Future Of EV Battery Technology: Innovations Shaping Electric Vehicle Progress
Electric car battery technology is continuing to evolve, thanks to research and new developments. But what are we likely to see as EV batteries continue to progress?
From faster and wireless technology to battery recycling, here’s what’s possible!
6 EV Battery Innovations We Could See
A significant amount of research is being directed towards solid-state batteries. These types of batteries replace the liquid or polymer electrolyte found in current lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries with a solid material. This could offer several benefits including higher energy density (which could extend the range of EVs), increased safety (as they’re less prone to leaks and thermal runaway), and longer lifespan. As of 2021, several companies invested heavily in this technology, including Toyota and QuantumScape.
Battery Energy Density Improvements
The energy density (how much energy can be stored in a given amount of space) is a critical factor for EV batteries. Improving energy density can increase the range of an EV or reduce the weight and size of the battery for the same range. New chemistries, such as lithium sulphur, lithium air, and advanced lithium-ion, are being explored to increase energy density.
Fast Charging Technology
There’s a continuous effort to reduce the charging times of EV batteries to make them comparable with the time it takes to refuel a gasoline car. Battery manufacturers are trying to achieve this without compromising the lifespan of the batteries, which can be negatively affected by high charging rates.
Heat is a significant problem for fast charging. When a battery is charged quickly, it can generate a lot of heat, which can cause damage over time. Therefore, effective cooling systems are a key part of fast charging technology. Some systems use air cooling, but liquid cooling systems are often more effective at keeping temperatures down.
Research is being conducted on various methods to improve fast charging. This includes new battery designs, better thermal management techniques, and advanced control algorithms that can optimise the charging process. For example, “pulse charging” methods, where the power is delivered in short bursts rather than a steady stream, are being explored.
Battery Recycling and Second Life
As EVs increase, so does the importance of dealing with used batteries. Efforts are underway to both improve the recyclability of batteries and to find “second life” uses for batteries that have degraded past the point of being useful in a vehicle, but can still provide value in less demanding applications, like stationary energy storage.
Recycling EV batteries is complex and relatively expensive, partly because of the variety of battery chemistries in use. For example, batteries from different manufacturers can have different designs and use different materials, making it difficult to develop a one-size-fits-all recycling process.
Recycling methods included mechanical processes (shredding and sorting), pyrometallurgical processes (smelting), and hydrometallurgical processes (leaching). However, these traditional methods have limitations, such as high energy consumption and low recovery efficiency. Direct recycling, which aims to restore the cathode powders in batteries to their original state, is a promising approach that could improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption.
Reduced Dependency on Cobalt
Cobalt is one of the key materials used in current lithium-ion batteries. However, it’s expensive and often sourced from regions with significant human rights concerns. As a result, many companies are working on “cobalt-free” battery technologies.
Tesla and CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited), one of the largest automotive lithium-ion battery manufacturers in the world, are known to be working on cobalt-free or reduced-cobalt batteries.
While still in the early stages of development, wireless charging could allow for more effortless charging at home or even the ability to charge while driving on equipped roads.
Wireless charging, also known as inductive charging, uses electromagnetic fields to transfer energy between two objects. In the context of EVs, this typically involves a charging pad on the ground and a receiver on the underside of the vehicle. When the vehicle is parked over the pad, energy is transferred wirelessly from the pad to the receiver and then to the vehicle’s battery. This eliminates the need for a physical charging cable. However, there are a few challenges:
- Efficiency: Wireless charging is typically less efficient than wired charging, meaning it can take longer to charge a vehicle or use more electricity to deliver the same amount of charge. However, advances in technology are steadily improving the efficiency of wireless charging.
- Cost and Infrastructure: Wireless charging systems are currently more expensive than traditional charging systems, and implementing a widespread wireless charging infrastructure would be a significant undertaking.
- Alignment: For efficient energy transfer, precise alignment between the charging pad and the receiver is needed. Some systems use automated parking systems or visual guides to help achieve this alignment.
These trends suggest a future where EVs have longer ranges, shorter charging times, longer overall battery life, and less environmental impact. However, the exact pace at which these improvements will occur depends on various factors, including scientific breakthroughs, market demands, regulatory changes, and more.