This article explains the different types of car battery technology found on various cars and the technologies used for manufacturing them.
Discussing and understanding car battery technology is an important topic for car owners, auto dealerships, and virtually everyone that loves hearing about new techs.
Taking a Smartphone as a case study – when you purchase your Smartphone newly (Android or iOS), usually, the battery lasts very long; however, after some time (typically, after a year or so), the battery’s strength tends to depreciate.
If a full charge carried you for up to 5 hours when the device was new, most likely, after some time, a full charge might roughly last for up to 4 hours or less.
That’s the same with car batteries. However, a phone’s battery can be replaced at a fair price, but a car battery is sometimes a deal-breaker.
A battery is needed for a machine or device to work. Irrespective of the advent of several auto technologies, car batteries aren’t going extinct.
They will only get redesigned to match the trailblazing techs that are currently disrupting the auto industry, and the more stunning innovations the auto world is most likely to face in the nearest future.
“Combustion engines may soon be out of cars, but batteries aren’t going anywhere.”
Car Battery Technology
To discuss car battery technology, more light needs to be thrown into the infamous battery types – Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery and lithium polymer (Li-Po) battery.
Quick notice about future car battery technology
- Most car battery manufacturers are working on “million miles” (1.6m kilometer) batteries.
- Tesla has confirmed through its boss, Elon Musk, that it is working on a million-mile battery for its future EVs.
- Contemporary Amperex Technology, a top car battery manufacturer operating from China, made a statement (in June 2020) through its boss, Zeng Yuqun. The statement hints that the company is all set to manufacture car batteries that would last up to 16 years or 2M kilometers.
- Detroit-based General Motors (GM) hints that it is almost done with its proposed advanced battery, which is expected to have similar longevity as with Tesla’s future million-mile battery.
Types of Batteries Used On Cars
Ultracapacitors provide more power to vehicles during acceleration to help recover braking energy.
They store energy in polarized liquids placed between electrodes and electrolytes.
The energy capacity tends to increase with an increase in the liquid’s surface area.
Typically, this type of battery is used for subordinate energy-storage devices in EVs.
Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries
Mostly, this type of battery is found on HEVs. They tend to have a longer life cycle than lead-acid batteries; plus, nickel-metal hydride batteries are safer.
However, this type of battery is highly expensive, has a high self-discharge rate, and generates heat at high temperatures.
Compared with nickel-metal hydride batteries, lead-acid batteries are cheaper to afford.
They are equally safe to use on automobiles, but due to their low specific energy, shorter life cycle, and poor cold-temperature performance, automakers do not consider this battery type for their vehicles.
Nevertheless, some companies are working on advanced high-power lead-acid batteries for electric-drive vehicles.
Lithium-ion and Lithium Polymer Batteries
Both Li-Ion and Li-Po batteries were primarily designed for consumer electronics devices.
Either of these batteries powers laptops, mobile phones, tech gadgets, portable media players, and many other devices you could think about.
However, when the concept of EVs was introduced, it was certain that electric vehicles will need batteries to run.
Hence, companies that manufacture EVs looked into using lithium-ion batteries.
Li-Ion batteries are said to have higher energy density and longer life cycles, hence the choice to use them on electric vehicles.
The Li-ion car battery technology is currently the best performing tech for industries.
Lithium-Ion batteries possess a high power-to-weight ratio, providing more energy efficiency, with normal high-temperature performance.
More so, Li-Ion batteries are said to have a low self-discharge rating, and most of the elements used in building this type of batteries are recyclable.
This is the reason why most hybrids and all-electric vehicles we see today are packed with li-ion batteries.
However, the batteries are not exactly the same on different EVs or hybrids – different automakers work with different technicians to achieve different purposes for making a vehicle.
A recent study showed that when a lithium-ion battery is mostly exposed to heat or made to charge through “fast charging” technologies, the battery tends to degrade much faster than it would when based on age and actual use.
Hence, the average EV battery is liable to maintain up to 90% of its initial capacity even after six years and six months of being used.
Furthermore, an EV without an active cooling system will have its battery degrade 2x faster than an EV with the system for its battery.
Latest Scientific Discovery on Car Batteries
As discovered by researchers, LTPS is the new high performance and safe battery material that can speed up charging to a level we’ve never observed before.
It is expected that this car battery material will be used for making batteries in the future.
Obviously, Li-Ion batteries can easily go up in flames due to several possible reasons.
This is caused by some liquid (highly-inflammable) organic electrolytes in the battery.
Well, these organic electrolytes cannot be totally removed in a battery because they play a vital role.
However, since these electrolytes shouldn’t be removed in a battery, and a battery is needed to thrive several other new technologies, UC Louvain did their job and came up with LiTi2 (PS4)3, simply referred to as LTPS.
With LTPS, battery makers can switch from using the highly flammable liquid electrolyte to using a reliable solid material to achieve an “all-solid-state” battery.
Manufacturing all-solid-state batteries are the future of battery technology.LTPS was tested, and it showed the highest lithium diffusion coefficient than other known materials.
However, further studies are required to validate the use of this material for making future batteries for cars and consumer electronics devices.
