What’s next in rechargeable car batteries

As we know it

With a very limited resource of fossil fuel available, electrical energy is capturing importance. Therefore, it becomes important to look for better chemical storage technologies. The batteries of the vehicle play a crucial role in it. The performance of the battery is generally depicted by its high power to weight ratio, energy density, and energy to weight ratio. The performance improves if the batteries are smaller and lighter. Thus, it is helpful to have batteries with lower specific energy to make changes in the maximum all-electric range of the vehicles.

Rechargeable car battery
Rechargeable car battery

Batteries, being the most important part of the BEV, are very expensive too. It is excessively expensive if compared to the cost of the electricity distributed over the life cycle of the vehicle. The initial cost is exorbitant if compared to the life of the batteries. For example, lithium-ion and other lithium-based variants are used for highway speed vehicle since they have high power and energy density. However, they have very inadequate shelf life, which considerably increases the cost of the vehicle.

Need for change

Apparently, the benefits of electric cars are many, yet it is becoming difficult to promote it to the mainstream. The additional cost and the short shelf life of this lithium-ion battery pack are costlier to the customer compared to the older versions with internal combustion engine and hybrid electric vehicle. Though governments at different levels are trying to lure the customers by providing incentives and subsidies, yet it is difficult to change the old school of thought. It is believed that with the mass production of such batteries, the cost of production is less now and it will reduce further. In addition, after a specific number of days, any battery needs to be replaced following the wear and tear and so is the case with this battery. It is important to know the best way to delay the depleting rate of these batteries. For lithium-ion batteries, higher temperatures make degradation faster.

What next?

1. Porous aluminum set to enhance capacity of Li-ion batteries

Porous aluminum Batteries
Porous aluminum Batteries

What's new?

Now here is some good news for the batteries and their users. Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. used an entirely new porous aluminum to enhance the capacity of Li-ion rechargeable batteries. This new invention has been named Aluminum Celmet. This metal is used as collectors and the capacity increases three times. In addition, the high level of porosity enables the metal to be changed according to the shape required. It has spherical pores in a mesh like structure. Compared to the earlier Celmet, Aluminum Celmet has high corrosion resistance. The Li-ion batteries now have higher charge/discharge voltages.

What difference will it make?

The porous change made in the batteries in the form of Aluminum Celmet will replace the normally used Al foil. This change will make a huge difference in current collectors of Li-ion batteries. It is believed that the capacity of the battery increases by 1.5-3 times and if the capacity remains the same there is marked change in the volume which gets reduced to two-third or even one-third. Once the applicability of the product is established in the market, Aluminum Celmet will easily appeal to the customers. Therefore, the work has already picked up pace and a small-scale production line has been set up at Osaka Works.

2. Next generation car batteries promise longer life, more power

Next-Gen Car Batteries
Next-Gen Car Batteries

What's new?

Firefly Energy is yet another invention that brings a new lease of life into the otherwise unchanged form of lead acid batteries, running on the same principle as many years ago. Lead plates that are generally found inside the batteries have been replaced with lead impregnated foam. This foam is made from carbon graphite, which is very resistant towards a highly corrosive sulfuric acid within the batteries. With the help of the foam, the power increases and the time required to recharge slashes down. It also helps in stopping the growth of crystals that reduces the life of lead acid batteries.

What difference will it make?

It is a vital invention made where even a long-standing battery is not damaged by the crystals. Firefly is now eyeing at the other markets as well. Vehicles, such as snowmobiles, lawn mowers and many more are not used frequently throughout the year. They are used only for specific purposes and hence remain idle most of the time. As a result, the growth of crystals start increasing which degrades the battery significantly.

3. New battery technology allows electric vehicles to recharge in two minutes

New Faster Charging Battery Technology
New Faster Charging Battery Technology

What's new?

Any new invention related to Li-ion batteries also leads to further invention, which improves the technology for general masses to adopt. Charging these batteries is no more a problem as it takes few minutes instead of hours to do so, thanks to Paul Braun and his co-workers at the University of Illinois. They built a nanostructure for batteries. This helped the flow of charge and discharge from the cathode quite rapidly. The energy storage capacity also was not wasted to the tune of 400C for Li-ion batteries and 1000C for NiMH batteries. In this C is the charge or discharge rate and 1C equals the charge in one hour. Hence, this means that a 400C battery charges in 1/400 hour time. Normal Li-ion batteries can be charged to 90 percent in just 2 minutes. However, the performance of such batteries does get affected. With a rapid charge and discharge, the capacity is close to zero, as the active material does not have volume to store energy.

What difference will it make?

The effects of charging the batteries would be the same as in cordless phones or laptops that charge in minutes. Paul Braun believes and is optimistic about using the same phenomenon in electric cars too. The performance can be improved with time and new experiments. However, for now it is indeed a positive break.

4. Researchers in Boston, London explore electric-car battery technologies

Car Battery Technologies
Car Battery Technologies

What's new?

Now comes the turn of finding a solution to an early depletion caused by rapidly charging and discharging the batteries. At Imperial College in London, Volvo is funding a project where the natural resources become added fuels to the vehicle apart from the one already installed. The parts of the car such as hood, trunk, or wheel wall will be made from natural resources such as carbon fibers and polymer resins. This way a car would not require large or many batteries to power the engine.

What difference will it make?

This difference in the car will make the car lighter. In addition, the natural composite materials, such as, carbon fibers and polymer resins will not depend on any chemistry to work. The lightweight and added natural fuel will only make the car and its battery more energy efficient.

5. 100-Fold lithium-ion battery breakthrough

100-Fold Lithium-ion Battery Breakthrough
100-Fold Lithium-ion Battery Breakthrough

What's new?

A team led by Dr. Gerbrand Cedar found a new formulation of charging rapidly. During charging, generally the lithium ions move away from the cathode area and are trapped at the anode storage medium. The ions go back to the cathode compound when the battery discharges. In this process, current is produced. Lithium ion takes time to move away from the cathode medium and so it takes time in charging. Despite various technologies even the nanoparticle doping strategy that A123 system uses, there is still a breakthrough needed.

What difference will it make?

The new invention to charge and discharge the Li-ion batteries distorts the distinction between batteries and ultra capacitors. But it is definitely going to make changes in the today’s day and age. The consumer electronic goods will have a noticeable demand in the market. Electric cars are not going to remain far off from this change.

© 2012, Automotto. Some rights reserved.