Automotive

New battery design for electric cars would stack up to 1,000-km range

New battery design for electri...
A new battery pack design could see electric vehicles better compete with the gasoline-powered cousins in terms of range
A new battery pack design could see electric vehicles better compete with the gasoline-powered cousins in terms of range
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Production of the bipolar electrode on a pilot scale
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Production of the bipolar electrode on a pilot scale
A new battery pack design could see electric vehicles better compete with the gasoline-powered cousins in terms of range
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A new battery pack design could see electric vehicles better compete with the gasoline-powered cousins in terms of range

One of the big stumbling blocks preventing the wide scale acceptance of electric cars is dreaded range anxiety. With an average range of around 100 mi (161 km) per charge, all-electric vehicles still can't compete with more conventional cars – especially if lights, windscreen wipers, or air con are needed. To level the playing field a bit, Fraunhofer is working on a new battery design that could increase an electric car's range to 1,000 km (621 mi).

Electric cars don't have a single battery, but a collection of battery packs made of hundreds or thousands of individual battery cells that are packed in and wired together. These separate battery cells each require a housing as well as terminals, wiring, cables, and electronic monitors, which all combine to take up 50 percent of the space of a whole battery pack. Additionally, all those electrical connections sap away current through resistance.

In partnership with ThyssenKrupp System Engineering and IAV Automotive Engineering, the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden is developing EMBATT, a new type of battery that reduces the number of those components in a much simpler design that would free up space that could be used to provide extra electricity storage capacity.

EMBATT takes its cue from another electrical power source, the fuel cell. Fuel cells work by combining oxygen with a gas, like hydrogen or methane, across a permeable membrane, to generate electricity. One key component of such cells is what is called a bipolar plate. This plate covers both sides of the cell and has a number of functions, but its main purpose is to act as the electrodes to collect the electricity produced by the cell with one plate acting as the anode and the other as the cathode.

Fraunhofer's idea is to replace the housings and individual connectors in the battery packs with similar plates. Instead of setting the battery cells next to each other, they would be stacked directly one on top of one other over a large area and covered by plates, which would carry the current across its surface. This would not only simplify the design, but greatly reduce resistance, making more electricity available more quickly.

In the Fraunhofer design, this bipolar plate is in the form of a metallic tape that's coated on both sides with a powdered ceramic mixed with polymers and electrically conductive materials. The ceramic acts as an energy storage medium, with one side of the tape acting as the anode and the other as the cathode depending on the formulation of the coating. Fraunhofer says that this arrangement would allow for easy manufacturing and long service life.

The upshot of all this is that electric cars could carry bigger batteries that don't takes up more space or add weight, giving cars a range of 1,000 km (621 mi) in the medium term.

So far EMBATT has been confined to the laboratory, but the partners are working on scaling up the technology for installation in test vehicles by 2020.

Source: Fraunhofer

29 comments
LanceTurner
Have lost track of all these battery advances that never see the light of day. What works in the lab often doesn't work in the real world. Time will tell with this one I expect...
S Michael
"A new battery pack design could see electric vehicles better compete with the gasoline-powered cousins in terms of range." The key word here is "could" this is pure vaporware, pie in the sky. I guess it gives Atlas something to write about. Another key were here is Dresden.... you know Dresden Germany. Like the U.S. the oil industry, except in Germany its the importers of oil, have a strangle hold on the population via the political system. A political system, like the U.S., where lobbyist pay off politicians to keep the status quo. Until this system is broken, you won't see 1000 km or even 500km anytime soon.
Jason Catterall
It's not the range that needs to be competed with, it's the time to refill that's causing the issue. I'd have no problem with a 200 mile range if I could charge my EV in 3 minutes.
David Allen Wizardgold
Your average range of latest EV cars is bit low. Have you seen how many kilometres the latest Renault Zoe can do?
sidmehta
Promising. We are already at 500 km with TESLA's highest capacity car and if this tech can double it without adding extra cost that would throw open the whole industry. But, all these gigafactories are setup to make tech that is a couple of years older... so this may be a while.
yawood
Even if 1000km is possible it still won't compete with the ICE vehicles unless you can recharge in a couple of minutes. It certainly is better than the current vehicles and most people will not do more than 1000km in a day so the battery can be recharged overnight - so long as it doesn't take more than about 8 hours. I still think the best solution is a hybrid. Not one where the ICE takes over the motive power but one where the motor or fuel cell produces enough electricity to power the electric motors and recharge the batteries. That way the ICE does not have to have fancy valve timings or accelerator complications because it can be a simple motor that runs at constant speed.
Mzungu_Mkubwa
This is not a real "breakthrough" in battery tech, just innovating in the packaging (which has been worked on for a long time now, BTW). However, no mention was made as to the challenges this kind of close packaging presents, such as increased difficulty in cooling, thus preventing overheating and exploding, as lithium-based batteries are inclined to do. It would behoove them to consider incorporating a liquid-cooling matrix into the packaging (which, of course, immediately negates the space and weight advantages that they were going for in the first place, depending on how they integrate it... but does make it safer!) I would wonder, since it may offer some advantage to combine battery and supercap tech, if layering these two different storage types in alternating slices could keep neighboring lithium cells separated enough to avoid critical heat buildup? Thots?
VincentWolf
Lance: You lost track because so many more Billions are being spent on research and there are so many alternative ways and some will end up with energy densities up to 50 times that of LiON and cars will have ranges measured in TENS of thousands of miles. Not hundreds of miles but honestly tens of thousands. Not a joke. It's already proving viable with plastic supercapacitors.
Bruce H. Anderson
Part of the question is how long this battery may last (number of potential charging cycles) and what kind of deterioration of capacity will the battery experience as it reaches end of life. Recyclable I assume.