Electric cars – aside from being significantly more expensive than conventional cars – are also discarded by many people because of “range anxiety”, the fear they could remain stranded in the middle of nowhere with no battery juice.
Mareike Wolter, Project Manager of Mobile Energy Storage Systems at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Dresden, Germany, and her team are looking to alive that concern, possibly coming out with a breakthrough in the process. That’s because they are developing a new type of battery with an impressive energy density that could yield a range of around 620 miles (1,000 km) on a single charge. The project is not your garage outfit – researchers from Fraunhofer united with ThyssenKrupp System Engineering and IAV Automotive Engineering to see how they could mprove the energy density of automotive lithium batteries – their starting point being the most popular EV of today, a Tesla.
For example, their longest-range example – the Model S 100D comes with a 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack, good for a range of 335 miles (540 km). The pack consists of more than 8,000 lithium-ion battery cells, making it bulky. “We thought if we could use the same space as the battery in the Tesla, but improve the energy density and finally drive 1,000 km, this would be nice,” comments Wolter. They did that by completely changing the design – instead of individual cells they have a thin, sheet-like design coated with an energy-storage material made from powdered ceramic mixed with a polymer binder. One side is the cathode, the other the anode – these so-called bipolar electrodes were stacked on top of each other, like sheets of paper in a ream, separating them with thin layers of electrolyte and a material to prevent accidental shorts. The researchers are now looking to have a real world application of the innovation in a test car by 2020.