New EV battery technologies are being developed vehemently all across the globe. The traditional and upcoming electric carmakers and traditional battery and tech companies are collaborating to develop future batteries as the electrification wave grips the mobility industry. The need for zero tailpipe pollution-emitting vehicles is a priority as the warnings from the scientific community about environmental degradation are unequivocal.
As a result, R&D in battery technology has been underway for almost a decade now. Here are the top 5 relatively viable options that might make it into mass-production before the decade-end (some of these are already being tested in production vehicles starting this year (2023)).
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5 New EV Battery Technologies
We have already covered the details of the principle, advantages and disadvantages of Sodium-ion batteries previously. Just for recap, this battery type uses Sodium (instead of Lithium) to carry ions from the cathode to the anode and vice versa enabling the charge and discharge process. Sodium is the 6th most abundant element found in the earth’s crust, is non-inflammable, has a wider temperature range of operation, has low production cost, etc.
These are the benefits over the existing Li-ion batteries. However, the issue is their low energy density and almost equal charge-discharge cycle counts compared to the Li-ion batteries. Also, mass production has only just commenced by CATL and BYD.
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Solid State Batteries
The next crucial and interesting EV technology is called a solid-state battery. As the name reflects, the electrolyte solution that is found between the cathode and anode of an electric car battery (or any other Li-ion battery used in other electronic gadgets) is in solid/gel form. In Li-ion batteries, this is in a liquid state which is what causes fire. But with solid-state technology, this electrolyte is in solid or gel form. Hence, the size and weight of the battery are reduced leading to increased range and faster charging times. However, more research is needed to produce these on a large scale.
Lithium Sulfur Batteries
Lithium Sulfur (Li-S) batteries use sulfur instead of complex, toxic, fast-diminishing and difficult-to-source elements like Cobalt or Nickel in their construction. This makes the batteries slightly lighter increasing their energy density which could be as high as around 500 Wh/kg compared to around 300 Wh/kg for regular Li-ion batteries. These can have around 1,500 charging cycles. However, the issues with these include polysulfide “shuttle” resulting in leakage of cathode material.
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Aluminium Ion Batteries
Another interesting and potentially disruptive EV battery technology is the use of Al-ion. In this construction, Aluminium ions are used as charge carriers between the cathode and anode. Aluminium can exchange 3 electrons per ion which makes its energy density around 50 times higher than Li. Having 3 electrons has its advantages and disadvantages. The latter include relatively short shelf life and issues with heat, rate of charge, overall electrical behaviour and energy capacity.
Finally, there are the exciting Niobium batteries that take 1 minute to recharge due to their layered molecular structure. Cambridge-based Nyobolt is working on this unique technology that uses Niobium anode reducing the charging time drastically. Even under severe temperatures, these batteries are less prone to catching fire. Their temperature gradient is just 8 degrees Celsius compared to around 27 degrees Celsius for regular batteries.
While there has been significant development in the first two technologies with BYD and CATL having commenced the production of Sodium-ion batteries in mass-market EVs, the others still are in various stages of development and testing. It would be interesting to see which out of these (if any) dominates the space by the end of this decade. Also, chances are that these might co-exist or new technologies might also crop up.