The research that exposed LTPS as a safer material for manufacturing li-ion batteries was achieved by the collaboration of Toyota and UCLouvain researchers.
Safer Batteries to Improve Safety
Before now, there have been polemics regarding the use of cobalt (metals) in making batteries for EVs.
However, SVOLT, a Changzhou-based, Chinese tech company, released li-ion batteries that do not have cobalt inside.
These cobalt-free batteries are designed for use in making electric vehicles – aimed at reducing rare earth metals, and increasing energy density to power electric vehicles up to 800km (500 miles).
Also, SVOLT cobalt-free batteries point at increasing safety and extending battery life.
Nevertheless, at the moment, these cobalt-free batteries have been used on any vehicle or machine.
But SVOLT said it is working with a big-name European manufacturer.
Interestingly, new data from the researchers at the University of Texas showed lithium-ion batteries that do not utilize cobalt for the cathode.
To replace cobalt, manganese and aluminum were used to gain a high percentage (up to 89%) of nickel.
This research result further proves that soon manufacturers may be using cobalt-free batteries for their devices and machines.
So far, we know that future car battery technology will lead to safer and highly efficient electric cars.
News Reports Regarding Future Car Technology and Links to EV Breakthroughs
CATL, the Chinese company that supplies the batteries used by top automakers (Volvo, BMW, and Tesla), hints at developing batteries that will come with no nickel or cobalt. Reuters reported the news.
Researchers have proved that minimizing the metallic components used in battery manufacturing will lead to fairly-priced, safer electric vehicles, and electronic gadgets in general.
While we do not see a future where EVs will be as lowly priced as conventional ICEs – Internal Combustion Engine vehicles, we agree that removing nickels and cobalt from batteries will improve safety and reduce the cost to an extent.
High battery cost is one of the core factors that skyrocket the prices of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and full-electric vehicles.
Hence, if car battery price could come down by manufacturers switching to designing batteries with low-cost, yet highly effective components, comparatively, the price of EVs will drop.
CATL has also said that it will begin to design batteries designed that will fit in a car’s chassis.
Thus, its future car batteries would be extremely lightweight and more efficient.
Car Battery Recycling Methods
In this recycling process, organic materials such as electrolytes and carbon anodesare seared as fuel (in extremely high temperature), and the recovered metals are passed through a refining process to obtain valuable products.
Smelting process recovers lithium, salt, or basic elements. Lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries are recycled in this manner.
Unlike the smelting process, which is carried out at high temperatures, direct recovery works at low temperatures and requires minimal energy involvement.
In the Direct Recovery battery recycling method, the battery components are unglued through several physical and chemical processes; thus, recovering all active battery-grade materials and metals.
Only a few batteries are recycled with this process.
This process occurs between the two extremes, and the recovered material goes through similar refining processes as those gotten from the smelting process.
Different kinds of batteries are recycled through this method.
Electric Car Battery Management Systems
As you may guess, different electric vehicles require different battery management systems based on manufacturers’ specific factors.
However, what’s considered when developing car battery systems include charging speed, battery chemistry, degradation, charge cycle-ability, and safety.
Irrespective of an EV’s battery cell and module size, its battery requires a specially designed battery management systems (BMS) for maximum performance and reassurance of safety.
Furthermore, Panasonic is reportedly working on with a new battery management tech that’ll help determine the residual value of lithium-ion in batteries and make it much easier for people to monitor and evaluate li-ion batteries with several stacked cells.
The company, Panasonic, is reportedly working with Professor Masahiro Fukui of Ritsumeikan University on this project.
This technology is obviously deployable in electric vehicle manufacturing – would you call this a breakthrough?
Future Battery Technologies You Should Know About
You already know about graphene – it is said to be the world’s strongest “wonder material.”
A lot of innovations have been assumed since the discovery of graphene; rumors claim the top automaker, Tesla, is working on using graphene-based batteries for its future EVs.
Well, Grabat has already designed graphene batteries capable of driving electric cars up to 500 miles on a single charge.
More interestingly, Graphene-based batteries are liable to charge fully within a very short time compared to Li-ion batteries.
However, there’s no proof that Grabat batteries are in use or used in EVs, but we know that the company has manufactured graphene-based batteries for cars and other electronic machines/devices.
We’ve read news of graphene looking to overtake silicon in EV batteries.
Well, the much we know, graphene batteries seem much promising and flexible than li-ion/silicon batteries, but placing it as the future of car battery technology? There is not enough proof to back this up.
Summary and Conclusion
Lithium-ion batteries keep getting upgrades and getting better every day. In the nearest future, we will likely still be using li-ion batteries, in contrast to graphene.
However, all developments and improvements towards car battery techs are for electric vehicles.
This can tell that in a decade to come, ICEs may not be as common as they are at the moment.
Nevertheless, we do not see a future where there’ll be no conventional ICE vehicles.
While EVs continue to thrive, ICEs are seemingly getting better technologies and upgrading to hybrids.
We will keep you updated with the future techs coming to the auto industry. In the next 10 – 20 years, a lot of positive disruptions will take over the auto industries.
Hopefully, this article has covered quite much information regarding future car battery technology and what to expect.
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