A Lithium-Ion Battery That May Last Up To One Million Miles

The research has wide-ranging implications for electric vehicles


Researchers at Penn State University claim to have developed a lithium-ion battery that is safe and has power and can last up to one million miles. A team of researchers at the Penn State’s Battery and Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Center developed the battery.

This latest development has some wide-ranging implications for electric vehicles (EVs), which typically require a trade-off between high energy and power density. If the battery has higher energy and power density, there are chances that the battery might explode or catch fire in the wrong circumstances. On the contrary, the cells with low energy and higher power density will have higher safety but will lose out on the performance.

Speaking on this latest development, Chao-Yang Wang, professor of materials science at the Penn State and William E Diefenderfer, Chair in Mechanical Engineering at Penn State, said, “In this work, we decided we were going to take a different approach. We divided our strategy into two steps. First, we wanted to build a highly stable battery with highly stable materials.”

Subsequently, they introduced the process of instant heating to overcome the problem of poor performance in cold climates. The battery uses the electric current to heat up quickly as compared to the heaters, which take hours to heat up. The team then increased the temperature from room temperature to 60 degrees Celsius. As a result, the battery gets an instant boost because of the law of kinetics, which states that reactivity increases exponentially with temperature.

“With these two steps, we can get high safety when the battery is not being used and high power when it is,” the researchers said.

The self-heating battery, which has been dubbed as the ‘All Climate Battery,’ has gained acceptance in a short period, with BMW adopting it. The battery has also been chosen to power a fleet of 10,000 vehicles to ferry people between the venues at the next Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Researchers at the university tested the safety of the battery using nail penetration equipment, in which they drive the nail in the cell, causing a short circuit. And then, they monitored the change in temperature and voltage. The passivated cell registered a temperature difference of 212 degrees Fahrenheit~100 degrees Celsius as compared to the standard battery cell, which registered a temperature difference of 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit ~1000 degrees Celsius, which in itself is a vast improvement.

Notably, the batteries are built using stable materials, and they have a long cycle life. This characteristic of the battery acquires considerable significance in the light that even at 142 degrees Fahrenheit, the cycle number is over 4,000, which is equivalent to over a million miles.

The team of researchers at the university is planning to develop a solid-state battery, which will also require heating.

Recently, Toyota Motor and Panasonic Corporation joined hands to establish a joint venture specializing in automotive prismatic batteries for EVs. The joint venture will be called Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, Inc. This decision came a year after the two companies had announced that they had concluded a business integration contract and a joint venture contract for the formation of a new company.

In January, the research team at IBM Research claimed that it has come up with a new battery that does not use any heavy metals with sourcing concerns. Generally, heavy metals like nickel and cobalt are used in batteries, which pose a severe threat to our environment and are hazardous. Cobalt, which is mostly available in Central Africa, has come under some serious fire for exploitative extraction processes.


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