This page belongs to: Action Plan for Critical Technologies

Electric batteries

Devices that produce electricity from stored electrochemical energy and tolerate multiple charge and discharge cycles. Electric batteries utilise various materials and chemistries (e.g. lithium-ion (Li-ion), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH)) battery and form factors (e.g. flow batteries for stationary grid storage, polymer electrolytes for vehicles and personal devices).

Key sectors

Influences all sectors of the economy, including:

  • Agriculture
  • Defence and Defence Industry
  • Energy and environment
  • Health
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining and resources
  • Space
  • Transport and logistics

Estimated impact on national interest

Economic Prosperity - High
National Security - Med

Key Australian Government actions

Initiatives

  • Future Fuels Strategy
  • Australian Research Council Training Centre for Future Energy Storage Technologies
  • CSIRO Centre for Hybrid Energy Systems
  • CSIRO Stored Energy Integration Facility
  • Relectrify Second-Life Battery Trial
  • Grid Reliability Fund
  • Next Generation Electric Bus Depot
  • United Energy Low Voltage Battery Trial
  • Low-Voltage (LV) Grid Battery Energy Storage Systems Trial

Regulations

  • Defence and Strategic Goods List 2021

Example outcomes

  • Improved reliability and usefulness of many consumer products including smart-phones, smart-watches, and laptops
  • Greater capacity for renewable energy to replace traditional forms of power production, irrespective of weather or time-of-day
  • Increased capability and proliferation of robotic devices
  • Increased versatility of location and independence of digital systems
  • Increased range and faster charging of electric vehicles
  • Increased resilience of the electricity grid

Underpinning science

ANZ Standard Research Classification Chemistry

  • Electronics, sensors and digital hardware
  • Electrical engineering
  • Geology
  • Materials engineering
  • Mining engineering
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Chemical engineering
  • Physical chemistry

Example applications

Readiness Level – Now

  • Portable electronic devices, e.g. wearable devices, mobile phones, remote sensors, laptop computers, emergency beacons
  • Electric and hybrid vehicles for logistics and transportation
  • Temporary storage of excess energy supply (e.g. wind, solar)
  • Electric helicopters with an 80km range and a speed of up to 120km/h (e.g. the CityAirbus NexGen)
  • Grid scale batteries at scales of around 200MW

Readiness Level – 2–5 years

  • Cheaper, safer batteries with moderate power improvements
  • More resilient power supplies for communication, computing and sensor devices in adverse environments
  • Distributed batteries through the electricity grid coordinated to improve network utilisation and enable increased electrification (e.g. electric vehicle charging)

Readiness Level – Beyond 5 years

  • Electric airplanes capable of transporting over 150 passengers
  • Large (GW) scale grid batteries removing the need for instantaneous generation/consumption balance and significantly improving grid resilience
  • Lighter, safer and more powerful batteries, primarily driven by demand for longer-range electric vehicles
  • Flexible micro batteries for bio-sensors, wearable electronics and smart contact lenses
  • Cheap liquid and/or metal-air battery designs for large-scale energy storage where weight and power flexibility are less important
  • New battery designs to enable devices to operate at low temperatures; i.e. subsea (-40°C), high-altitude aircraft (-50°C), polar sites (-80°C), space satellites (-160°C)
  • New battery designs with low reliance on critical minerals and rare earths

Australia's place in the world

China dominates across research impact, venture capital and patents in electric batteries. China has the highest research impact, significantly higher than the rest of the world, including the United States. Chinese research institutions also occupy 4 of the 5 top ranking positions, with the US Department of Energy ranking 3rd. Australia is ranked 5th in the world, with the University of Wollongong our highest ranked institution at 23rd.

Australia is ranked 4th for venture capital (VC) investment globally, behind China, the United States and Japan. Globally, VC investment has been increasing at 34% annually since 2016. Considerably more patents have been lodged by applicants or inventors from China, with almost 4 times as many patents compared to Japan or the United States. Australia ranks 17th.

