New battery technology could lead to safer, high-energy electric vehicles


New battery technology could lead to safer, high-energy electric vehicles

by Staff Writers

College Park MD (SPX) Oct 30, 2023

University of Maryland researchers studying how lithium batteries fail have developed a new technology that could enable next-generation electric vehicles (EVs) and other devices that are less prone to battery fires while increasing energy storage.

The innovative method, presented in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, suppresses the growth of lithium dendrites-damaging branch-like structures that develop inside so-called all-solid-state lithium batteries, preventing firms from broadly commercializing the promising technology. But this new design for a battery “interlayer,” led by Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor Chunsheng Wang, stops dendrite formation, and could open the door for production of viable all-solid-state batteries for EVs.

At least 750,000 registered EVs in the U.S. run on lithium-ion batteries-popular because of their high energy storage but containing a flammable liquid electrolyte component that burns when overheated. While no government agency tracks vehicle fires by type of car, and electric car battery fires appear to be relatively rare, they pose particular risks; the National Transportation Safety Board reports that first responders are vulnerable to safety risks, including electric shock and the exposure to toxic gasses emanating from damaged or burning batteries.

All-solid-state batteries could lead to cars that are safer than current electric or internal combustion models, but creating a strategy to bypass the drawbacks was laborious, Wang said. When these batteries are operated at the high capacities and charging-discharging rates that electric vehicles demand, lithium dendrites grow toward the cathode side, causing short circuits and a decay in capacity.

He and Postdoctoral Associate Hongli Wan began to develop a theory for the formation of lithium dendrite growth in 2021; it remains a matter of scientific debate, the researchers said.

“After we figured out that part, we proposed the idea to redesign the interlayers that would effectively suppress the lithium dendrite growth,” he said.

Their solution is unique because of the stabilizing of the battery’s interfaces between the solid electrolyte and the anode (where electrons from a circuit enter the battery) and the electrolyte and the cathode (where energy flows out of the battery). The new battery structure adds a fluorine-rich interlayer that stabilizes the cathode side, as well as a modification of the anode’s interlayer with magnesium and bismuth-suppressing the lithium dendrite.

“Solid-state batteries are next-generation because they can achieve high energy and safety. In current batteries, if you achieve high energy, you’ll sacrifice safety,” said Wang.

Researchers have other challenges to solve before the product enters the market. To commercialize all-solid-state batteries, experts will have to scale down the solid electrolyte layer to achieve a similar thickness to the lithium-ion batteries’ electrolyte, which will improve energy density-or how much power the battery can store. High costs of basic materials are another challenge, the team said.

Aiming to release the new batteries to the market by 2026, advanced battery manufacturer Solid Power plans to begin trials of the new technology to assess its potential for commercialization. Continuing research aims to further boost energy density, the researchers said.

Research Report:Interface design for all-solid-state lithium batteries analysis

Relevance Scores:

1. Automotive and Energy Industry Analysts: 9/10

2. Stock and Finance Market Analyst: 8/10

3. Government Policy Analyst: 7/10

Analyst Summary:

The article discusses a breakthrough in battery technology that holds the potential to revolutionize the electric vehicle (EV) industry. Researchers from the University of Maryland have developed a method to suppress the growth of lithium dendrites in all-solid-state lithium batteries, which has been a key obstacle to their commercialization. This innovation could significantly mitigate the risk of battery fires, a notable concern in current lithium-ion battery-powered EVs.

Automotive and Energy Industry:

From an industry standpoint, this development is highly significant, as it addresses two key constraints: safety and energy density. With advancements like these, companies can look forward to rolling out EVs with safer, more efficient batteries, which could lead to faster consumer adoption.

Stock and Finance Market:

For stock and financial analysts, the new technology could be a game-changer that influences market dynamics. Companies that invest early in this technology may reap significant benefits, while those that delay could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. The targeted 2026 market release by Solid Power will be a milestone to watch for.

Government Policy Analysts:

The article also has implications for government policy. With improved safety measures, governments may be more inclined to incentivize the adoption of electric vehicles, possibly reshaping transportation and energy policy.

Comparison with Past Trends:

Over the past 25 years, the automotive and energy sectors have witnessed a slow but steady shift toward sustainable solutions, including EVs. Safety concerns and energy storage limitations have been substantial barriers. This new technology can be seen as a significant leap forward, comparable to the advent of hybrid vehicles in the late ’90s and early 2000s, or the mass adoption of lithium-ion batteries in the 2010s.

Investigative Questions:

1. What are the scalability challenges that this new all-solid-state battery technology might face, and how could they be overcome?

2. What is the estimated cost difference between these new all-solid-state batteries and traditional lithium-ion batteries?

3. How might this technological advancement affect global initiatives to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources?

4. How receptive are current EV manufacturers to adopting this new technology in their future models?

5. What are the specific risks that first responders currently face with EV battery fires, and how would this new technology mitigate those risks?

By addressing these questions, analysts can gain a more nuanced understanding of the far-reaching implications of this groundbreaking battery technology.

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