Expert: “Lithium-ion battery will dominate for a long time”


Dirk Uwe Sauer is a university professor and chair holder for electrochemical energy conversion and storage system technology at RWTH Aachen. Interview with he spoke about the importance of the lithium-ion battery and current technological challenges for Germany as a business location.

The use of lithium-ion batteries is the norm in today’s electric cars. Although companies and researchers are working intensively on new, better energy storage devices, such as solid-state batteries, experts believe that the current batteries will shape practice in the future. Sauer also sees it that way.

“The lithium-ion battery – also awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year – is a scientific and commercial success story,” said the expert in an interview, The main thing now is to achieve further cost reductions and improved security from an already high level and to replace the rarer and correspondingly expensive materials.

With regard to the market situation, Sauer said that Europe has to get rid of the dependency of Asian battery manufacturers on lithium-ion batteries. These currently dominate the market, which threatens rising prices and supply bottlenecks. Germany should not concentrate on a single process step in battery cell production, but must address the entire value chain and production chain. This also includes low-emission production.

Sauer believes that the lithium-ion battery will “dominate” for a long time in future mobility. He pointed out that this was only an umbrella term for a large number of material variants. He is assuming that there will be a large number of chemical variants and cell geometries in detail, but these will essentially fall into the class of lithium-ion batteries.

New battery technologies are a long time coming

According to the RWTH professor, new technologies such as magnesium-ion, metal-air and metal-sulfur batteries will “not play a significant role in cars in the next 15 years”. Lithium-sulfur batteries could soon be of interest in the field of air traffic. Lithium-air batteries are interesting for basic research, but commercial use is still far away.

Sauer described batteries with solid instead of liquid electrolyte as an evolutionary development of the common lithium-ion batteries. But there are still many unanswered questions with them, also with regard to production. Unlike some colleagues, he does not see the move to solid-state batteries as a “game changer” and does not expect “any significant performance parameters that will revolutionize the use of batteries”.

“Waiting for a technology leap or game changer only leads to missing the current development trends,” said Sauer in conclusion. Ultimately, in almost all applications, it is the costs that decide.


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