Dec 24, 2023

Sustainability in Sports: How Lithium Batteries are Changing the Game

Lithium batteries, typically unobserved and behind the scenes in the field of sports, are proliferating in virtually every field that utilizes any kind of electronics. From powering electric motorsports to revolutionizing traditional sports infrastructure, lithium battery innovation in sports gear has far-reaching yet subtle implications for how humanity enjoys recreation and sports.

Previously, we discussed how Lithium batteries are making workplaces green and transforming the field of healthcare by facilitating resilient infrastructure and maximizing the accessibility of medical procedures and diagnostics devices. In a similar light, this deep-dive article aims to overview the advances enabled by Lithium ion batteries in the field of sports. 

Lithium battery technology has taken on multifaceted roles in motorsports, stadium sports, and sports infrastructure, and this edition of the LOHUM Green Gazette will uncover the nuanced ways Lithium ion battery technology shaping the future of sustainable sports.

Explore Types of Batteries in Electric Vehicles

Advantages of Lithium Battery Innovation in Sports

The inherent advantages of lithium batteries have led them to experience a remarkable 97% decrease in prices since 1991. This affordability, coupled with higher energy density, longer lifespan, faster charging, and reduced environmental impact, positions lithium-ion batteries as a versatile and eco-friendly choice across various applications.

Across all sports, an increasing number of wearable sensors and equipment powered by lithium-ion batteries are collecting real-time data on athlete, gear, and equipment performance, allowing for data-driven training, optimization, and injury prevention. Lithium battery innovation in sports can benefit athletes by providing them with access to cutting-edge training methods that were previously unavailable.

Lithium Battery Innovation in Popular Sports

Transitioning to the realm of stadium sports, lithium batteries play a pivotal role in enhancing the fan experience and contributing to overall sustainability efforts.

Soccer

FIFA’s exploration of semi-automated offside technology, relying on lithium battery-powered tracking cameras, represents a paradigm shift in refereeing accuracy during major tournaments.

Cricket

Cricket stadiums worldwide are adopting lithium-powered solutions for sustainable energy practices, showcasing a commitment to renewable energy and environmental stewardship.

Basketball 

Lithium battery innovation for sports is now enabling advanced real-time shot tracking setups during NBA games, providing valuable data for players and coaches.

Baseball

While not directly influencing gameplay, lithium batteries power stadium lighting and maintenance equipment in baseball. This subtle integration aligns with the broader trend of making sports venues more environmentally friendly. In 2019, the MLB introduced a wireless communication system between catchers and pitchers, which used lithium batteries to transmit signals.

American Football

In 2018, the Super Bowl used lithium batteries to power the LED lighting system, which significantly reduced the energy consumption and CO2e generation of the event. Reportedly, the venue utilized a large Lithium ion battery array to power the LED lights.

Cycling

Electric bikes have revolutionized cycling, making long distances and steep hills the subject of MTB sport and accessible to even casual riders. Lithium-ion batteries provide the range and power for assisted pedaling, expanding the sport’s audience and promoting active lifestyles.

Snowsports

Electric snowmobiles and snowboards are gaining traction, offering quieter, cleaner fun without sacrificing the adrenaline rush. 

Lithium Battery Innovation in Motor Sports

The impact of Lithium battery technology in motorsports is evident, as lithium batteries continue to reliably power the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). From electric motorcycles making waves in the FIM MotoE World Cup to the high-speed excitement of Formula E racing, these milestones underscore the increasing prominence of EVs in the racing world.

Electric Motorcycles

The TTXGP, launched in 2009, was the first electric motorcycle racing series, which later merged with the e-Power to form the eRoadRacing World Cup in 2012. The FIM Enel MotoE World Championship, first announced in 2014, is the latest and most prestigious electric motorcycle racing series that showcases the potential of electric motorcycles on the same tracks as MotoGP, the premier class of motorcycle racing.

Formula E Racing

Since its inception in 2014, Formula E has been a testament to the potential of EVs in high-performance motorsports. Due to the proof-of-concept of performance demonstrated by Formula E, major automakers began channeling resources into electric vehicle development to build vehicles that are clean but still deliver thrills on tap.

Racing Beyond the Racetrack 

The versatility of lithium batteries extends beyond conventional motorsports into e-kayaks, electric boats, planes, and even snowmobiles. This showcases the lithium batteries’ capability to power diverse sustainable sporting adventures.

Lithium Battery Innovations In Paralympics 

We’ve covered how Lithium battery technology is transforming healthcare, and in a similar vein, Lithium battery innovation for sports includes significant game-changing applications for paralympics, or sports for the differently abled. Various sports technologies are being developed to assist athletes with disabilities in participating in sports like cycling and running. 

Athletes who were once differently-abled or sustained career-ending injuries are now scaling new heights, effectively overcoming their limitations, and achieving their full potential thanks to devices that can carry their ambition and momentum.

