The lithium-ion battery is growing to power the electric car era, but solid-state batteries are incoming
Most of us are running on empty. Since the mobile phone spawned a smartphone-first world, we’ve all been tending to the needs of batteries.
The daily or nightly charge of the smartphone is the most prevalent, but laptops, tablets, drones, wireless headphones, smartwatches and other wearable devices are becoming more common.
We are constantly recharging batteries, there are some attempts to create fast-charging batteries and, of course, a new generation of wireless charging devices, but they’re just about convenience.
With the coming era of the electric car and more advanced robotics, a need to swap to renewable energy, and an ever-increasing (and more mobile gadget-hungry) global population, humanity’s capability of storing energy is going to become critical.
Either we innovate and create new and more powerful battery technology, or we enter a period of stasis where a lack of mobile power strangles new technology. Luckily, innovations are incoming.
The need for portable power
Electrical power, whether portable or not, is one of the cornerstones of life, and one that we all take for granted. And we are the problem.
“The human race has been so successful at population growth that we now have to worry about sustainability,” says Upal Sengupta, Applications Manager, Battery Management Solutions at Texas Instruments.
“The electrical power and technology that helped fuel our growth will need to be used and generated in ways that minimize their impact on our planet. If not, it could literally be a global disaster.”
Sengupta thinks we need to concentrate first on conservation and efficiency, and secondly on alternative sources for power generation, like solar panels. The latter requires huge batteries to store the Sun’s energy, so we can use it at night, or at a time when it suits us.
Thirdly, he thinks that makers of electronic products should make power-conversion circuitry as efficiently as possible. However, there are other portable devices coming that will bring massive challenges to battery technology; the electric car – and the electric everything.
The electric car
Creating smartphones that last for two days instead of one won’t change the world, but the spread of the electric car will change the battery industry massively.
It’s a huge challenge, with an expected 20 million electric vehicles to be selling each year by 2030, each using a massive lithium-ion battery.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) thinks there will be 530 million electric vehicles by 2040, and that their electricity consumption will grow to 1,800 terawatt hours in 2040 – or 5% of global power demand – from just 6 terawatt hours in 2016.
The batteries needed by an electric car are really big. The 2016 Nissan Leaf has a 30kWh battery capable of going for 172km/107 miles, while the upcoming Tesla Model 3 will have a 50kWh or optional 75kWh battery, which can go for 355km/220 miles and 500km/310 miles respectively. Is that your road-range-anxiety gone?
“The battery pack is likely to remain the single most expensive component in EVs for some time to come, and the costs are broadly proportional to capacity,” says Robin Shaw, Chief Technology Officer for battery and energy storage supplier Hyperdrive Innovation.
He thinks the crucial point will come when the cost of a battery pack with enough range makes an electric car cheaper than an equivalent petrol or diesel car. “Having said that, I think the 400 mile range on a single charge is just around the corner, certainly within the next three years,” he adds.
Tesla and Nissan are investing heavily in expanding production of lithium-ion batteries. The world produces about 90GWh (gigawatt hours) worth of electric vehicle lithium-ion battery now, and BNEF sees this rising to 270GWh by 2021
In Sparks, Nevada, is Tesla’s Gigafactory, where battery production capacity is 35GWh. Tesla wants to produce 500,000 cars in 2018, but to do so it needs to make its own batteries.
However, the main supplier of electric car batteries to Tesla is Panasonic, a company that now controls almost a third of the market. It’s just inked a deal with Toyota to jointly develop more batteries for electric vehicles.
What does that mean? More economies of scale, more batteries, and bigger batteries. The fact that a battery-maker and a car-maker are working together on this shows how critical the battery industry is about to become.
The electrification era and the micro-grid
For Tesla, it’s not just about electric cars, but electric everything. Tesla recently constructed the world’s largest lithium-ion battery to power 30,000 homes in South Australia during periods of blackout. What’s more, it did it in only 100 days.
“Increasing energy density for lithium-ion, coupled with falling costs per unit, is an exciting innovation in itself,” says Shaw, who thinks we’re on the cusp of everything becoming electric.
If renewable energy sources are generating more energy than a business uses at certain times, battery storage allows this excess energy to be stored and used when energy is not being generated. Using stored energy also reduces the load on the grid at peak times.
