German battery startup Theion is promising a new sulfur battery technology that could help mainstream electric cars offer 900 miles of range on a single charge. The best part? Compared to the core ingredients of conventional NMC li-ion batteries, sulfur is cheap.
Electric cars batteries are chock-full of rare earth minerals. That makes them expensive, and — with rare exceptions — ethically problematic to produce. German company Theion is betting that it can build a competitive battery that can sidestep all of that, by basing its battery technology on minerals that are far more abundant than those used in “conventional” lithium-ion cells.
Scratch that. Not only competitive — but much, much better.
The key to Theion’s technology is sulfur. Compared to nickel or manganese or cobalt, sulphur requires much less energy to produce and costs just pennies on the dollar to source, according to the company.
“Existing battery technology uses nickel, manganese, and cobalt for the cathode,” says Theion CEO Dr Ulrich Ehmes. “It’s called NMC 811, because it has 80% nickel, 10% cobalt, 10% manganese. In our case, we replace this NMC 811 with sulfur. So we have no nickel, no manganese, no cobalt, and we replace the current collective folds of copper and aluminum with graphene, so we have also no aluminum and no copper in our cells either. The only things we have in our cells are lithium metal foil, sulfur, and carbon.”
If that sounds familiar, that’s because we covered similar research into sulfur batteries a few weeks ago. That article spoke of EV battery research happening at Drexel University, and promised knock-on benefits similar to Theion’s. “Getting away from a dependence on lithium and other materials that are expensive and difficult to extract from the earth is a vital step for the development of batteries and expanding our ability to use renewable energy sources,” said Drexel’s Vibha Kalra, PhD, George B. Francis Chair professor in the College’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, who leads the project. “Developing a viable Li-S battery opens a number of pathways to replacing these materials.”
Theion’s next step is to ship its material later this year to aerospace customers as part of the qualification stage. Then it plans to service air taxis, drones, mobile phones and laptops before turning to electric vehicle sectors in 2024.
Sources: Theion, via Forbes, Which EV.
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