December 20, 2017

Batteries May Soon Triple The Range of Electric Vehicles, Thanks to New Research

Electric vehicles are seen as “non-polluting” or “zero emission” vehicles that help to reduce global warming. But a major difficulty in electric vehicle adoption is their battery capacity and range. However, a new research could pave the way to the development of batteries that triple the range of electric vehicles.

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Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario have developed a new technique of designing batteries that could increase the distance electric vehicles are able to travel on a single charge by almost three times.

The researchers claim that this breakthrough involves the use of negative electrodes made of lithium metal, a material that has a potential to dramatically increase battery storage capacity, which could in turn drastically improve capabilities of electric-powered vehicles.

“This will mean cheap, safe, long-lasting batteries that give people much more range in their electric vehicles,” said Quanquan Pang, who led the research while he was a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at Waterloo. He is now a post-doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Researchers also estimate that this storage capacity or energy density could increase the travel distance of an electric vehicle battery from about 200 kilometers to 600 – on a single charge.

However, development of this technology had to overcome two challenges. The first challenge involved a risk of fires and explosions caused by microscopic structural changes to the lithium metal during repeated charge-discharge cycles. Second, involved a reaction that creates corrosion which could limit the efficiency of the battery and its longevity.

To solve these two problems, the paper, published in the energy journal Joule, details how the research team added a compound made of phosphorus and sulfur elements to the electrolyte liquid, which carries electric charge within batteries. As the battery operates, this compound reacts with the lithium metal electrode in an already assembled battery to “spontaneously coat it with an extremely thin protective layer.” This protection, supposedly, allows for the use of lithium metal electrodes within batteries, which adds greater storage capacity, without risks or degradation.

“We wanted a simple, scalable way to protect the lithium metal. With this solution, we just add the compound and it works by itself,” said Pang.

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