Published on January 15th, 2016 | by Steve Hanley


Samsung Crashes Detroit Auto Show With Battery Cells

January 15th, 2016 by  

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

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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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter. "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." Elie Wiesel

  • Patrick Simone

    200-300 miles from samsung battery is not very impressive. Guys from Neutrino INC have battery that can drive 2,000 kms without recharges and recharges will be done by itself in seconds 😉

    • Bob_Wallace

      That would be a game changer, but best we don’t talk about this battery as real until we see it in production.

      There’s an incredible amount of hype in the battery field, lots of claims that don’t pan out.

  • JP Lowry

    Hi Steve – can you confirm the cathode technology used in these batteries. NMC or NCA or a blend?

  • vensonata

    Another piece of news: This is from PV Magazine, January 12 2016, by Sandra Enkhardt. Stationary residential battery units outsold electric cars in Germany in 2015. A total of 12,363 EV were sold and 20,000 home battery storage units were sold. Let that sink in.

  • vensonata

    It has recently appeared in my consciousness that the 30% tax rebate and possibly other state incentives are applicable to home battery/PV arrays. Suddenly batteries got 30-50% cheaper. That is a breakthrough. That aspect of price per kwh has never been considered on any of the numerous forums and discussions I have looked at on the true cost of residential storage. It was staring us in the face, and it really changes all calculations in a radical way. More discussion on this topic ladies and gentlemen.

  • Shiggity

    I’m excited for automotive grade batteries to get cheap enough to start going into other things. Power tools, lawn mowers, snow blowers, the list is endless.

    All electric tools are getting quite good and they are so much nicer because you basically just push a button and they start going. No need to pull a cord or fiddle with spark plugs, oil, etc etc.

    Between my chainsaw, lawnmower, weed wacker, and leaf blower I have 4 different kinds of oil mixes. ICE plz!

    I know how to fix / repair / maintain ICE tech, it’s just annoying. All electric tech you just push a button. Laziness ftw.

    • newnodm

      Um, battery power tools and mowers? Do you live on a deserted island somewhere? Australia?

      • JeffJL

        Oooo. You hurt my Ozzie pride.

        Not my city but still in the same country.

        • newnodm

          That is a photo of a sheep in camo. You can’t fool me.

    • Steve Grinwis

      Fully agree. That being said, do you think that battery tech isn’t climbing quickly on these devices??

      The battery on my phone is 2 years old, and holding charge wonderfully. That wasn’t true 5 years ago. A year old phone would go flat in a few hours…

      • Kevin McKinney

        Been enjoying my Ryobi +1 cordless tools. One interchangeable Li battery pack & charger, multiple compatible tool bodies: in my case, a hedge trimmer, a string trimmer, and a recipro saw–oh, almost forgot the air compressor. Functional, affordable, practical–you pay less for the tools, and if the battery pack goes bad it’s replaceable right off the shelf.

  • Steven F

    “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.”

    So basically they made a thermal switch. Just like the one in your laptop battery or many other battery packs. If you want to get a product UL certified it must have a thermal switch or temperature sensor so that the battery doesn’t overheat. The only difference between Standfords device and the ones currently in batteries is that their material uses expensive nano materials. Furthermore they don’t tell you that their nano material will not prevent a battery fire from an internal short circuit. Internal short circuits are believed to be the cause of the boeing 787 battery fires, and several laptop batttery recals.

    If you want a safer battery use lithium iron phosphate batteries:

  • JamesWimberley

    “We are all waiting for the one big breakthrough …” Speak for yourself. The tern in ethnology for this delusion is ” cargo cult”. The fundamental principles of batteries have been known for 250 years and understood for half that. Fundamental breakthroughs are incredibly improbable. What we are seeing is classic incremental progress: trying different battery chemistries and materials. It will continue that way.

    • Yes, I almost edited that line, but left him with his opinion & obviously incorrect claim.

    • Foersom

      Li-air that can last many cycles would be a break-through. But that will likely be some time after 2025 according to IBM researcher I talked to in 2012.

    • Freddy D

      Yep, and how much have those incremental improvements been dropping the price of batteries? Estimates vary, but we’ve seen claims on the order of a 50% drop from 2010 to 2015, and other claims in that magnitude by analysts. In other words, “incremental progress” = breakthrough. if it’s not cheap enough now, wait 5-7 years for the price to drop in half and that will change market dynamics. Last I checked, LG Chem, Panasonic/Tesla, Samsung, and a bunch of startups have ideas and roadmaps to make this happen. Bring it on!

  • Shane 2

    We need higher taxes on gasoline. Use the taxes to put into roads, charging infrastructure, public transport, education, preventative health-care etc. This will get more people into plug-ins, increase the economies of scale for batteries and other EV components and drive us to a better place faster.

    • Jfake Hname

      i agree gas should be more expensive but first id like to see oil companies pay federal income tax and buy/bid for drilling rights for our oil reserves. in short gas is to cheap because of subsidies. tho the current temporary low price allegedly to eliminate fracking competition is also at play tho imo in the end will lead to a higher price.

    • Carl Raymond S

      I don’t trust the government to build charging infrastructure. If Tesla got it right, and basically everybody else got it wrong, we can confidently expect a government department will get it wrong. When it comes to high tech – let the free market fight it out. The cream will rise to the top.

      • Shane 2

        Gubermint can subsidize charging infrastructure. It subsidizes agriculture, oil extraction, wind turbines, and solar power. Governments give tax incentives and handouts for EVs in various parts of the world. Charging infrastructure could get similar incentives. That is not the same thing as governments building and running everything.

  • Riely Rumfort

    I’d say they’re price competitive already with a couple years maintenance and use.
    The real question is when they’ll have the obvious ‘undercut’ to sweep the market as a no brainer, which could be in the next few years if range grows as price sinks as it should next year and the following. 300 miles with enough smart features and sales will pick up. 200 miles with a decent interior and they’ll really get going.

    • Agreed.

    • Steve Grinwis

      Right now, cold weather performance is a serious limitation. I can barely get back and forth to work right now, and I make honest sacrifices to do it, like not turning on the heat. Granted, I know i’m running at the limits of range, for cold weather, but that’s also the part where electric cars save more money faster, in cheaper operating costs.

      I’m looking forward to the 200 mile, next gen cars, where this will be a complete non-issue.

      • Riely Rumfort

        Yes, currently only specific high end models have battery heating systems and things necessary in the chill. A chill which should be spreading over the next two decades.

        • Steve Grinwis

          Uhm. What? Leaf, Volt, Smart, all have battery heating systems. The problem is that the cost to run them is still expensive, energy wise. The other issue is electric resistance heating. High quality, high efficiency heat pumps need to be used.

          • Riely Rumfort

            Well, they use them regionally actually. But yes, better efficiency pumps would be desirable.

          • Riely Rumfort
          • Steve Grinwis

            Ya, that “research” is quite terrible, and it’s pretty clear they don’t understand thermodynamics…

            Hey, look, we can apply heat to the battery, and it warms up, and it only took 5.5% of the batteries capacity to do it!

            And 5.5% is less than this other *WORST CASE, TOTAL ENERGY LOSS OVER HOURS OF DRIVING* so our system must be better!

          • Riely Rumfort

            Still I think there’d be some improvement over heating coils or a liquid, as they’re both resistance heating as well.
            I like the potentional more for the stability it could grant at the battery to battery level with thermalsensitive BMS’s. Heat flux causes a lot of fissures which drop capacity, especially uneven heating. Even beyond the automotive application the battery can keep itself warm, in a large or small renewable energy storage for example. I actually thought of it once before I read it but figured interior resistance would be risky, seems they figured it out.

      • vensonata

        Hmmm, maybe I am Rube Goldberg but isn’t it time for a simple 10kwh pack that goes in the back or trunk. It has a DC DC transfer cord to the car when parked. It also has an electric heater with fan attached, for that winter stuff. Simple… picnic cooler size. No muss, no fuss, 40 extra miles if you can’t find a plug. $3000 with incentives.

        • sjc_1

          Enginer had a pack in the back that had a 48 vdc pack with inverter to 220 vac for range extension, they are out of business.
          I contacted Nissan to ask if they would help create that again by selling batteries, they said absolutely NOT.

    • brunurb

      unfortunately, most people are very shortsighted, and can’t see beyond that initial price tag to the future fuel cost and maintenance savings 🙁

      • Riely Rumfort

        The shortsighted will be left in dust soon enough, foresight is a principle component of survival.

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