Hemp could make EV batteries better. Here’s how.
Experts project that the demand for batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) will increase by 30 percent from now until 2030. With that, the EV battery market should rake in about $410 between 2020 and 2030.
Right now, EV batteries are far from perfect: They’re slow to charge, their range is low, and concerns have been raised about their environmental impact. But a new class of EV batteries, dubbed “plant-based” batteries, could provide a solution to some of these issues, and perhaps push the industry’s growth even further. Their secret ingredient? Hemp.
Plant-based EV batteries contain byproducts from the hemp plant, the same plant that CBD comes from. While research on these batteries is still in early days, they could potentially outperform both graphene and lithium-ion batteries, the two standard types of batteries used in electric vehicles today, in safety, affordability, performance, and environmental impact.
The Texas-based Bemp Research Corporation developed its plant-based EV battery in partnership with the University of North Texas in 2022. The batteries at Bemp utilize lithium-sulfur batteries made from boron carbide — a byproduct of hemp. According to Bemp, these plant-based batteries will offer the following advantages over lithium-ion EV batteries:
- They are cheaper
- They are more lightweight
- Their production is highly scalable
- They perform better
- They are recyclable
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Additionally, the team at Bemp Research believes its batteries are safer than lithium-ion ones. The founders claim that, unlike lithium-ion EV batteries, hemp-based batteries are non-combustible, which would make them safer.
According to Energy Tech, Bemp Research intends to make its batteries available for sale in or before 2026.
Another company looking into plant-based EV batteries is Alternet Systems. It’s a publicly traded company that builds EV batteries. It also researches new ways to use hemp in the auto industry. The company purchased a plot of land with plans to grow hemp for EV tech.
The company began its research right after the 2018 Farm Bill was passed. It worked with David Mitlin, a professor at New York’s Clarkson University and an expert in electrochemistry — the study of energy storage devices like batteries.
Mitlin claimed in 2019 that the batteries he created for Alternet Systems store 200% more energy than gold-standard graphene batteries. That makes these batteries more than just batteries. They are supercapacitors.
Supercapacitors differ from regular lithium-ion batteries. They provide larger amounts of energy at once. Plus, these types of superbatteries create new energy when drivers apply the brakes.
Like regular graphene batteries, though, non-plant-based supercapacitors are pricey. Hemp-based alternatives like the supercapacitors from Alternet Systems could make these types of energy sources far more affordable and accessible.
Alternet Systems may not only intend to use hemp for batteries. The company also wants to use components of the hemp plant for car body parts.
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Hemp vs. Graphene Batteries
The EV battery industry’s gold-standard material for manufacturing their products is graphene. Graphene is a carbon-based material. It is a pared-down version of graphite, which you have probably seen before (think pencil tips).
Graphene batteries are the industry gold standard for many reasons. One of these reasons is that they offer higher efficiency and longer lifespans. But on the downside, it takes a lot of time and money to produce graphene.
Hemp, on the other hand, is one of the most sustainable and renewable resources on earth. It grows quickly and in large quantities. Plus, hemp plants grow well in all kinds of climates and soil conditions.
One recent study suggests that hemp works as well as (if not better than) graphene when manufacturing batteries.
And as mentioned before, hemp batteries tend to be cheaper and less wasteful to produce.
Hemp vs. Lithium-Ion Batteries
These days, most EVs do not have graphene batteries. Most manufacturers use lithium-ion batteries in their electric car models.
Although lithium-ion batteries perform almost as well as graphene ones, they have some major drawbacks. These drawbacks include concerns about safety, affordability, and short lifespans.
Hemp-based batteries, meanwhile, are comparatively affordable and are thought to have longer lifespans. Plus, hemp batteries may be safer.
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As more EVs come to the market, many manufacturers are watching plant-based batteries. They are cheap and easy to produce, are more environmentally friendly, and have been reported to perform better than graphene or lithium-ion batteries.
If further research proves these batteries to be as good as their manufacturers claim, many of us may be driving CBD-infused vehicles soon enough.