Enhanced Mobility and Assistance:

  • Lower-limb exoskeletons: These robotic suits support and augment leg movements, enabling individuals with spinal cord injuries or muscle weakness to walk, run, and even climb stairs. The battery-powered motors provide the necessary assistance, offering freedom and independence.
  • Upper-limb exoskeletons: These robotic arms assist with grasping, lifting, and manipulating objects, empowering individuals with limited arm function to participate in sports like archery, wheelchair basketball, or even rock climbing.
  • Prosthetics: Advanced prosthetic limbs are increasingly incorporating lithium-ion batteries to power their complicated networks of motors and sensors. This technology allows for more natural movement and improved control, giving para-athletes greater dexterity and confidence in their movements.
     
  • Racing Wheelchairs: High-performance wheelchairs for racing often rely on powerful electric motors driven by lithium-ion batteries. These batteries provide the lightweight power and sustained energy needed for athletes to reach top speeds on the track. 

Improved Performance and Endurance:

  • Exosuits for track and field: Imagine para-athletes with exosuits that optimize running form, reduce fatigue, and enhance speed. The bionic assistance can enable new sports activities, shave seconds off their times, opening doors to competitive levels previously unattainable.
  • Exoskeletons for weightlifting: Exosuits can provide targeted support to specific muscle groups, allowing para-athletes to lift heavier weights, break records, and push the boundaries of human strength without unreasonable risks.

Rehabilitation and Training:

  • Exoskeletons for therapy and recovery: The controlled movements and assistance provided by exosuits can aid in physical therapy, helping individuals regain lost function and rebuild muscle strength after injuries or neurological conditions.
  • Exoskeletons for personalized training: Athletes in the near future may use exosuits to target specific muscle groups, optimize training routines, and prevent injuries, leading to faster progress and improved performance.

Lithium Battery Innovation in Sports Gear

  1. Swimming Assistive Devices: Some para-swimmers may be able to utilize specialized fins or tethers powered by lithium battery innovation. These devices can provide additional propulsion and stability in the water, helping athletes optimize their swimming strokes and reach their full potential.
     
  2. Adaptive Bicycles: Electrically assisted bicycles, powered by lithium-ion batteries, are enabling para-athletes with limited mobility to enjoy cycling and explore new terrains. These bikes offer adjustable levels of assistance, allowing athletes to tailor their rides to their individual needs and capabilities.
  1. Exoskeletons (General): These robotic suits, powered by lithium-ion batteries, can assist para-athletes with walking, running, and even climbing. They offer support and stability, enhancing mobility and allowing athletes to participate in activities that might otherwise be impossible. Imagine robotic suits that enhance your strength, speed, and endurance. That’s the promise of exoskeletons, increasingly powered by lithium-ion batteries. These incredible devices are being considered for use in rehabilitation, training, and even competitive sports like football and basketball.
  2.  Smart Wearables: From heart rate monitors to GPS trackers, lithium-ion batteries are powering a revolution in wearable technology. These devices provide athletes with real-time data on their performance, helping them train smarter, optimize their technique, and prevent injuries.
  1.  Tennis Racquets: Lithium-ion batteries are powering smart tennis racquets that provide real-time feedback on swing speed, contact point, and even shot power. This data can help players improve their technique and make strategic decisions on the court.
  1.  Cycling Shoes: Lithium-ion battery-powered cycling shoes are being developed that can provide electric assistance during uphill climbs or sprints, making rides more efficient and enjoyable.
  1.  Swimsuits: Believe it or not, even swimsuits are getting a tech makeover with lithium-ion batteries. Some high-tech suits are being developed with built-in sensors and heating elements, potentially improving performance and aiding in safety and recovery.
  1. Climbing Gear: Lithium-ion batteries are finding their way into climbing harnesses and ascenders, providing assisted rope ascent for climbers. This can be especially helpful for long climbs or those with limited upper body strength.
  1. Snowsports Gear: From heated gloves and boots to avalanche backpacks with GPS and communication devices, lithium-ion batteries are making snowsports safer and more comfortable. Imagine never having cold fingers again while shredding the slopes!
  1. Running Shoes: While not yet commercially available, the future might hold running shoes with built-in lithium-ion batteries that provide energy return with each step, potentially improving running efficiency and reducing fatigue.

Lithium Battery Innovation in Sports Infrastructure  

The impact of lithium batteries transcends individual sports, influencing the way the entire sports ecosystem operates on a global scale. Prominent sports stadiums, tracks, and other sports venues across the globe are incorporating lithium battery innovation for sports to maximize sustainability and increase utilities.

India’s Popular Solar-Powered Sports Venues 

  • In 2015, Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium became the world’s first solar-powered cricket venue, with 400kW capacity solar panels installed on the roof. The panels generate 1,700 units of power every day and reduce the stadium’s power bills by 75%.
  • In 2017, Tata Power installed an 820.8kW roof mounted solar plant at the Cricket Club of India Stadium in Mumbai. The plant produces approximately 1.12 million units of electricity per year and helps the club save around 90 lakhs annually.

