Could this ‘extremely cheap’ material eventually replace lithium in batteries?

Lithium is all the rage right now. But what if lithium batteries are replaced by better technology?

Woman on her laptop thinking to herself.

Image source: Getty Images

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Key points

  • ASX investors have fallen in love with lithium and lithium stocks in recent years 
  • Lithium is the metal that makes up most modern rechargeable batteries 
  • But what if lithium was replaced by another, better technology? 

Much has been made of lithium in recent years. As the ‘key’ to a future filled with renewable energy, electric vehicles and the absence of fossil fuels, this ‘green metal’ has been a major source of excitement and optimism for ASX investors in recent years. You only need to look at prominent lithium stock prices like Pilbara Minerals Ltd (ASX: PLS) and Core Lithium Ltd (ASX: CXO) over the past year to two to see this in action.

Today, it can be said that lithium-ion batteries represent the peak of rechargeable battery technology. But what if this was to change? After all, it was only a decade or two ago that nickel-cadmium batteries were the dominant technology.

Well, lithium-ion batteries’ days might be numbered too, if an article from Chemistry World is to be believed.

According to the article, machine learning is being used to discover the next generation of battery materials. Prominent amongst these are fluoride-ion batteries. This technology, it is predicted, is “tipped by some to rival, or even replace, lithium-based [batteries]”.

Could lithium batteries become redundant?

Here’s some more of why fluoride-ion batteries have scientists so excited:

In theory, fluoride-ion systems are ideal for batteries in everything from electric vehicles to consumer electronics. That’s because fluoride ions are lightweight, small and highly stable. Fluoride is also cheaper than lithium and cobalt that are required for lithium-ion batteries. What’s more, calculations suggest that fluoride-ion batteries have potential for greater storage capacity than lithium-ion technologies.

If this technology becomes mainstream, it obviously has huge implications for lithium stocks. Lithium is a metal with all kinds of uses, of course. But if the metal does not play a huge role in the electrification of the world over the next decade or two, it’s arguably fair to say that a big chunk of the ‘lithium bull case’ could be flawed.

In saying that, there are reportedly still some massive barriers to fluoride-ion technology. The article describes research as “still in its infancy”. The chemistry is difficult, with “not many materials… known to conduct fluoride ions, a vital requirement”. However, scientists at the University of North Carolina in the United States are still working through these issues. Researcher Scott Warren told Chemistry World that, “we’ve just submitted a patent for some of the most exciting compositions” in their research into the new battery technology. Exciting stuff.

Who knows what the future for renewable energy and batteries looks like. But perhaps investors shouldn’t be so convinced lithium-ion batteries will always be the dominant technology.

Motley Fool contributor Sebastian Bowen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

More on Resources Shares

Three happy miners.
Resources Shares

Broker sees 23% upside and a huge yield for BHP shares

BHP shares could offer the winning combination of strong gains and big dividends...

Read more »

Two excited mining workers in yellow high vis vests and hardhats shake hands to congratulate each other on a mineral discovery that is making the Galileo Mining share price rise today
Broker Notes

Guess which ASX 200 mining shares these experts are backing

These two ASX 200 shares are benefitting from Australia's current mining boom.

Read more »

Rede arrow on a stock market chart going down.
Resources Shares

Down 9% in a week, what’s going on with the Chalice Mining share price?

It's been a rough week – and year – for the Chalice Mining share price.

Read more »

Young boy wearing a red hard hat frowning with his hands on his head.
Resources Shares

Why are ASX 200 mining shares having such a dire week?

Investors are concerned about slowing commodity demand from China and a potential global recession.

Read more »

Woman looks amazed and shocked as she looks at her laptop.

Own BHP shares? ‘Almost unbelievable’ breakthrough could be key to miner’s climate strategy

The Federal Government is considering whether carbon stored in tailings dams will count towards carbon credits and offset schemes.

Read more »

A happy construction worker or miner holds a fistfull of Australian money, indicating a dividends windfall
Dividend Investing

Here’s the BHP dividend forecast through to 2024

BHP's dividends could be very juicy in the coming years...

Read more »

Happy man in high vis vest and hard hat holds his arms up with fists clenched celebrating the rising Fortescue share price
Resources Shares

Here’s why analysts rate these ASX 200 mining shares as buys

Here are two mining shares rated as buys...

Read more »

a small boy dressed in a superhero outfit soars into the sky with a graphic backdrop of a cityscape.
Broker Notes

Could ASX lithium shares be set for a boost?

A top broker's upgrade on its lithium price forecast bodes well for ASX lithium shares, which have lost major value…

Read more »