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Stand Back: Global Perspective Needed to Understand the Battery Industry

CATL, NAATbatt International, and SAE veteran Bob Galyen opens The Battery Show Europe with a mile-high view of a sprawling field.

Michael C. Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Battery Technology

June 18, 2024

5 Min Read
Battery pack on EV production line -stock image
Battery pack on EV production line -stock imageSweetBunFactory / iStock via Getty Images

Those of us watching the battery industry are always in danger of being distracted by the constant flood of developments and lose focus as to what is of real significance and what is peripheral noise: Announcements of allegedly game-changing battery chemistries; the thrusts and parries of Europe and the US with China; the latest odd behavior of one of the industry’s CEOs—we see these weekly, if not daily. It can be exhausting. (I know. I’m sorry.)

So it was refreshing to see The Battery Show Europe 2024 commence with an address from Chairman Bob Galyen, a seasoned expert with decades of high level experience in the battery industry, including leadership roles at CATL, NAATbatt International, and SAE.

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Galyen’s speech underscored the importance of adopting a global perspective to truly grasp the complexities and rapid developments within the battery sector. By examining key themes such as geopolitics, government support, technological advancements, and sustainability, he supplied guideposts for better understand the multifaceted nature of this evolving industry.

The influence of global geopolitics

One of the primary insights Galyen shared was the significant impact of geopolitics on the battery industry. The interactions between major players like China, the US, and Europe shape the landscape in which battery technologies develop and proliferate. Galyen emphasized, "Geopolitics is there. It's going to be there for a while. It doesn't matter if it's China, US, Europe. There are geopolitics being played between every nation in the world."

The geopolitical climate influences not only trade policies and market access but also the flow of essential raw materials. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for navigating the global battery industry effectively.

Government support: A catalyst for growth

Government policies and incentives play a pivotal role in advancing battery technology. Galyen highlighted how different governments around the world have implemented measures to propel electrification forward. "Government support seems to be one of the most important things that drive or fuel the economy of battery technology," he noted. Countries that offer tax breaks and incentives see significant growth in battery technology and electric vehicle (EV) adoption.

Conversely, Galyen warned of the downturns experienced in regions where government support has waned, stressing the need for sustained policy backing to maintain momentum in the battery sector.

Investment in critical minerals

Critical minerals are the backbone of battery technology, and securing a stable supply is a global challenge. Galyen underscored the importance of these materials, stating, "We need more of the precious materials to make batteries." Essential elements like graphite, nickel, manganese, and cobalt are in high demand, and future shortages of other minerals such as copper and aluminum could hinder progress.

To mitigate these challenges, innovative companies are exploring new methods of extraction and processing. For instance, Impossible Metals employs environmentally responsible techniques to harvest minerals from the ocean floor, while ReElement uses chromatographic separation technology to process materials on-site, reducing transportation costs.

Sustainability and the circular economy

Sustainability is a critical concern in the battery industry, and efforts to reduce environmental impact are gaining traction worldwide. Galyen discussed the importance of calculating CO2 emissions and adopting key metrics for regulatory purposes. "Sustainability is obviously one we all talk about. How to calculate the CO2 emissions, what are the key metrics the governments around the world are aspiring to adopt into policy for regulatory purposes," he explained.

The circular economy, which emphasizes reducing, reusing, and recycling materials, is becoming integral to the industry's approach. Initiatives like the Battery Passport in Europe aim to enhance traceability and ensure responsible sourcing and management of battery materials.

Technological advancements

Technological innovation is at the heart of the battery industry's rapid evolution. Galyen highlighted significant advancements, such as Dow Corporation's superior thermal transfer materials, which improve battery performance by efficiently managing heat during charging. "They make a remarkably good heat or thermal transfer material that goes into making battery technology work better by taking the heat out of the battery during charging," he said.

Additionally, advancements in traceability technology, including cell phone apps that track battery materials, are becoming integral to industry standards, ensuring transparency and accountability.

Charging infrastructure and workforce development

The expansion of charging infrastructure is vital for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). Galyen pointed out, "The more charging infrastructure we put in place, the better." This expansion requires global cooperation and significant investment to meet the growing demand for EVs.

Workforce development is another crucial aspect. SAE International's partnership with NOE Energy aims to implement education and training programs to equip the workforce with the necessary skills. "Workforce development is also a critical part of it," Galyen emphasized.

Global competition and cost reduction

To stay competitive on a global scale, the battery industry must focus on reducing costs, improving quality, and accelerating production speeds. Galyen stressed the importance of localization and innovative technologies to achieve these goals. "Cheaper, better, and faster are kind of three quick words," he noted. By reducing transportation costs and enhancing manufacturing processes, the industry can maintain its competitive edge.

Looking ahead, Galyen identified emerging trends such as new battery chemistries, materials conversion processes, and packaging innovations. Companies like CATL and Volt Resources are leading the way in these areas, developing technologies that enhance battery performance and sustainability. "Simulation is a big deal, and we use simulation for many years," Galyan mentioned, highlighting the role of simulation optimization in improving efficiency and range.

Galyen's address at the Battery Show Europe 2024 provided a brief but comprehensive overview of the current state and future direction of the battery industry. His insights into geopolitics, government support, investment, sustainability, technological advancements, and global competition offer a prism through which to view the challenges and opportunities ahead in the industry—as well as the full slate of presentations and exhibits at this year’s Battery Show Europe.

About the Author(s)

Michael C. Anderson

Editor-in-Chief, Battery Technology, Informa Markets - Engineering

Battery Technology Editor-in-Chief Michael C. Anderson has been covering manufacturing and transportation technology developments for more than a quarter-century, with editor roles at Manufacturing Engineering, Cutting Tool Engineering, Automotive Design & Production, and Smart Manufacturing. Before all of that, he taught English and literature at colleges in Japan and Michigan.

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