Reflections on the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Strasbourg

News Analysis




Reflections on the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Strasbourg

The 2024 Advanced Automotive Battery Conference (AABC) covered a wide range of battery topics, spanning cutting-edge technology to raw material supply chains. Here are some of the key takeaways from the week. 

Solid-state batteries were very much a central topic throughout the event and were covered in great detail. Nevertheless, the realisation of full solid-state batteries is not a short-term prospect, as challenges associated with manufacturing, cycle life, raw material sourcing and cost remain at the forefront. Instead, semi solid-state batteries will bridge the gap to increase conductivity amongst components whilst facilitating the introduction of the new technology. In addition, silicon-based anodes will be a key anode type within semi and solid-state cells in the short- to mid-term as the industry aims to transition towards lithium metal, although more traditional anodes are likely to be used initially. These next-generation cells therefore have some way to go before they can deliver the next-generation performance that has previously been cited. Ultimately, the cost of solid-state cells will define their value proposition and therefore their market penetration and potential.

A shift towards higher nickel contents to maximise energy density is still a prominent theme in discussions. Whilst NCM high-nickel continues to pivot towards the higher-end EV sector, high voltage mid-nickel was presented as an option to reduce costs within the top half of the sector. Although these variants still appeared to push towards the upper end of ‘mid-nickel’ as 7-series in most cases, higher operating voltages appear to be a key route to eke out additional energy density from traditional cathode chemistries. However, these higher voltages pose operational challenges when it comes to cycle life, requiring novel modification of the electrolyte and cathode material to prevent unwanted degradation. 

Geopolitics was an additional key talking point threaded throughout many presentations and discussions during the conference. With that, an overarching theme was that Europe and the USA still face shortages up and down the battery supply chain as they look to pivot away from a reliance on China. Data suggests that there is still a long way ahead in the race to create a self-sufficient domestic supply chain. With the Biden Administration recently announcing higher import tariffs and the EU expected to follow in a similar (but less severe) approach, the trade war will continue to intensify. The two regions will have to balance the involvement from China in the short- to mid-term, while simultaneously attempting to publicly distance themselves. A resounding message amongst many at AABC was that competitive collaboration was needed, rather than a severance between nations.