And the third research trend?
Prof. Winter: Work on batteries without lithium. Right now, nothing functions better than the current energy storage material. However, if raw material prices continue to rise, they might find an affordable alternative for certain applications, such as smaller photovoltaic systems. Research is being carried out into zinc/air, sodium ion and magnesium batteries. The trend right now also tends toward calcium, but that is far into the future, as are aluminum batteries. We are still doing fundamental research.
Which candidates do you see presenting the biggest opportunities?
Prof. Winter: Sodium-ion batteries have made enormous progress in the past few years. Not just lithium but other expensive materials such as copper and cobalt are important to lithium-ion batteries but not sodium-ion batteries. When the sodium-ion battery is more performant and is truly cheaper than lithium-ion technology, it will have a real chance.
When will e-mobility take off?
Prof. Winter: We think it can start now. In principle, the batteries are complete. I do not mean that they are developed to perfection but are ready for use in the coming years. The disadvantages of combustion engines were made painfully obvious in the diesel crisis. We want cleaner cities. So, we need to use electric motors and hybrid drives...
..., which do not have a significantly better ecological balance sheet with the current electricity mix.
Prof. Winter: But the pollution problems will ease for the cities and their surroundings. Of course, the transportation shift will have to involve the massive expansion of green energy; they need to run in parallel. This is not just true for generating charging energy but also for energy-intensive battery production. We need to come to grips with the subject, without assuming everything will change at once. The combustion engine will be supplemented at first. At the same time, we will move forward with other developments. Experiment, improve, expand - this is what we want. Only then can hurdles be overcome. And I am sure we will succeed!