This is the micro-grid; huge batteries storing enough power to allow businesses to operate independently of the larger national grid. This is brilliant for reducing CO2 emissions simply because it means renewable energy isn’t wasted.
Towards solid-state batteries
Do we need to move beyond lithium-ion batteries? We definitely need to recycle them more because demand for lithium is predicted to increase four-fold by 2025 as electric vehicles catch on.
We’ll need new sources of pure lithium, and cobalt, also new ideas, because grid storage batteries on an industrial scale need to be emptied and recharged so often that lithium-ion batteries wear out relatively quickly.
Cue magnesium-ion batteries, which have a significant advantage over lithium-ion; they don’t wear out as quickly, and they don’t explode as easily. That’s an underrated problem for electric vehicles (when they crash, specifically), so magnesium-ion batteries are an attempt to make a much more stable solid-state battery.
“Magnesium is such a new technology, it doesn’t have any good liquid electrolytes,” said Gerbrand Ceder, a Berkeley Lab Senior Faculty Scientist. “We thought, why not leapfrog and make a solid-state electrolyte?” They managed it, too, discovering that magnesium scandium selenide spinel worked great.
It could have a transformative impact on energy storage. “There are enormous efforts in industry to make a solid-state battery,” said Ceder.
“It’s the holy grail because you would have the ultimate safe battery.” However, there is still work to do. “Technological advances such as solid-state electrolytes may be noteworthy, however, we’re several years from widespread application,” says Shaw.
The global shift toward electric vehicles will completely change the energy industry, but there’s a missing link.
The search for a solid-state battery that’s safe and can store more energy is what electric cars need, it’s what grids need, and it’s what the world needs if vehicles are to run on electric power rather than fossil fuels. The planet depends on it.
72% OF GLOBAL 5G SMARTPHONE REVENUE COMES FROM CHINA
Counterpoint Research reported that in the second quarter of 2020, 5G smartphone shipments increased, accounting for 10% of global smartphone shipments.
REVENUE AND ASP OF 5G SMARTPHONE
In the second quarter of this year, 5G smartphone revenue accounted for 20% of global smartphone revenue. Among them, China is the largest contributor to 5G smartphone sales. It is reported that 72% of global 5G smartphone revenue comes from China. Most of them comes from 5G smartphones released by Huawei. In addition, the average selling price of the Chinese smartphone market also increased by 12% year-on-year.
According to the report, the Asia-Pacific region, China, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, North America and other regions contributed 10% of the overall growth rate in the average sales price in the second quarter of 2020. However, Latin America is the only country where average sales prices have fallen 5% year-on-year. Although the new coronavirus has had an impact on the entire market, the high-end segment has not fallen sharply. Compared with the overall market decline, it only faces a year-on-year decline of 8%.
The report also shows that in the second quarter of 2020, the average selling price (ASP) of the global smartphone market increased by 10% year-on-year. With the exception of Latin America, average selling prices increased in all regions. This is because many 5G phones sold well in the second quarter. The increasing demand for education, work, games, and entertainment is also a factor in users’ preference for high-end smartphones.
Overall, due to the economic impact and the closure of offline retail stores, the market’s demand for low-priced devices has decreased. Coupled with the resilience of the high-end market and the growth of 5G smartphone sales (especially in China), this quarter’s increase in the average selling price of smartphones.
THE BOTTOM LINE
At the same time, smartphone shipments fell 23% year-on-year, reaching a record high. Although most OEM’s smartphone shipments declined in the second quarter of 2020, Apple’s shipments increased by 3% year-on-year, while iPhone revenue increased by 2% year-on-year. But we should also point out that Apple still has no 5G iPhone. The first models will come to the market only this year. Once this happens, and 5G appears on lower models, it will be quite interesting to see how the proportion changes.
Former Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime announces new game company
Two years after stepping down as CEO at Blizzard, the game company he co-founded in 1991, Mike Morhaime is back with his next venture. It’s called Dreamhaven, and it’s a combination of a publisher and developer, with “a common goal to empower creators, help bring their ideas to life, and create original gaming experiences that foster meaningful connections between players.”
As part of the announcement, Dreamhaven also revealed its first two internal studios: Moonshot Games and Secret Door. Moonshot is headed by a trio of Blizzard veterans, including former Hearthstone lead Jason Chayes, StarCraft II director Dustin Browder, and Hearthstone creative director Ben Thompson. “Though it’s very early days, when we think about Moonshot, we imagine a studio that celebrates curiosity and courage,” Chayes said in a statement. “We aspire to be bold in our approach, and we think the best way to do that is to create a culture centered around trust.”
