A simple change to the design of the batteries could effectively double the range of almost every electric vehicle on the road overnight. EMBATT is a simple design inspired by Hydrogen Fuel Cells and, if it works in the real world, could have wide-reaching implications that go well beyond EVs.
The Fraunhofer Institute of Ceramic Technologies and Systems, together with ThyssenKrupp System Engineering and IAV Automotive Engineering have found a way to do away with the individual packing for battery cells. That could save as much as 50% of the weight of the battery, which means the manufacturers can all double their range at a stroke by using the same capacity of battery pack.
Fraunhofer making a name for itself
The Dresden-based institute has emerged as one of the world’s leading authorities on future tech in recent times and has made a name for itself with 3D-printed bone implants, among other things.
Now it has partnered with one of Germany’s biggest Tier 1 suppliers of body panels and other spare parts to the leading manufacturers to take on battery technology. Germany looks to be getting with the program and this could be a huge step for the industry.
We get so wrapped up in the range and how manufacturers are making such huge gains. Indeed, Tesla has just unveiled the next generation 2170 battery. But it’s basically refining the same concept and, with battery technology in its infancy, the scientific world still stands to make today’s best EVs redundant with some simple lateral thinking.
This is simply changing the connector
Right now, battery packs are made up of thousands of separate, individually contained cells, which all come with their own connectors. It’s an awful lot of weight that simply keeps the system moving and doesn’t actually provide any power.
Elon Musk proudly announced that the Gigafactory would spit out these cells faster than a machine gun pumps out bullets as he launched the $5 billion concept. But what if there’s a better solution after all?
EMBATT is a simpler design that took inspiration from Hydrogen Fuel Cells that contain a bipolar plate. The plate acts as the anode and the cathode and collects the electricity in one streamlined system. Now this new system still uses cells, but they’re separated by plates, rather than individual connectors.
Is tape really the answer? Yes.
The German partnership has opted for a metallic tape that comes with a coating made of ceramic, which stores the energy, and electrically conductive material. It can now tune this tape for the best compromise between efficacy and durability.
This isn’t just lighter, it’s more efficient as well. The internal losses are reduced and the plates should, theoretically, be able to harvest more electricity.
“With our new packaging concept, we hope to increase the range of electric cars in the medium term up to 1000 kilometers,” says Dr. Mareike Wolter, Project Manager at Fraunhofer IKTS. “We use our expertise in ceramic technologies to design the electrodes in such a way that they need as little space as possible, save a lot of energy, are easy to manufacture and have a long life.”
Big changes are coming
It’s an intriguing system and a relatively simple change that shows just how far we have to go when it comes to battery technology. This approach is a relatively simple combination of technology we already had at our disposal.
But the beauty of the EV world is that we are one brilliant idea away from a total revolution.
The technology is young, some of the world’s biggest names have finally started to plough massive money into the technology and the world’s best universities are also in on the act.
Could new batteries be next?
Lithium Ion could be up for replacement sooner than we think, solid state batteries could be just round the corner and the world’s sharpest minds are working on solutions we haven’t even heard of yet.
Don’t get too excited, though, as the German consortium is working under lab conditions right now and doesn’t envisage getting this battery tech into a test car for at least three years. It’s an exciting sign of things to come, though, and almost a guarantee that batteries are set to boost their range beyond recognition in the years ahead.