A New Zealand-based start-up, CarbonScape, has received $18 million in backing from investors, including forestry firm Stora Enso and battery manufacturer Amperex Technology, for its groundbreaking technology that can transform wood chips into graphite. This development has the potential to disrupt China’s monopoly on the graphite market, which is critical for the production of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and energy storage.
Graphite comprises up to 50% of the weight of lithium-ion batteries, and with the expected surge in global demand, there will be a deficit of 777,000 tonnes annually by 2030. Companies like Tesla have been scrambling to secure graphite from sources outside of China, reducing their dependence on the dominant producer. Additionally, there is growing concern in Europe regarding China’s control over the lithium-ion battery supply chain, with European leaders wary of repeating their past mistakes of relying heavily on Russian gas.
CarbonScape, established in New Zealand in 2006, has been developing a process to produce “biographite” from wood chips and by-products of the forestry and timber industries. The company’s patented technology offers a sustainable and locally-produced alternative to synthetic and mined graphite, with a notable reduction in carbon emissions. The production of graphite is currently a major contributor to carbon emissions in the battery raw materials supply chain. By transitioning to biographite, battery manufacturers could potentially reduce the carbon footprint of each battery by 30%.
The secured funding will enable CarbonScape to begin commercial production in Europe and the US. According to Ivan Williams, the CEO of CarbonScape, biographite allows for the establishment of localized battery supply chains, which are essential for the widespread adoption of clean energy through mass electrification. The company aims to address increasing supply chain instability and meet the rapidly growing demand for lithium-ion batteries.
This breakthrough technology not only undermines China’s dominance in the graphite market but also presents an opportunity for the Western battery industry to reduce its environmental impact and strengthen its supply chain. With the support of investors and a focus on sustainable alternatives like biographite, the shift towards clean energy may be accelerated, supporting the global transition to a more sustainable future.
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