Beyond lithium-ion batteries: Shaping the transition to sustainable electrochemical energy storage

Gustav Graeber* and Venkata Saicharan Thatipamula

Edited by Jen-Hung Fang and Bertrand J. Neyhouse

Article | Aug. 29 2022


DOI: 10.38105/spr.7zpa2mfwhp


  • Beyond-lithium-ion (BLI) technologies are promising for future energy storage
  • Further relying on lithium or pursuing alternative active materials is a key choice to make for next-generation BLI batteries
  • Targeted investments and policies for sustainable technologies could help facilitate a transition to abundant or recycled materials

Article Summary

The lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology has enabled substantial advances in consumer electronics and electric vehicles (EV). However, beyond-Li-ion (BLI) batteries are emerging as potential solutions to satisfy future energy storage requirements. BLI solutions may include other lithium-based technologies or avoid the use of lithium altogether. Recent predictions suggest that only a fundamental technological change can substantially increase the specific energy, energy density, and power capabilities needed for fast-charging EVs and electrified aviation. This upcoming transition to BLI batteries is a unique chance to consider an important but often overlooked design criterion when determining the best Li-ion successor: sustainability. To date, short-term cost has been the focus of industrial technology development, but factoring in the long-term environmental and societal impact of energy storage solutions could make alternative technologies competitive. In the context of EV adoption, legislation has already shown to have a decisive effect in shaping technological change. Now, where a transition to BLI technologies is upcoming, targeted policies can shape the energy storage market to promote a sustainable future and could help to avoid a potential lock-in on Li-ion. Especially in times of collapsing supply chains and global geopolitical tension, countries with limited access to central raw materials required for certain battery technologies could benefit from intensifying their support for technologies that rely on abundant raw materials and recycled components.

Open Access


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Gustav Graeber

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Venkata Saicharan Thatipamula

Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA