Originally published on GAS2.
Not long ago, an EV battery would never find its way onto the floor at the the North American International Auto Show. It was all about mechanicals — engines, overhead valves, camshafts, and gears. Today, it is about technology and electric cars.
Samsung SDI brought samples of its latest battery cells to the Detroit Auto Show, according to a report on Inside EVs. They range in power from about 28 amp-hours, which is the current standard, to a 37 amp-hours — expected to go into production later this year. These are the cells that will allow electric cars to go from 200 miles of range to 300 miles or more in coming years. Samsung SDI also had a 94 amp-hour cell on display along with two other prototypes. The company wouldn’t say how powerful those unmarked cells might be, but noted they won’t be in production any time soon.
In addition to high-voltage lithium-ion batteries for propulsion, Samsung SDI is also working on 48 volt batteries that will be used to power accessory systems on cars of the future. Love them or hate them, internal combustion engines will continue on in automobiles for the foreseeable future. The more they can be relieved of powering auxiliary systems like air conditioning compressors, electric steering, power windows, and infotainment systems, the more fuel efficient they can become.
Many manufacturers are looking at 48 volts systems for just such purposes, and one other. Electric superchargers are now starting to find their way into today’s cars. Volvo and Audi are both experimenting with them as a way of boosting performance without lowering fuel economy or increasing emissions. One big advantage 48 volt systems have is they do not require extensive shielding to protect occupants and rescue workers from dangerous electrical shocks.
There is other news on the battery front. Researchers at Stanford say they have invented a way to let lithium-ion batteries shut down if they get too hot. Others have tried, but the batteries were destroyed in the process. The Stanford team says their system can be used over and over without damaging the battery.
It relies on two polymer strips that have been impregnated with nano-sized nickel “spikes.” When the spikes touch each other, electrons flow. When the battery gets too hot, the polymer strips deform, breaking the contact between the spikes and stopping the flow of electricity. Once the battery cools, the polymer strips return to their original shape and the connection is restored.
Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and co-author of a report about the discovery, tells Value Walk, “We’ve designed the first battery that can be shut down and revived over repeated heating and cooling cycles without compromising performance.” She says the likelihood of production is high because the materials used — polymer and nickel — are both inexpensive.
Stanford’s discovery would eliminate the recent spate of battery fires from so called “hoverboards” that use lithium-ion batteries. They could also be used in an EV battery to calm any fears consumers might have about their car catching on fire while driving.
We are all waiting for that one big battery breakthrough that will finally make EVs price competitive with ordinary, mass-market cars with internal combustion engines. That day is coming, but exactly when is the question.
Photo Credit: Inside EVs
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