EV and Charging Tech – December 2019

Battery Breakthrough May Revolutionize Electric Transportation, 12/19/19

IBM announced recently it is joining forces with a major electrolyte manufacturer,  Japan’s’ Central Glass Co., Mercedes-Benz, and a silicon valley firm (Sidus) to commercialize a new lithium battery formulation that eliminates cobalt and nickel, reduces battery fire risk and allows 80% charging in 5 minutes (www.eenews.net/climatewire/ 2019/12/19/stories/1061847515). The original work was directed at making batteries suitable for commercial aviation, and may yet do so. That IBM is convinced of the merit of its discovery is perhaps reflected in another recent story in which IBM lined up with other energy firms to promote a carbon tax among Republicans (www.eenews.net/energywire/ 2019/12/19/stories/1061847813) via Americans for Carbon Dividends. That this discovery may play a large role in solving the climate crisis is reflected in its appearance under the “climatewire” banner rather than automotive news, as a transportation electrification breakthrough combined with enhanced stationary storage for power grids could remove the two central technological holdups in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The technical details of IBM’s discovery are of course proprietary, but IBM noted that they are replacing the cobalt and nickel with iodine, an element inexpensively extracted from sea water, eliminating the questionable supply network for cobalt and nickel, especially in the war-torn areas of central Africa. IBM discovered the virtues of iodine while studying the formation of dendrites within conventional lithium ion batteries. Dendrites can grow on the battery anodes, and when sufficiently elongated are responsible for the fires that plagued early lithium batteries and still cause fires in large stationary power applications. Without giving specifics, IBM asserted that the new formulation resulted in “just extreme, out-of-the-chute power density.” Power density is critical for automotive and aviation applications.

The newly formed consortium is aiming to produced the upgraded batteries in 2-3 years.

Ten Minute Fast Charging Developed

A team of engineers at Pennsylvania State University just discovered a way to add 300 miles of range to an electric vehicle in 10 minutes, according to a pay-walled article in E&E news (www.eenews.net/energywire/2019/10/31/stories/1061420305). The key to avoiding battery degradation now associated with ultra-fast charging was raising the battery’s temperature to 140 °F for 10 minutes, then promptly returning the battery to air temperature. They engineers designed a self-heating battery for the heating component, and would rely on the battery’s cooling system—already present in most EVs—for the cooling component. The internal heating elements add about 1% to the battery’s weight and enables the battery to retain nearly 92% capacity after 2500 extreme, fast-charging cycles. As with any laboratory development, additional practical constraints are likely to emerge in translating this exciting development into commercial practice.

Although this discovery was announced as a “breakthrough” in the mainstream media, I also noticed that Tesla apparently already knows this (https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-model-s-model-x-on-route-battery-warmup-supercharger/). This spring (2019) they introduced a feature for larger-battery models S and X called “On-Route Battery Warmup.” This uses existing battery heaters to raise the temperature of the car’s batteries while driving the last 15 minutes toward a Supercharger, “reducing charge times for owners by 25%” and thereby achieving much of what the Penn State engineers designed an internal heating element for.

Compiled and summarized by Gordon Rodda