Addressing the Raw Material Shortage for Electric Car Batteries

Addressing the Raw Material Shortage for Electric Car Batteries
There are not enough raw materials, for batteries if everyone is to have an electric car. Even if there was, charging them would take too long for many applications.
Technology Briefing


As highlighted in our sister publication Trends, there are simply not enough critical raw materials, for the batteries needed if everyone is to have an electric car. And even if there was, charging them would take way too long for many applications. So, if new car sales are going to shift to battery-powered electric vehicles, they’ll need to overcome two major drawbacks: slow recharge and large battery size.

New research published in Nature describes a new 10-minute, fast charging technology which works with most energy-dense batteries. By being fast to charge, this technology opens the possibility of downsizing electric vehicle batteries from 150 kWh to 50 kWh without causing drivers to feel "range anxiety." To commercialize this solution, Penn State researchers are working with a startup called EC Power to develop the technology.

These smaller, faster-charging batteries will dramatically cut down battery cost per car. This will reduce the usage of critical raw materials such as cobalt, graphite and lithium, enabling mass adoption of affordable electric cars. The approach relies on internal thermal modulation, an active method of temperature control to achieve the best performance possible from the battery.

Batteries operate most efficiently when they are hot, but not too hot. Keeping batteries consistently at just the right temperature has been a major challenge for battery engineers. Historically, they have relied on bulky external heating and cooling systems to regulate battery temperature. These respond slowly and waste a lot of energy.

The Penn State approach regulates the temperature from inside the battery. The researchers developed a new battery structure which adds an ultrathin nickel foil as the fourth component in addition to the anode, electrolyte and cathode. Acting as a stimulus, the nickel foil self-regulates the battery’s temperature and reactivity which allows for 10-minute fast charging on just about any EV battery. EC Power is working to manufacture and commercialize the fast-charging battery to ensure a more an affordable and sustainable future for vehicle electrification.


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