Can an electric car circle the earth 50 times without changing its battery? Car dealers dream of… And the scientists did. In early June, China’s Nind Times New Energy Technology Co, a supplier to Volkswagen, Honda, PSA Peugeot Citroen and BMW, unveiled its latest product: a battery that can last for 16 years and has a range of 2 million kilometers, French media said. Just a few weeks ago, Tesla and General Motors both announced their own ultra-long-life batteries. This is a revolution in the electric car industry, where the typical battery life is no more than eight years and the battery life is no more than 1 million kilometers.
Logically, such a change would be a technological disruption. Not at all. Scientists have simply pushed the current lithium-ion battery to the limit. Patrice Simon, a member of the French Academy of Sciences and professor of metals at the University of Toulouse, explained: “It all started with a study by Jeff Dhan, an internationally renowned expert working with Tesla.” The American scientist has shown that current lithium-ion batteries can operate effectively for longer periods of time under certain conditions.
“Lithium-ion battery life is limited by positive electrode capacity variations,” Simon explains. The positive capacity expands or shrinks during charging and discharging. Dagen used some single crystal active materials to solve the cell cracking problem.” The energy storage expert also changed the composition of electrolytes. Finally, he repeated the process of charging and discharging, carefully watching the temperature of the battery change. The final verdict: the battery should last 25 years at room temperature, or 12 or 13 years at 55 degrees Celsius.
Of course, these are the results of the laboratory. “It’s different in real life. “The way ev users drive, weather and road conditions can all have an impact on battery life.” Simon explained. These results cannot be replicated on the road, said Jean-Marie Tarascone, a professor at the Public College of France. But he says the message is clear: “Lithium-ion batteries can last a lot longer.”
“We are entering the age of smart batteries,” Talascon said. In the future, the temperature measured by sensors could act on various components of the battery. This will improve the diagnostic ability of the battery and thus the battery life. We’ll also import some self-healing components into the battery that can be activated and start functioning if there’s a problem.” But it’s not going to happen overnight. This future concept is expected to be more than a decade away.
Other means should now be found to promote the popularity of electric cars, the report said. “Battery life is just one of the important indicators,” said Jean-Luc Brosall, head of research and development at THE Confederation of French Automobile Manufacturers. The average price of batteries has yet to fall below $100 per kilowatt-hour, a threshold that big battery makers are targeting. In addition, the first thing consumers are looking for is long mileage and fast charging.” On both counts, however, progress has been less marked than battery life.
Sebastien Patou, head of battery technology at the Laboratory for New Energy Technologies and Nanomaterials of the French Atomic Energy Commission, explains: “It’s the nature of the battery. In the case of lithium-ion batteries, it’s either high power, fast charging or long range. A choice needs to be made or a compromise accepted.”