Secret Door, meanwhile, is similarly led by a team of former Blizzard developers, including Chris Sigaty (executive producer on Hearthstone), Alan Dabiri (technical director on Warcraft III and StarCraft II), and Eric Dodds (designer on World of Warcraft and Starcraft). No projects have been announced for either studio.
Morhaime stepped down as CEO of Blizzard in 2018, though he stayed on in a consultancy role until last year. In an interview with The Washington Post, he said that one of the goals of the new company was to build an environment focused on creators — something that was likely a challenge under Activision, which became Blizzard’s parent company in 2008.
“We’ve learned a ton about what goes into creating an environment that allows creators to do their best work, and we were very successful doing that for many years at Blizzard,” Morhaime told the Post. “We reached a crossroads where we reassessed what we want to do with the rest of our lives.”
Apple Loop: Shock iPhone 12 Details, Massive iOS 14 Problems, Macbook Pro Delay
Taking a look back at another week of news and headlines from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes surprising iPhone 12 benchmarks, big problems with iOS 14, two new iPads, Apple ignores MacOS, the “good/better/best” of the Apple Watch, the controversy around Apple One, and the Macs’ never changing system System Preferences.
Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).
Just How Fast Is Your Next iPhone?
We might not have seen the iPhone 12 family as part of Apple’s virtual September launch event this week, but we have seen the benchmarks pop up on the AnTuTu website. That gives us a raw comparison of the numbers from last year’s iPhone to this year’s. Philip Michaels reports some pretty shocking numbers:
“Leaked benchmarks from Antutu, purportedly showing off an iPhone 12 Pro Max’s performance, may help fill in some of the blanks. MySmartPrice spotted the leaked numbers, which claim to show off a device with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage running iOS 14.1.
“According to the leaks, the iPhone 12 Pro Max tallied a score of 572,333 on Antutu’s test, which is a 9% gain over the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s 524,436 result on the same test. MySmartPrice says the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s reported tally would be the highest score ever posted by an iPhone, which you’d hope given that it’s a new model.
The Big Problem With iOS 14
Apple may not have announced a release date for the iPhone, but it did announce the release date of iOS 14. And that has caused problems. Normally Apple will provide a week’s worth of ‘heads up’ time to Developers so they can ensure their apps are ready for the jump up to the next major version of iOS. Not this year… developers had less than a days notice, and they are not happy. Matt Binder reports:
““Gone are the hopes of being on the store by the time users install the new iOS 14 and are looking for new apps. Gone is the chance to get some last-minute fixes into your existing apps to make sure they don’t stop working outright by the time users get to upgrade their OS,” explained Steve [Troughton-Smith from High Caffeine Content.”
““There are some developers who have spent all summer working on something new, using the latest technologies, hoping to be there on day one and participate in the excitement (and press coverage) of the new iOS,” he continued. “For many of them, they’ll be incredibly upset to have it end like this instead of a triumphant launch, and it can dramatically decrease the amount of coverage or sales they receive.””
Take Two Tablets And Call Your iPhone In The Morning
Taking the flagship spot away from the ‘missing presumed having a good time’ iPhone 12 was Apple’s new iPad Air. Beating the smartphone as the first device with Apple’s new A14 ARM-based processor. Samuel Axon and Jim Salter report for Ars Technica:
“The iPad Air gets the new A14 Bionic CPU, built on 5nm process technology. It’s a six-core CPU with two high-performance cores and four lower-power, more efficient cores for simpler background tasks. The A14 Bionic offers a 30 percent GPU performance boost compared to previous generations, and Apple says it puts up double the graphics performance of typical laptops.”
As well as the increased power, 2020’s iPad Air has a new design; USB-C has been added, the bezels have been trimmed away, the home button has been removed, and TouchID has been integrated into the power button. It;s not the only new iPad, as the entry-level iPad moves up rom the A10 to the A12 Bionic processor. Benjamin Mayo reports:
“The jump from A10 to A12 means Apple’s cheapest iPad will feature the Neural Engine for the first time. Apple says the A12 chip offers more than twice the performance of the top selling Windows laptop, 6x faster than the top-selling Android tablet and 6x faster than the best-selling Chromebook.
