Battery Tech Advancements Likely to Show Up in PEV’s Soon
Battery technology and development has come a huge way since the creation of the first lead-acid battery in 1860 by Gaston Planté. Surprisingly, there have only been around 4-5 significant breakthroughs and advancements since then, with energy density effectively doubling every ~30 years.
Other sources report that battery energy density improves at a rate of around 5-8% every year. With the latest lithium-ion batteries first released and commercialised by Sony in 1991, the world is overdue for another battery breakthrough very soon—should this 30-year pattern hold.
With such excitement surrounding this technological evolution, we decided to cover all of the battery tech advancements PEVs will utilise in the near future. Learn all about the newest solid-state battery cells, silicon batteries and more.
Solid-State Battery Cells
Solid-state batteries are the latest innovation in PEV technology—pioneered by the co-inventor of the lithium cobalt oxide/iron phosphate electrode materials used in Li-ion batteries, John B. Goodenough.
A traditional lithium-ion battery is built from a cathode/anode, separator and electrolyte. This electrolyte solution is almost always liquid-based, requiring an additional separator to keep the cathode and anode apart.
However, solid-state batteries utilise a solid electrolyte instead, which also acts as a separator. Most importantly, solid-state batteries claim a vastly improved stability alongside a more solid structure—further improving upon safety and durability; maintaining their form even in the event of damage to the electrolyte.
With the risk of fire or explosion eliminated, certain safety components become obsolete and removed altogether—in turn, saving extra room and weight. This gives even more space for active materials, boosting the overall battery capacity. Such high-density yet lightweight batteries prove perfect for electric vehicles, including cars and eBikes alike.
Generally, far fewer batteries are required, due to the increased energy density per unit, meaning that these batteries are smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient than their lithium-ion counterparts. We believe several kinds of solid-state batteries will quickly take over and see use on the majority of modern electric vehicles within the next 5-10 years.
A form of solid-state battery which utilises a glass electrolyte and lithium or sodium metal electrodes. Research for this battery technology started in 2016 after Iowa State University was granted $1.6M to develop a new glassy solid electrolyte. Despite a healthy dose of scepticism, John and his team succeeded in the creation of one of the first solid-state glass batteries.
The glass is highly conductive and formed from lithium hydroxide/chloride and barium. This allows for fast charging whilst restricting the formation of metal dendrites (crystals). According to their initial publication, the battery strips alkali metal from the anode and re-deposits it to the cathode during discharge.
Battery voltage is later determined by the battery capacity and amount of alkali metal anode; making for a drastically different operating mechanism compared to conventional Li-ion batteries. Both co-inventors expect these ‘glass batteries’ to possess a far greater energy density than current li-ion batteries, alongside a much lower operating temperature than other solid-state batteries.
Whether the leading battery will be glass or another type of solid-state battery depends mostly on price, performance, availability and lifespan. We can’t wait to see which technology comes out on top in the coming years.
In 2021, new ‘nano-sponge silicon’ was successfully applied to solar panels and later switched to focus on battery technology. Such enhanced lithium-ion batteries claim an increased energy density of up to 40%; alongside reducing weight and charging up to 5 times faster—without any impact on battery lifespan.
Whilst still heavily in the R&D phase, start-up E-Magy claims that these silicon-based Li-ion batteries “live longer than graphite-based versions”. Should companies begin to produce these, many PEV brands may upgrade their existing models with new and improved silicon batteries. This will end up increasing the performance of most models alongside overall usability.
As mentioned, weight reduction is a huge contributing factor in the production of silicon batteries. This allows PEV manufacturers to easily shed weight, which they can keep for a lighter model or replace with additional components. The main factor appears to be cost, with silicon becoming increasingly elusive.
Full-scale production of silicon lithium-ion batteries is expected to start in early 2023, at E-Magy’s factory in the Netherlands. Alongside this, Tesla announced their venture into silicon batteries during their ‘Battery Day‘.
Whilst not fully commercially available yet, graphene-based batteries have quickly emerged as an incredible improvement over their Li-ion graphite counterparts. These graphene batteries offer increased electrode density, faster cycle times, and hold a charge for much longer; all of which improve performance and extend the battery lifespan.
There are currently many types of graphene-derived electrodes and hybrids used in Li-ion batteries, each offering its own benefits. For example, a graphene-lithium-sulphur battery holds up to 5 times more than market-leading lithium-based batteries. Furthermore, graphene supercapacitors reportedly store over 100 times the energy of standard capacitors.
Hybridising metal oxide greatly improves conductivity and interaction between ions, further improving upon their lithium-ion counterparts. With so many such metal oxide hybrids, we recommend reading this published study to better understand the sheer scale of innovation.
Aluminium-ion is one of the latest battery breakthroughs, with its developer claiming it charges ~60 times faster than lithium-ion counterparts. This is another graphene-based technology, this time utilising aluminium-ion battery cells and reportedly holding up to three times the charge of other top-rated aluminium cells.
They also prove safer and last longer than lithium-ion, with protection against overheating and an emphasis on sustainability. Their developer also claims that “20% of a lithium-ion battery pack is to do with cooling them”. As aluminium-ion batteries do not overheat or require circuits for regulating heat, a lot of additional space and weight is saved during this process.
On top of offering improved performance for longer periods of time, it could be modified to fit inside current lithium-ion housing for a quick and direct upgrade. Even with the impending success of solid-state batteries, we feel that aluminium-ion offers an acceptable alternative and definitely has a place in future PEV models.
Sodium-sulphur batteries are one of the latest alternatives to lithium-ion batteries, proving cheaper and easier to produce. Despite recent advancements, sodium-based batteries were a development at least two decades in the making. The two main materials, salt and sulphur, remain heavily abundant throughout the world—guaranteeing a high level of availability.
Whilst these sodium-sulphur batteries make acceptable alternatives, we still believe that solid-state batteries stay set to succeed the age of lithium-ion. Alongside this, sodium-sulphur batteries still pose the threat of explosion; which could prove especially disastrous with a high salt/sodium content.
We recommend reading this study from ScienceDaily for more information on these batteries.
Lithium-Ion Sulphur Batteries
Although still under development for quite some time, lithium-sulphur batteries prove lighter and cheaper than current models; although scientists are struggling to increase their longevity. Sulphur is a direct replacement for otherwise costly cobalt here, providing a highly available and affordable material.
Currently, these Li-S (lithium-sulphur) batteries do not offer enough charge cycles before failing, making them unsuitable for long-term use. This is especially important in the PEV industry, as many riders expect their purchases to last at least 4-5 years. The reason behind this is that charging a Li-S battery results in chemical deposits, which build up and degrade battery cells.
Currently, lithium-sulphur batteries need a lot of development to become a viable option. Whether this will be achieved before the next big jump in battery technology remains open to debate. Building your own PLEV and wondering what to use? Check out our DIY eBoard guide here.
That wraps up our list of the biggest battery tech advancements to likely enter the PEV industry soon. As we saw, the most significant jump was from liquid to solid electrolyte solutions, found in solid-state batteries. This completely removes the risk of overheating and fire, improving the battery’s safety and overall lifespan.
Despite this clear advantage, we still expect some variation throughout the technology that eventually becomes available—with graphene, aluminium-ion, sodium-sulphur and other advancements still offering cheaper yet more efficient alternatives to current lithium-ion batteries.
However, we feel confident that solid-state will quickly take over as the best type of battery cells in the market when development concludes. We hope you’re as excited as we are over these awesome innovations, which we expect to see soon.
Thanks for reading; we hope we helped you learn all about these important upcoming developments in battery technology. Got a question? Leave us a comment, and we will get back to you.
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