The most common type of lithium cell used in consumer applications uses metallic lithium as the anode and manganese dioxide as the cathode, with a salt of lithium dissolved in an organic solvent as the electrolyte.
They stand apart from other batteries in their high charge density and high cost per unit. Depending on the design and chemical compounds used, lithium cells can produce voltages from 1.5 V (comparable to a zinc–carbon or alkaline battery) to about 3.7 V.
The price of lithium-ion batteries has fallen steeply as their production scale has increased and manufacturers have developed more cost-effective methods. Recycling can help reduce the need to search for battery materials.
Cobalt is fully recyclable and roughly 15 percent of U.S. cobalt consumption is from recycled scrap today.
Disposable primary lithium batteries must be distinguished from secondary lithium-ion or a lithium-polymer, which are rechargeable batteries. Lithium is especially useful, because its ions can be arranged to move between the anode and the cathode, using an intercalated lithium compound as the cathode material but without using lithium metal as the anode material. Pure lithium will instantly react with water, or even moisture in the air; the lithium in lithium-ion batteries is in a less reactive compound.
First, companies must be held accountable for enacting and enforcing policies to only use ethically-sourced materials. Some companies are off to a good start. Tesla, for example, has committed to sourcing materials only from North America for its battery production facility and battery supplier LG Chem claims they have stopped using conflict-sourced cobalt.
Battery technology is continuing to improve. Lithium-titanate and lithium-iron-phosphate, for example, are gaining importance in the EV market and don’t need cobalt. Other battery chemistries that rely on magnesium, sodium, or lithium-sulfur are also gaining traction as they have the potential to beat lithium-ion batteries on energy density and cost.
Lithium batteries are widely used in portable consumer electronic devices. The term "lithium battery" refers to a family of different lithium-metal chemistries, comprising many types of cathodes and electrolytes but all with metallic lithium as the anode. The battery requires from 0.15 to 0.3 kg of lithium per kWh.
EVs tend to have a lower center of gravity than conventional vehicles, making them less likely to roll over and often improving ride quality.
Manufacturers have also extended their coverage in states that have adopted the California emissions warranty coverage periods, which require at least 10-year coverage for batteries on partial zero-emissions vehicles (which include EVs).