A new report by IDTechEx states that the current trend of adoption of redox flow batteries (RFBs) should lead to a multi-billion market size in 2031.
However, in the analyst’s view, this massive adoption doesn’t imply that lithium- ion (li-ion) batteries will disappear. Rather, the two systems are expected to address different issues.
“IDTechEx expects Li-ion batteries to be mostly employed for a short duration of storage, hence focusing their application for high power applications with an average storage time between 1h and 5h. Possibly, the range addressed by Li-ion batteries might increase over the years,” the report reads. “Therefore, the RFB market will point to the large amount of energy this system can store, which is provided due to the low capacity loss per cycle.”
IDTechEx recognizes that, given that they have been the most studied redox flow devices, it is likely that the vanadium RFBs will be the market leaders in the years to come, despite the costs associated with manufacturing such devices.
This is particularly the case given that the presence of vanadium as electrochemical species in the catholyte and anolyte reduces the issue of cross-mixing of the electrolyte.
“Over the last few years, the price of vanadium has been one of the parameters affecting the adoption of this technology,” the review states.
“To compensate for this issue, vanadium flow battery producers started to collaborate with vanadium electrolyte companies to cope with this problem. One of the solutions to the high vanadium cost was to offer a leasing scheme for the electrolyte.”
An example of such collaborations is the partnership between Infinity and Bushveld Energy to offer a leasing option to purchase the electrolyte separately. This way, the cost of the battery is reduced, making VRFBs more affordable.
Another key union in this realm is that of Canadian miner Largo, who started to address the vanadium redox flow battery field with the acquisition of Vionx Energy’s asset for $35 million at the end of 2020.
According to IDTechEx, VRFBs are likely to find their biggest competitor in iron flow batteries (IRFBs), especially in the large-scale stationary market.
For the market researcher, the IRFB is an interesting candidate for large-scale applications due to the low cost of iron, which leads to a reduced capital cost.
IRFBs also offer the possibility to easily recycle the electrolyte and avoid cost fluctuation of the electroactive material, as it might happen to vanadium.
Recent studies have also shown that IRFB production may be less polluting than the manufacturing of VRFBs.
“Although the IRFB will likely compete for large-scale applications with VRFB, the two technologies will bring to the market a different quality of storage system. This will in turn allow a larger variety of products for the customer,” the report reads.
Another player entering the market is the zinc/bromine flow battery (ZBB) which, from a technical point of view, is a hybrid flow battery. This means that one of the electrodes – the zinc electrode – is not liquid but a solid metal.
In the view of IDTechEx’s experts, the configuration of the ZBB offers advantages such as reduced dimension and weight, which makes this battery well suited for indoor applications. It also offers disadvantages, such as a linked energy/power capacity relation.