changed. Many expensive attributes are involved—such as transportation—not to mention manufacturing time.
Nano One is still a small company, but it works with big partners. It has its licensed technologies, including innovations aimed at reducing cost, waste, energy and carbon footprints in the battery supply chain. It attracted funds from the Canadian government and the province of British Columbia, and aroused interest from automobile companies, cathode manufacturers, and even the government.
One of Nano One's potentially transformative technologies is M2CAM. It officially launched this technology in February this year. It allows the cathode material to be made directly from metal, using nickel, manganese, and cobalt metal powder raw materials instead of metal sulfate or other salts. The idea here is to shorten the carbon footprint that exists between the mining industry and battery and car manufacturers.
M2CAM uses 20 times less water in its process, which reacts in the furnace and produces products faster than current wasteful processes.
Nano One's M2CAM is applying for a patent, and said its preliminary test results show that the battery capacity has been 5% higher than the current cathode material made of metal salts.
M2CAM effectively eliminates the costly and energy-intensive need to convert nickel, cobalt, and manganese to sulfate and lithium carbonate to hydroxide. This means that there is no need to transport large amounts of water and sulfur, thereby reducing energy, emissions and transportation costs by 4-5 times.
It also eliminates other costs, such as manufacturing so-called precursor cathode active materials or processing waste streams.
Robert Morris, Nano One battery metal strategy consultant, said: "Original equipment manufacturers want'clean nickel', which refers to the mining, refining and logistics that transports the product to the place of consumption." "If the metal producer's nickel can Directly used in the production of cathode materials, compared with sulfate and other non-metal producers, metal producers should have ESG and premium advantages."
For example, miners and refineries use expensive and energy-consuming crystallization processes to convert nickel into nickel sulfate (NiSO4.6H2O, 22% nickel, 78% waste), which increases its weight by 4-5 times before shipping to the manufacturer . The metal sulfates are then mixed in the caustic process to form intermediate precursors, while producing 4-5 times more waste in the sulfate and water. Then lithium hydroxide (LiOH) is added to the precursor during an extended heat treatment to form a cathode powder before the final protective coating can be applied.
This supply chain is long and complex, and each stage will increase energy, carbon emissions, environmental waste, complexity, cost, logistics, transportation, and profit.
Nano One's patented One-Pot process simultaneously forms durable single crystal cathode powder and protective coating, while M2CAM enables these materials to be made directly from metal powder. Metal powder is one-fifth of the weight of metal sulfate, avoiding the additional cost, energy and environmental impact of conversion into sulfate and transportation and disposal of waste.
It sounds complicated, but it creates added value for metals and aligns Nano One with the environmental, sustainability and cost goals of car companies, miners, investment communities, and government infrastructure programs. Equally important, this also means that the supply chain can be more efficient than before. We expect that Europe and the United States will pay more attention to this in the next few years, and Nano One's technology will play a very important role.
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Please note that this article does not constitute investment advice. Investors are encouraged to research or consult professional advisers in advance.
Stuart Fieldhouse has 25 years of journalism and marketing experience, including serving as a wealth management editor for the Financial Times Group, covering capital markets and international private banking, as well as a correspondent for Euromoney's investment bank in Hong Kong. He is the founding editor of Hedge Fund Magazine.
Stuart worked at CMC Markets and supported the restart of its global financial spread betting and CFD trading platform. He is also the author of two books on trading published by the Financial Times Pearson Press. Stuart is based in The Armchair Trader's London office and continues to advise fund managers, private banks, family offices and other financial institutions.
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