Forest Pine Trees. Stora Enzo

Sustainable EV batteries made from wood?

What if you could replace graphitic carbon in batteries with something more sustainable? Something from trees? Stora Enso’s Lignode is a hard carbon that is a bio-based alternative based on lignin – a by-product of pulp production. Lignin is renewable, traceable and already being processed in the millions of tons – an opportunity to make the fast-growing battery business more sustainable.

From trees to batteries

All raw materials used in batteries represent a major challenge for Europe and currently have to be imported. This raises questions from a competitive, environmental, sustainability and geopolitical perspective. One of the key components in batteries is the anode. It is estimated that in 2030, the average anode consumption per electric car will be 50-80 kg. Without a significant change, Europe will continue to be entirely dependent on the supply of fossil-based graphitic carbon from Asia as anode material. Carbon is needed in the anodes of the battery to hold the lithium ions during charging and discharging.

“Stora Enso can supply active anode materials for lithium-ion batteries based on renewable tree lignin. The use of lignin does not increase the number of trees harvested, but generates additional value from them. Stora Enso’s Lignode ® offers a sustainable, cost-effective, high-performing and local supply chain solution for anode materials in Europe,” says Lauri Lehtonen, Head of Lignode Business at Stora Enso.

Sustainably sourced raw material from European forests

Trees are made up of 20 to 30 percent lignin, which acts as a binder and gives wood its rigidity and resistance to decay. It is one of the largest renewable sources of carbon anywhere. As a side stream in pulp production, lignin is traditionally burned to generate energy. Today, Stora Enso extracts lignin at its Sunila pulp mill in Finland to convert it into hard carbon for batteries. The trees used to extract this lignin come from certified forests in Scandinavia and the Baltics.

The Sunila mill in Finland is the largest Kraft lignin producer in the world. Lignin has been extracted here since 2015 and in 2021 the pilot plant for lignode went into operation at the same site. Stora Enso is currently conducting a feasibility study to evaluate the first industrial site for local supply of fossil-free hard carbon in Europe. To serve the rapidly growing market for anode materials, Stora Enso is exploring strategic partnerships to accelerate the scaling and commercialization of Lignode and drive the reduction of global dependencies in the European battery supply chain.

20.06.2022   |  

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