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Development status and roadmap for niobium-based anode materials

Dr Alex S Groombridge, Co-founder & CTO

Echion is a leading battery materials company providing advanced technology to solve some of the biggest electrification and decarbonisation challenges for industrial users.

We specialise in the development and supply of lithium-ion anode active materials based on niobium, at Gigawatt-hour (>1,000 T/y) scale. These materials enable Li-ion batteries to improve safety, charge in less than 10 minutes, and last for more than 10,000 full charge/discharge cycles, without changing manufacturing methods.

Improving the Li-ion battery

Current lithium-ion batteries have performance limitations, especially for applications where high power, long cycle life and safety are key requirements. The technology that works for passenger electric vehicles will not work as well for industrial or commercial applications, where expensive capital assets need to return a low Total Cost of Ownership over a long lifetime.

What are the limitations of other anode materials?

Current anode materials (particularly graphite, Si-based, LTO) all bring a level of compromise and limitation for these applications. For graphite, there are limitations in safety, fast-charging, and lifetime, particularly related to Li ‘plating’ and electrolyte side reactions. Silicon-based materials show leading energy densities but have limitations in lifetime and fast-charging relating to their large volume expansion. LTO, while able to fast charge safely with a long lifetime, has limitations in its low energy density that prevents use in most industrial applications.

A solution that balances out these needs and delivers a higher performing battery to market requirements is needed.

A differentiated solution for heavy-duty applications

Echion’s Mixed Niobium Oxide (XNO®) materials enable uniquely high operational efficiencies and record low total cost of ownership, which enables end users to sustainably electrify heavy-duty transport and industrial applications. Whilst these markets are considered niche in the global battery field including passenger car electrification, alone they represent an untapped ~100 GWh opportunity.

These include rail, high-power off-road vehicles, high-utilisation fleets of trucks, buses, or delivery vans, mining equipment, high-performance hybrids, motorsports, and many more applications requiring outstanding performance.

How does XNO® perform?

The graph shows (in the green shaded area) how XNO® outperforms both graphite (grey) and LTO (blue) commercial cells in the key metrics of fast charging and energy density. It also delivers exceptional cycle life and a safer operation. In the talk, we will dive into some of the details behind this performance, from fundamental through to large format cell updates – including our latest tables 4690 cylindrical cells.

Material available at scale now

A key ingredient to Echion’s XNO® anode material is an element called niobium (Nb). It is neither rare, nor expensive, and is already used at 100,000+ tonnes per year scale in dozens of applications around us, including structural steel.

CBMM, the world’s largest producer of niobium, is a minority shareholder of Echion, and a strategic partner. They operate state-of-the-art mining and refining facilities in Araxá (Brazil), with stellar ESG credentials.

Echion and CBMM have recently announced our manufacturing partnership, w

hich enables Echion to supply large volume, high quality, sustainable XNO® materials with exceptional price stability. Our XNO® anode materials have been produced at the >10 tonne scale since 2022 and will be available at the 2,000-tonne scale by early 2024.

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