“The 8th-generation iPad keeps the same price as the 7th-gen: that’s $329 for general sale and $299 for education.”
Will Mac Owners Be Satisfied With Safari After macOS Delay?
If you were waiting for MmcOS Big Sur to drop for your Mac or MacBook, then you are out of luck. Apple’s event saw updates to iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS… but macOS has been delayed. The ‘Big Sur’ release is still in the future, but a small crumb (perhaps from a cookie) has been handed to Mac fans in the form of Safari 14, presumably to offer cross-OS support with other devices. Juli Clover reports:
“Safari 14 brings improved performance, customizable start pages, a Privacy Report to see which cross-site trackers are being blocked, and a new tab bar design that provides tab previews so you can see what you have open at a glance. Today’s update also removes Adobe Flash.”
The Apple Watch Strikes Three
Two new Apple Watch models were launched, and as the Apple Watch Series 3 remains, there is now a low-, a mid-, and a high-level smartwatch in the classic triplet that Apple was once famous for. Todd Haselton looks over the Series 6 Apple Watch for CNBC, including the headline ‘wellness’ features:
“The Series 6 also has Apple’s most advanced sensors. You can run the ECG app for an electrocardiogram, for example, a feature that’s not on the Apple Watch SE or Series 3. It’s also the only model with the new blood-oxygen app. I tried that and it told me my blood oxygen was 96%, which seems good.
“…Apple is careful to explain that this isn’t a medical device. You can use it if you’re curious about your blood oxygen when you’re hiking at high altitudes, but Apple isn’t making any promises about detecting low oxygen should you fall ill with coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, Apple has brought the ‘SE’ brand to the Apple Watch, again with the promise of a cheaper ‘mid-range’ slice of hardware that still delivers the core Apple experience. Chris Velazco has spent some time with the wearable to try and work out where it fits into the portfolio:
“For one, the SE uses the same S5 system-in-package (or SIP) that we got in last year’s Series 5, which in turn contains the same dual-core processor as the Series 4. Meanwhile, Apple has confirmed that the SE has the same compass and always-on altimeter as the Series 6, along with a very similar screen.
“From what I can tell, it’s the same bigger display we got in the Series 5, just without the always-on functionality enabled. And while the Series 4 was the first Apple Watch to come with heart-sensing ECG support, you simply don’t get that here. Ditto for the Series 6’s new blood oxygen measurement features.”
Bouquets and Brickbats For Apple One
Also announced alongside Apple’s hardware, and perhaps an indication of where Apple wishes to focus on the future, were new options for the various subscription services offered by Cupertino. Apple One takes the popular options and bundles them together while offering a discount. Brian Heater reports:
“It’s not quite mix and match yet, but there are three pricing tiers. Individual offers Apple Music, TV+, Arcade and iCloud for $15 a month. The Family version will get you those four services for $20 a month. For the hardcore, there’s the $30 a month Premier tier, which bundles iCloud, Music, TV+, Arcade, News+ and [the new service] Fitness+.“
“For those who have been putting off a given Apple subscription, such a bundle could certainly sweeten the pot — and make it even harder for users to escape the pull of the Apple software ecosystem.”
More at TechCrunch. Given Apple’s market position, using one service to pptentiallybolster another through a bundle has drawn the eye of the competition. Spotify – which has already filed an anti-trust complaint with the European Commission against Apple – drew attention to the issue shortly ager the end of the event.
“Once again, Apple is using its dominant position and unfair practices to disadvantage competitors and deprive consumers by favoring its own services. We call on competition authorities to act urgently to restrict Apple’s anti-competitive behavior, which if left unchecked, will cause irreparable harm to the developer community and threaten our collective freedoms to listen, learn, create, and connect.”
The look of the MacOS user interface has evolved since OSX was announced in 2000. One area has stayed relatively contestant, but the small changes highlight the thinking behind the OS over the years.
“The interface started glassy and skeuomorphic, mimicking the materials used on Macs. Over the decades, it went through significant revisions. One thing that seems to have remained relatively unchanged over the years is the System Preferences screen.
“But, at a closer glance, we’ll see that this mundane part of the operating system has changed quite a bit and hides some fun easter eggs and surprises.”
Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, or this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.
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