Breakthrough in electric vehicle range and lithium-ion battery charge speeds

Two of the biggest factors stopping people switching to electric vehicles (EVs) may be solved by a team of US researchers, and magnets.

Scientists at the University of Texas, Austin, are focusing their efforts on improving EV range and the charge speed of lithium-ion batteries. Both represent huge obstacles preventing people from adopting low-emission, non-combustion-powered cars and vans. 

The team’s work centres on a new type of electrode that could hold the key to significantly speedier re-powering. Making the positively and negatively charged parts of the battery thicker isn’t a new idea, but in the past has presented significant problems because the greater the distance ions have to travel within a battery the slower charge speeds are.

The University of Texas experts may have overcome this by using thin two-dimensional materials stacked together to create thicker components, and a magnetic field to manipulate the orientation of those parts, effectively offering a ‘fast lane’ for ions. The result is greatly improved range on a single EV charge when compared to existing technology. Meanwhile, using vertical rather than horizontally arranged electrodes slash charge times from 2hr 30mins to 30mins.

‘Two-dimensional materials are commonly believed as a promising candidate for high-rate energy storage applications because it only needs to be several nanometers thick for rapid charge transport,’ said Guihua Yu, Professor in University of Texas Austin’s Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and Texas Materials Institute. ‘However, for thick-electrode-design-based next-generation, high-energy batteries, the restacking of nanosheets as building blocks can cause significant bottlenecks in charge transport, leading to difficulty in achieving both high energy and fast charging.’

‘Our electrode shows superior electrochemical performance partially due to the high mechanical strength, high electrical conductivity, and facilitated lithium-ion transport thanks to the unique architecture we designed,’ added Zhengyu Ju, a student in Yu’s research group who is leading the project.

While emphasising research is still in the very early stages and has so far only looked at a single type of battery electrode, the team hope this evidence suggests a major breakthrough in technology is on the way. Earlier this year, Chinese scientists announced they had developed a battery capable of working in extremely cold temperatures. Find out why lithium-ion batteries degrade over time.

Image: University of Texas at Austin


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