Australia is a significant producer of important inputs to batteries, including many critical minerals and renewable energy, and has world-class skills and research capability to design and develop battery technology. This situates Australia competitively to service much of worldwide demand for these high-tech goods. As Australia transitions towards renewable energy, we have the opportunity to become a major exporter of renewable energy into our region.

Opportunities and risks

Electric batteries will be crucial in the transition to a renewable energy future. Electric batteries will be essential to power consumer electronics, households, support manufacturing energy needs and enable sustainable transportation. Improved storage capacity, decreased size, extended life and expected reductions in cost will also see an increase in the value of batteries for electricity supply. Australia is well placed to take advantage of the growing demand for electric batteries within our region and globally. Our role in the transition to renewables internationally will be underpinned by our world-class research (including technologies for battery integration and managing battery use to extend operational life), our natural resources and our expanding domestic industry—all of which are required for battery production. The global supply chain for batteries is currently hourglass shaped with central fragility, due to the concentration of processing technologies with a single supplier. Australia is ideally placed to play a key role in addressing this by building alternative supply chains.

Australia must carefully consider and mitigate the end-of-life risks associated with electric batteries, and improve recovery and recycling efforts for components. Whilst greater battery utilisation is a desirable outcome, we must also be aware of potential pressures on our emerging renewable grid and the possibility that battery affordability may be impacted. As batteries become more prevalent, particularly for domestic use, the public must have access to reliable information about best practices around battery use and preservation.

Research impact (RI)

China has the highest research impact in this area, ahead of the United States. Australia is ranked 5th. Total volume of published research has been increasing at 8% p.a. over the 5 year period 2016–2020, with 20% of research involving international collaboration.

  1. China - 148107
  2. USA - 50434
  3. Germany - 18353
  4. R. of Korea - 18218
  5. Australia - 10850

The research impact provides an indication of the productivity of a country or institution. Here, productivity was assumed to be represented by the volume of publications (i.e. scholarly output) as an indicator of the resources & facilities, and the level of interest in the publications as an indicator of quality.

VC investment

China has the highest amount of VC investment for electric batteries, ahead of the United States, and Australia is ranked 4th. Investment in this area has been growing at 34% p.a. since 2016.

  1. China
  2. USA
  3. Japan
  4. Australia
  5. Sweden

Data from Crunchbase. The Crunchbase database provides a partial view of the global VC landscape. However the quantity, quality and richness of the data are considered to be statistically significant, and indicative of global trends.

Patents - international

The number of patents being lodged annually in this field has been increasing by 34% since 2015. Most patents in this field were filed by applicants or inventors from China. Australia is ranked 17th.

  1. China - 73922
  2. Japan - 16686
  3. USA - 13944
  4. R. of Korea - 8614
  5. Taiwan - 5361
  1. Australia - 164

Research institutions - international

China has 7 institutions in the top 10 international institutions. Institutions from the United States and Singapore make up the remaining top 10.

Rank Top International Institution Research Impact
1 Chinese Academy of Sciences | China 20753
2 Tsinghua University | China 9875
3 United States Department of Energy | United States 8999
4 Beijing Institute of Technology | China 8070
5 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences | China 7135
6 University of Science and Technology of China | China 6766
7 Central South University | China 6679
8 Argonne National Laboratory | United States 6293
9 Nanyang Technological University | Singapore 5549
10 Zhejiang University | China 5341

Research institutions - Australia

Within Australia, the University of Wollongong has the highest research impact, and is ranked 23rd internationally. No other Australian institute is ranked in the top 50.

Rank Top Australian Institution Research Impact
1 University of Wollongong 3122
2 University of New South Wales 1259
3 University of Queensland 1071
4 Griffith University 1063
5 University of Technology Sydney 948
6 Swinburne University of Technology 939
7 Queensland University of Technology 808
8 Deakin University 768
9 Curtin University 488
10 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University 437

Patents - Australia

Top Australian Patent Applicants Patent Families
University of Wollongong 5
Deakin University 4
Monash University 4
Newsouth Innovations 4
Gelion Technologies 3

Patents filed by Australian businesses, 2015–2019.