tl;dr: Lithium-Ion batteries are unlikely to win the future.
We need to begin a conversation about the future of lithium ion batteries, and to develop an action plan for how the industry’s myriad players — mining companies, material manufacturers, cell manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, the automotive industry, researchers, governments, and consumers — can work together to improve the sustainability of the most ubiquitous energy storage technology.
A typical example of why appeals to government planning are sub-optimal. Even government planning that includes other “stakeholders”.
It seem unlikely to me that Li-ion batteries will continue to be the mainstay of battery storage. While extensive investment in this technology has worked to lower its cost via Wright’s “Law”, there are far better alternatives on the way.
For extreme requirements such as cell phones and other portables, there are many possible technologies, such as the solid-state battery developed by John B. Goodenough:
[… T]he same guy who came up with the cobalt-oxide cathode that powers the lithium-ion battery chemistry we know and love. Goodenough predicts that the new chemistry will have triple the energy density of lithium-ion cells.
The article itself describes a battery that uses only manganese, although like the current champion it uses lithium, a rare material. It also describes:
[… A] safe cell with a metallic-sodium anode contacting a
Na-glass and a cathode with a ferrocene redox center; the
ferrocene molecule was not oxidized. Plating of sodium from
the anode onto the copper–carbon current collector eliminates
the problem of identifying a cathode host for the insertion of
Na+ with a high volumetric capacity; the volumetric capacity of
this rechargeable sodium cell is large with a long cycle life.
This working example uses neither lithium nor cobalt, only sodium, iron, and organics. Developments based on this approach will probably be able to compete with Li-ion despite their initial higher cost. As the cost comes down, their higher energy density and longer cycle life will probably cause them to replace current technology in vehicles.
There are quite a few other approaches under study, the issue of lithium and cobalt supply are hardly being ignored by current research.
As for fixed storage, flow batteries, perhaps along with supercapacitors, have the potential to be much cheaper and better, once their cost has come down through manufacture/deployment. Fixed storage doesn’t have the same energy density requirements as vehicles/portables, but will benefit tremendously from the effectively infinite cycle life of flow batteries. (Another advantage is that modular construction allows capacity to be decoupled from power, so that customers can specify their requirements separately.
Thus, any “action plan for how the industry’s myriad players — […]— can work together to improve the sustainability of” Li-Ion batteries will, at best, be a failure, while having the downside potential to distort the development of superior replacements.