We have been talking about the transition from internal combustion engines (a.k.a. gas-powered cars) to electric vehicles for more than a decade.
Tesla was the biggest player in the field for the majority of that timeframe, but nowadays, every auto manufacturer either already has, or plans to introduce, electric vehicles.
That said, the long-touted phasing out of combustion engines has been hampered by the global supply of lithium – the key natural resource that goes toward producing many batteries.
In fact, by the year 2035, it’s expected there will be at least 1.1-million tons separating this resource’s demand from its supply.
All of that goes to show the yet-to-be-solved riddle of the electric transition, as these companies find themselves competing for the finite lithium available. This drove the price of a metric ton of lithium carbonate – the compound companies mine – up 432% year over year, from roughly $11,000 to $62,000.
However, it also goes to underscore the massive opportunity for emerging companies looking to discover – and commercialize – alternative forms of energy storage.
And one recent discovery has those in the industry particularly optimistic about addressing that aforementioned shortage…
While there are many concerns about the amount of lithium in circulation, one resource we don’t share those concerns for is… sodium.
In case you haven’t been to the ocean (or grocery store … or McDonald’s) in a little while, there’s quite an abundance of it..
Well, researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia have made a breakthrough that uses sodium-sulphur – a molten sodium processed from sea water – to create a far cheaper battery with 4X the storage capacity as lithium for the same price.
That said, due to the size and weight of these sodium batteries, they won’t be finding their way inside electric vehicles anytime soon.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t impact the battery industry on the whole – quite the contrary, in fact.
The reasoning is simple – currently, lithium is required for large-scale power grid storage. With this more economic, plentiful solution, that should greatly lower the demand for lithium – freeing it up for things like electric cars.
This is precisely the type of breakthrough that, once commercialized, is rapidly adopted. In the process, those that commercialize it are quickly, and handsomely, rewarded.
One additional positive fallout from this development is a key byproduct of the refinery process – desalinated water.
By extracting the sodium-sulphur from the sea water, we’re left with clean water – a monumental development when juxtaposed against the decreasing supply of fresh water.
Ultimately, advancements of this type are precisely the drivers of industry – and the rocket fuel that propels small companies to behemoths.
Suffice to say, this is one that bears watching. We’ll be sure to keep you updated.