Li-ion batteries have been commercialised elsewhere in the world. Why not in Africa yet?

Large Li-ion battery packs in home and
grid-power applications are rapidly becoming more popular in many parts of the world, including Africa

Most of the companies manufacturing Lithium Ion batteries are situated in the USA, Poland, South Korea, Japan and China. Most of them work closely with electric vehicle manufacturers and consumer good products. Some of the top companies manufacturing the batteries include BYD and PylonTech.

The University of the Western Cape’s Energy Storage Innovation Lab has started work on industrial Li-ion batteries assembly, the only known facility doing this in Africa.

Manganese is an important component of the most popular batteries in the world and 80% of the world’s known reserves of this element can be found in South Africa. Because the companies that produce Li-on batteries are willing and able to invest significantly for the development of this technology, together with the relatively low cost of Manganese, they have been able to import it from South Africa.

So what would be the major challenges in commercialising Li-ion across Africa?

  • The cost of a Li-ion battery system needs to be lower than any alternative energy storage system.
  • Currently, Li-ion batteries cost significantly more than Lead Acid batteries, but since they last much longer than Lead Acid, it makes more financial sense and better return on investment.

Because Africa’s power distribution network is still underdeveloped, investors in Lithium Ion could see returns sooner than in regions with a fully developed transmission network that’s already paid for.