Powder Processing for Batteries: EV Battery Manufacturing



Factors Steering the Electric Vehicle Market

Electric vehicles (EV) have gone from niche market to mainstream transportation. In 2022, sales exceeded 10 million, and 2023 projections are in the 14 million range.1

70% of consumers are considering leasing/buying an EV, or already own one.2

Offerings in the three top EV markets — China, Europe, and the United States — are rapidly expanding beyond cars. Two- and three-wheelers are currently the most electrified market, and some light- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles are now being sold.

Along with greater demand for electric vehicles comes greater demand for EV batteries and the critical minerals that power them — lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, graphite, and copper.

These raw materials are natural resources, and therefore in finite supply. It’s a concern for EV battery suppliers, and it could ultimately put automotive OEMs at a competitive disadvantage.

A 400–600% increase in demand for transition minerals is on the horizon. Lithium and graphite are even more precarious as demand for these two elements may increase by as much as 4,000% over the next several decades.3

Working with an experienced toll processing partner to process high-value minerals into energy-dense EV battery powder is a proven strategy for managing yield, availability, and costs.

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EV Battery Recyclability: Contributing to a More Sustainable Future

In part, EVs owe their popularity to environmental stewardship.

30% of consumers say buying an EV aligns with their desire to live more sustainably.2

Virtually eliminating reliance on fossil fuels and substantially reducing carbon emissions appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

EV battery recyclability is another compelling reason — up to 95% of raw materials are recoverable,4 which bodes well for the environment and for EV manufacturers looking to capture and cost-effectively re-use materials and minerals.

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In countries currently supporting lithium-ion EV battery recycling, batteries are shredded and the plastic and metal remains are separated by size and composition. Minerals are then collected using one of two methods:

  • Pyrometallurgy, which burns away non-metal materials to reveal transition minerals for retrieval
  • Hydrometallurgy, which uses chemical solutions to recover transition minerals

Using these techniques, it’s estimated that by 2050 nearly 50% of nickel and cobalt, and about 25% of lithium can be recouped and used in EVs in the United States.5

The average lithium-ion EV battery weighs anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 pounds, depending on the type. That’s literally tons of opportunity for sustainability and other initiatives that can be best leveraged by first understanding the components and powder processing behind EV batteries.


The 3 Components of a Lithium-Ion EV Battery

The structure of a typical rechargeable lithium-ion EV battery is very simple. There are three main components:three-main-components-image

  1. Anode (negative) stores energy. It determines battery capacity, cycle life, and lifespan. Graphite is the predominant mineral in the anode because of its electrical conductivity, stability, and capacity to store large quantities of lithium ions
  2. Cathode (positive) receives charged ions from the anode. It converts the ions into engine power, which determines battery range. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese are found in cathodes since these minerals have high energy density and exceptional cycling performance
  3. Separator sits between the anode and cathode, separating the two cells but still allowing them to exchange lithium ions

The simplicity of the battery structure can be misleading, and can foster consumer mistrust.

45% of consumers cite battery charge and travel distance as top concerns when considering an EV purchase or lease.2

The reality is that the components have little influence over battery technology. The interactions between the minerals housed within the anode and cathode are what define battery recharging and performance in key areas:

  • Cycle: The number of times a battery cell performs at maximum capacity before dropping to 80% capacity, and then incrementally lower percentages
  • Energy density: Measurement of the amount of energy a battery can hold in proportion to its weight (watt hours/kg)
  • Power density: Battery energy discharge rate in proportion to its maximum capacity
  • Charging time: How quickly a battery charges in proportion to its maximum capacity
  • Reliability: Performance in relation to operating conditions, such as low temperatures or harsh environments
  • Safety: Resistance to losing energy through self-heating/accelerated temperatures (thermal runaway)

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What is the Powder Used in EV Battery Manufacturing?

EV battery powder is comprised of six minerals that aid in the transition to clean/renewable energy sources:

  • Lithium is lightweight, highly reactive, and typically the main material in an EV battery cathode because of its high energy density and long lifespan
  • Cobalt improves the stability and energy density of an EV battery cathode
  • Nickel is used in the EV battery cathode to improve energy density while also lowering battery cost — which can be effective, but too much nickel content can also reduce the battery’s lifespan 
  • Manganese is used as another energy density enhancement in an EV battery cathode, and can also improve safety by stabilizing the battery chemicals and thereby preventing fire risk
  • Graphite is the key element in an EV battery anode because of its excellent electrical conductivity, stability, and capacity to store large quantities of lithium ions
  • Copper is durable and a good heat conductor so it can withstand the harsh inner environment of an EV battery, and provide efficiencies in anode and cathode energy collection and interconnections, which improves overall battery performance

These minerals are extracted from the earth, but they cannot be used in electric vehicle battery manufacturing in their natural form. Precise formulations must be created containing uniform mineral particulates to manage mineral behavior and ensure each battery acts exactly as anticipated.

Consistency is the key to powder technology, and a toll processor with battery powder processing experience is a pivotal partner in quality outcomes.

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What Manufacturing Process is Used to Make EV Batteries?

It’s imperative that toll processing partners have a breadth of equipment to handle nearly any process for battery technology, including:

  • Wet milling to convert slurries to powders
  • Hammer and jet milling for varying degrees of particle size reduction
  • Fracturing and classification of particles
  • Zinc- and copper-free machinery for safe battery processing
  • Blending
  • Dispersing
  • Cryo-grinding 

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Toll processors with an eye to the future of the EV market, such as CPS, have taken the next step in capabilities that enhance high-value mineral processing, investing in dry box technology.

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A dry box is a tabletop container with a carefully controlled internal atmosphere that limits moisture and oxygen to less than 1 ppm. This keeps battery minerals from being compromised during handling and testing, and also helps toll processors achieve specific particle characteristics.

In-house dry box capabilities give toll processors decided advantages in:

  • Running small-quantity jet milling product trials on high-value minerals
  • Maximizing yield, which helps manage costs and resource allocation
  • Confidently scaling up to full production

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The CPS Advantage

When it comes to understanding and leveraging powder processing for EV batteries, there’s no substitute for experience. CPS builds proven solutions from the molecular level, managing particle size, shape, and surface area so EV batteries reliably convert energy into engine power.


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