Sustainably-Powered Sports Venues Across The World

  • SoFi Stadium (Los Angeles, USA) the SoFi Stadium boasts a state-of-the-art LED lighting system powered by lithium-ion batteries. It can be customized to create dynamic light shows and deliver exciting fan experiences.
  • Allianz Arena (Munich, Germany) adopted LED floodlights powered by lithium-ion batteries in 2015. The system offers adjustable color temperatures, improving player visibility and reducing glare for spectators.
  • Jakabaring Sports City (Palembang, Indonesia) implemented a comprehensive LED lighting system across multiple venues, powered by lithium-ion batteries, contributing to the Games’ sustainability.
  • Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium (South Korea): Utilized LED floodlights with dynamic dimming capabilities, improving safety and visibility for ski jumpers during nighttime competitions.
  • Amsterdam ArenA (Netherlands), powered by more than 4,200 solar panels and one wind turbine, also has an energy storage system powered by second-life batteries from used electric vehicles.
  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium (United States), the first professional sports stadium to receive a Platinum LEED certificate, has 4,000 rooftop solar PV panels enabled by Lithium battery innovation and a stormwater management system that can store over 2 million gallons onsite.
  • The Gangneung Olympic Oval (South Korea) in the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics featured an LED lighting system powered by lithium-ion batteries, earning the venue the LEED Gold certification for sustainability.
  • Tokyo Stadium upgraded its lighting system to LED floodlights powered by lithium-ion batteries before the 2020 Olympics. This resulted in a 50% reduction in energy consumption compared to the previous metal halide lamps.

The Future of Lithium Battery Innovation in Sports

Looking ahead, the integration of lithium batteries into sports infrastructure is poised for exponential growth, promising smarter stadiums, increased adoption of renewable energy, and global collaboration for sustainable sports practices.

Smarter Stadiums 

As technology continues to advance, smarter stadiums powered by renewable energy and lithium battery storage are anticipated. Intelligent energy management systems will optimize energy consumption based on demand and available resources, ensuring a reliable and sustainable power supply for modern sports arenas.

Increasing Renewable Energy Adoption 

The adoption of innovative renewable energy solutions, including advanced solar panel technologies, wind turbines, and experimental technologies like piezoelectric flooring, will become more widespread. Lithium batteries will serve as the backbone of these systems, storing excess energy and ensuring efficient power distribution.

Global Collaboration For Sustainable Sports 

The future of lithium batteries in sports infrastructure involves global collaboration. Countries hosting international tournaments will share best practices, implementing sustainable solutions that contribute to a broader global movement toward environmentally responsible sports.

Lithium Battery Innovation in Sports Can Support Developing Nations

Sustainable and Cost-Effective Power For Sports

  • Stadium Lighting: Traditional metal halide lamps used in stadium lighting are energy-intensive and require frequent maintenance. Replacing them with LED floodlights powered by lithium-ion batteries can lead to significant energy savings (up to 70%), reduced maintenance costs, and improved lighting quality. This is particularly beneficial in developing nations where access to reliable electricity can be limited. 
  • Off-Grid Training Facilities: Lithium-ion batteries can power lighting, equipment, and other amenities in off-grid training facilities, enabling athletes to train in remote natural terrains without relying on the national grid. This can be crucial for developing nations with vast rural areas where talented athletes might lack access to proper training facilities.

Community Development and Economic Growth

  • Job Creation: Investing in lithium-battery-powered sports infrastructure can create jobs in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance, boosting local economies in developing nations. This can lead to increased income, improved living standards, and a more vibrant sports culture.
  • Tourism and Investment: Hosting major sporting events powered by sustainable lithium-ion technology can attract tourism and investment to developing nations. This can further stimulate economic growth and create opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs. 

Hurdles To Overcome For Sustainable Sports In Developing Countries

While lithium battery innovation offers immense potential for developing nations, some challenges need to be addressed: 

  • Initial Cost: The upfront cost of lithium-ion battery systems can be higher than traditional solutions. However, the long-term cost savings from reduced energy consumption and maintenance often outweigh the initial investment.
  • Technical Expertise: Installing and maintaining lithium-ion battery systems requires specialized technical expertise, which might be limited in some developing nations. Capacity building and skills development programs are crucial to overcome this challenge.
  • Battery Disposal: Proper disposal and recycling of lithium-ion batteries are essential to prevent environmental damage. Developing nations need to establish responsible battery management systems to ensure sustainability.

To Conclude

Lithium battery innovation in sports gear and infrastructure goes well beyond individual gadgets or specific sports. From motorsports, paralympics, and olympics to specific sports like cricket, lithium batteries are reshaping the way sports are played, watched, and experienced.

The global adoption of lithium battery innovation in sports demonstrates rising commitment to environmental responsibility and clean energy. Stadiums powered by solar panels, wind turbines, and innovative energy storage solutions showcase a future where sports and sustainability go hand in hand.

Lithium batteries are at the forefront of a cleaner, greener, and more exciting future for sports, and these power sources are about to become even cheaper and perform better than ever thanks to high-purity recycled energy transition materials extracted from end-of-life battery recycling.

Tune in to the LOHUM blog and our LinkedIn page for more insights on battery energy, sustainability, energy transition, circular economy, battery reuse, 2nd life applications, Lithium-ion battery recycling, and more!

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