Leclanché reduces cobalt in NMCA cells from 20 to 5%; 20% higher energy density; water-based production
Leclanché SA has reduced the cobalt content in NMCA as cathode material from 20% to 5% and manufacture the electrodes using an environmentally friendly water-based process. In doing so, Leclanché completely dispenses the use of the highly toxic organic solvents (NMP) that are otherwise common in the production process. Leclanché is the first company to implement the environmentally friendly process in the production of Li-ion cells.
The newly developed G/NMCA cell has a nickel content of around 90%, which increases the energy density and enables the significant reduction of the cobalt content. At the same time, it offers a longer service life, high cycle stability and good chargeability.
The new G/NMCA cells from Leclanché have a 20% higher energy density, with the same size, weight and performance level. Water binder-based NMCA cathodes are easier to dispose of and are also recyclable.
Due to the high-volume energy density and high cycle stability, the new cells are particularly well suited for electric cars and heavy-duty applications such as ships, buses and trucks.
With the water-based production of the high-capacity NMCA cathodes, we have reached a decisive milestone in lithium-ion technology. Until now, producing them using environmentally friendly processes was considered impossible. But, now we have mastered the process.—Dr Hilmi Buqa, Vice President R&D at Leclanché
High-capacity NMCA cathodes (nickel-manganese-cobalt-aluminium oxide) allow for a 20% increase in the energy density of a Li-ion cell compared to conventional G/NMC cells. However, these cathodes are manufactured by most manufacturers using organic solvents such as NMP (N-methylpyrrolidone). These are highly toxic and harmful to the environment. In April 2018, NMP was added to the list of Substances of Very High Concern, which can have serious irreversible effects on human health and the environment. The use of NMP has therefore been restricted by the European Commission.
Leclanché, on the other hand, has been using aqueous binders in its production process for around 13 years, and is a global pioneer in this field. No organic solvents are used in the technically simpler process. This not only eliminates the risk of explosion, but there is also no health hazard for the employees involved in the production process.
Additionally, thanks to the water-based process, Leclanché can dispense with energy-intensive processes for drying, flashing off and recycling the solvents. With the 10-30 per cent lower energy consumption, the Leclanché process also reduces the carbon footprint of battery cell production. Thus, it offers not only ecological but also economical advantages.
Leclanché is one of the few independent manufacturers of high-quality lithium-ion battery cells in Europe. The large-format cells come 100% from German production at the Willstätt site in Baden-Württemberg, while Leclanché's module production takes place on an automated assembly line at the company's headquarters in Yverdon, Switzerland.
Leclanché’s new, more environmentally friendly G/NMCA cells are expected to be available on the market in 2024.