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Lithium-ion batteries work by shuffling lithium ions between two electrodes. Ions flowing from the anode to the cathode discharge a current, which powers the car. The lithium ions flow back when the battery is recharged.
In commercial cells used today for electric vehicles, the lithium ions are held in tiny voids within the crystals that make up the electrodes (these are known as intercalation electrodes). The anodes are typically made from graphite and the cathodes from metal oxides.
The materials used in electrodes, notably rare metals such as cobalt and nickel, are scarce and expensive. Surging battery production has almost quadrupled wholesale prices of cobalt over the past two years, from $22 to $81 per kilogram.
The authors state:
We call on materials scientists, engineers and funding agencies to prioritize the research and development of electrodes based on abundant elements. Otherwise, the roll-out of electric cars will stall within a decade.
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