Cars powered by wood chips: Biographite makes EV batteries sustainable

The material is manufactured in the EU and the US, reducing dependence on Chinese graphite supplies.

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A New Zealand company is turning discarded wood chips into synthetic graphite that can be used in EV batteries.

CarbonScape makes ‘biographite’ by heating byproducts from the forestry industry using a process called thermocatalytic graphitization.

This produces charcoal, which can be catalyzed and purified into graphite of battery anode quality.

The startup says its alternative graphite is a more sustainable option and could help Europe reduce its dependence on China for lithium-ion batteries.

What is biography and why is it important?

The graphite key to making EV batteries is currently derived from mined natural graphite or synthetic graphite derived from petroleum products.

CarbonScape’s biography is much more planet-friendly, according to CEO Ivan Williams.

“The production of ‘traditional’ synthetic graphite uses fossil fuel-based raw materials, such as coal tar pitch and petroleum coke, and fossil fuel-driven processes,” he says.

“As a result, the country emits 35 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions for every tonne of graphite it produces.”

Naturally mined graphite can take a heavy toll on communities, animals and the environment, and the extraction and production processes required to deliver one tonne of anode-quality graphite from this raw material leave a carbon footprint of 15 tonnes.

Biographite, on the other hand, is made from forestry by-products, such as wood chips.

“By using these widely available, sustainable raw materials, our product can capture carbon that would otherwise have been emitted if left to rot,” says Williams.

“This means that our technology can remove the equivalent of 2.7 tonnes of carbon emissions for every tonne of biot it produces, meaning it is a climate-positive alternative to this crucial material to lithium-ion. batteries.”

The production of biography can also take place nearby battery factories, further reducing CO2 emissions by reducing transportation distances.

“Because we use a widely available feedstock, we can also locate manufacturing plants near battery and cell manufacturers and EV manufacturers, further increasing supply chain security while delivering additional economic efficiencies and environmental benefits,” says Williams.

Can biot help Europe reduce its dependence on China for EV batteries?

CarbonScape hopes biot can help Western countries reduce their dependence on China for LFP – lithiumiron, phosphate – batteries, which many electric vehicles run on.

In 2022, China produced about 5.5 million battery vehicles according to Statista – representing more than half of the global EVs made that year.

Critics have warned that CarbonScape’s system requires too large a supply of wood chips and is not as cost-effective as graphite.

However, according to Williams, “by using less than 5 percent of the forestry by-products generated annually in Europe and North America, we could meet half of the total global projected demand for network-scale and EV batteries with biography in 2030.”

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“We create Biot using sustainable raw materials and renewable energy, i.e. non-finite resources. It is uniquely attractive to buyers, because of the relative long-term price certainty,” Williams adds.

“In comparison, established technologies rely on finite resources – dwindling fossil fuel reserves and a limited number of economically viable graphite mines respectively – exposing their customers to price volatility, as well as the threat of supplies simply ‘drying up’. ‘.”

Last year, CarbonScape secured $18 million (€16.7 million) in financing from Finnish-Swedish forestry company Stora Enso and Hong Kong-based battery manufacturer Amperex Technology Ltd (ATL).

Williams says the investment will fund the construction of commercial biometrics plants in Europe and the US.

It comes at a critical time, when the booming EV market sees peaks in demand for graphite.

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According to forecasts from consultancy Project Blue, the world will face a global supply shortage of 777,000 tonnes of graphite by 2030.

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