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Charging Ahead With Batteries

Updated on September 16, 1:03 PM EDT

What You Need To Know

Lithium-ion batteries are transforming trillion-dollar industries and minting billionaires. It’s a crucial technology that’s come of age just as the world get serious about cutting planet-warming emissions.

The modern lithium-ion battery was invented in the 1990s and has since found its way into almost all the electronic devices we use. That success, however, hasn’t been easy. Batteries are complex chemical devices made up of trillions of atoms that move each time they’re charged and discharged.

Here’s one way to imagine the inside of a battery:

But, like, what is a battery even?

Those major components of a battery matter, because their evolution will decide what batteries can accomplish next. Today’s batteries are already enabling automakers to electrify cars and buses. Next-generation batteries could power long-haul trucks. Batteries can currently power small electric planes, but next-generation batteries could enable short-haul passenger flights between New York and Boston.

By The Numbers

  • $46 billion Global sales of lithium-ion batteries in 2020, according to SNE research
  • 4 The number of components (two electrodes, an electrolyte and a separator) that determine how much energy a battery can hold.
  • 1799 The year when the first battery was invented after Italian scientist Alessandro Volta put together two metal sheets separated by cardboard dipped in salt water.

Why It Matters

Lithium-ion batteries are at an inflection point, with demand set grow 10-fold over the next decade. More than 100 countries have committed to reaching net-zero emissions within decades, and many are turning to electrification of transport as a crucial solution.

Global Lithium-ion Battery Demand, GWh

Source: BloombergNEF

How did we get here and what comes next? Watch our documentary to find out more:

How a New Generation of Batteries Will Change the World