Vanadium: The Energy Metal
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Vanadium: The Energy Storage Metal

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The world is moving to a renewable energy economy.

Solar use is growing at exponential rates, and countries like the U.K., France, and India are planning to ban gas-powered vehicles in the coming years. Even the world’s largest auto market in China is under duress from mounting pollution, and the country has ambitious plans to build up world-class renewable capacity while ditching gas-powered vehicles.

The Energy Storage Question

As the world shifts to renewables, one question remains up in the air: how will we store all this energy?

Today’s infographic comes to us from VanadiumCorp and it highlights vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) – which are a breakthrough that some experts say may be the future of grid-scale energy storage.

Vanadium: The Energy Storage Metal

Vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) are fairly unique in the battery world.

They work by taking advantage of the natural properties of vanadium, a metal with four different oxidation states. But rather than using the metal in a solid state, vanadium electrolyte (a liquid solution) is used for both half-cells and the configuration is divided by a proton exchange membrane. Typically, massive tanks filled with vanadium electrolyte are connected, pumping the solution through at high volumes to charge or discharge.

The Benefits of VRFBs

This unique setup gives VRFBs a few interesting advantages for something like grid-scale energy storage:

  • Extremely scalable
  • Can rapidly release large amounts of energy
  • Vanadium electrolyte is reusable, recyclable, and has a battery lifespan of 25+ years
  • No cross-contamination of metals, since only one metal (vanadium) is used
  • Cycle life is theoretically unlimited
  • Can maintain ready state for long periods of time
  • Can be charged and discharged at same time
  • Non-flammable

As a result, VRFBs can be used in a variety of energy storage applications such as peak-shaving, load leveling, microgrids, wind and solar, off-grid power supplies, and uninterruptible power supplies.

Vanadium Outlook

VRFBs are getting more attention from utilities companies, and large battery projects have already been announced.

The most notable vanadium-flow battery is probably a 200 MW system being built on the Dalian peninsula in China, which will serve 7 million residents. Costing $500 million, it’ll be used to peak-shave approximately 8% of Dalian’s expected load by 2020. This battery system will be the world’s largest, and it will single-handedly triple China’s grid-connected battery storage capacity.

According to Chinese firm Azure International, the market projection for VRFB demand (by MW) in the top 10 countries is growing at an 80% CAGR from 2013 to 2020, ultimately culminating in more than 7,000 MW of vanadium-flow capacity needed in 2020.

This demand could be even more substantial than that if the price of vanadium electrolyte could be reduced – it makes up about 30-50% of the cost of each battery alone.

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Energy

Visualizing China’s Dominance in Battery Manufacturing (2022-2027P)

This infographic breaks down battery manufacturing capacity by country in 2022 and 2027.

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battery manufacturing capacity by country infographic

Visualizing China’s Dominance in Battery Manufacturing

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

With the world gearing up for the electric vehicle era, battery manufacturing has become a priority for many nations, including the United States.

However, having entered the race for batteries early, China is far and away in the lead.

Using the data and projections behind BloombergNEF’s lithium-ion supply chain rankings, this infographic visualizes battery manufacturing capacity by country in 2022 and 2027p, highlighting the extent of China’s battery dominance.

Battery Manufacturing Capacity by Country in 2022

In 2022, China had more battery production capacity than the rest of the world combined.

RankCountry2022 Battery Cell
Manufacturing Capacity, GWh
% of Total
#1 🇨🇳 China89377%
#2🇵🇱 Poland736%
#3🇺🇸 U.S.706%
#4🇭🇺 Hungary383%
#5🇩🇪 Germany313%
#6🇸🇪 Sweden161%
#7🇰🇷 South Korea151%
#8🇯🇵 Japan121%
#9🇫🇷 France61%
#10🇮🇳 India30.2%
🌍 Other71%
Total1,163100%

With nearly 900 gigawatt-hours of manufacturing capacity or 77% of the global total, China is home to six of the world’s 10 biggest battery makers. Behind China’s battery dominance is its vertical integration across the rest of the EV supply chain, from mining the metals to producing the EVs. It’s also the largest EV market, accounting for 52% of global sales in 2021.

Poland ranks second with less than one-tenth of China’s capacity. In addition, it hosts LG Energy Solution’s Wroclaw gigafactory, the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Overall, European countries (including non-EU members) made up just 14% of global battery manufacturing capacity in 2022.

Although it lives in China’s shadow when it comes to batteries, the U.S. is also among the world’s lithium-ion powerhouses. As of 2022, it had eight major operational battery factories, concentrated in the Midwest and the South.

China’s Near-Monopoly Continues Through 2027

Global lithium-ion manufacturing capacity is projected to increase eightfold in the next five years. Here are the top 10 countries by projected battery production capacity in 2027:

RankCountry2027P Battery Cell
Manufacturing Capacity, GWh
% of Total
#1🇨🇳 China6,19769%
#2🇺🇸 U.S.90810%
#3🇩🇪 Germany5036%
#4🇭🇺 Hungary1942%
#5🇸🇪 Sweden1352%
#6🇵🇱 Poland1121%
#7🇨🇦 Canada1061%
#8🇪🇸 Spain981%
#9🇫🇷 France891%
#10 🇲🇽 Mexico801%
🌍 Other5236%
Total8,945100%

China’s well-established advantage is set to continue through 2027, with 69% of the world’s battery manufacturing capacity.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is projected to increase its capacity by more than 10-fold in the next five years. EV tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act are likely to incentivize battery manufacturing by rewarding EVs made with domestic materials. Alongside Ford and General Motors, Asian companies including Toyota, SK Innovation, and LG Energy Solution have all announced investments in U.S. battery manufacturing in recent months.

Europe will host six of the projected top 10 countries for battery production in 2027. Europe’s current and future battery plants come from a mix of domestic and foreign firms, including Germany’s Volkswagen, China’s CATL, and South Korea’s SK Innovation.

Can Countries Cut Ties With China?

Regardless of the growth in North America and Europe, China’s dominance is unmatched.

Battery manufacturing is just one piece of the puzzle, albeit a major one. Most of the parts and metals that make up a battery—like battery-grade lithium, electrolytes, separators, cathodes, and anodes—are primarily made in China.

Therefore, combating China’s dominance will be expensive. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. and Europe will have to invest $87 billion and $102 billion, respectively, to meet domestic battery demand with fully local supply chains by 2030.

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