This is Part 5 of a blog series dedicated to the major drivers and enablers for electrification within the construction industry.
Part 1: Environmental Protection Drives Electrification
Part 2: Indoor Equipment Operation
Part 3: The Telematic Advantages Electrification Achieves
Part 4: Electrification Drives Operational Efficiency
In many industries, electrification has been possible for years with lead-acid batteries. In the construction industry, however, physical stress such as shock and vibration, environmental exposure to outside elements, and the power density needed to achieve the necessary duty cycle all provide challenges to successful implementation using lead-acid batteries.
As an alternative, the significant developments in lithium batteries have achieved construction-industry viability. Additionally, recent advancements demonstrate immense further potential.
Lithium batteries generate a charge by the movement of positive lithium ions through a “separator” to create free electrons.1 Lithium batteries are sealed—in contrast to lead-acid batteries, which require frequent water-level checks and additional maintenance.
Lithium batteries typically take one of three forms:
Each of these forms provides different advantages over the others. Still, the higher power density of lithium batteries allows more energy to fit in less space.
Lithium Batteries in Construction
Significant construction electrification is only practical with the advanced lithium batteries now available:
- Lithium batteries can facilitate the higher instantaneous energy outputs and capacities required to operate construction machinery and vehicles.
- Lithium batteries’ sealed construction can be deployed safely in rugged environments.
- The efficiency of lithium batteries makes faster charging possible.
- Lithium batteries can offer over 2000 or more charge cycles, providing greater operational longevity.
- Lithium batteries require significantly less maintenance than lead-acid batteries and diesel platforms.
Significant Lithium Battery Advancements in 2021
Continued technological development and production capacity increases will place downward pressure on the costs of lithium energy storage, further tipping the scales. From 1992 to 2016, lithium prices fell 13% each year (in terms of “real price per energy capacity”). This has helped achieve a price drop of 97% over the last 30 years.2
In 2021 alone, there have been several significant advancements that will help further drive this trend:
- The European Commission, European Research and Innovation Days, and the Batteries European Partnership Association began BATT4EU. This program targets the development of the competitive growth of battery production and supply in Europe. BATT4EU will be co-led by Horizon Europe, the European Union’s primary program for tackling climate change and sustainability challenges.3
- Chinese lithium battery and supply chain companies committed over 100 billion yuan ($15.6 billion) towards production increases between early September and November.4
- US researchers identified the geothermal brine of the Salton Sea in California as a viable source for lithium. Their published research examines the most sustainable and economically viable extraction methods.5
- Another US research team has published a paper regarding their research into sustainable lithium battery components. Partly derived from trees, the use of cellulose nanofibers and copper achieves a solid-state construction offering high energy density and improved thermal management.6
Take Advantage of Lithium Advancements
Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) should investigate and invest in lithium batteries as the power supply for their construction machinery and vehicles. Current lithium battery technology exceeds many construction environment demands. Continual research and development only projects to decrease costs and increase the global supply chain significantly.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about the trends in electrification that construction OEMs should take advantage of, visit our landing page.