A new battery design could last for an entire 100 years

Breaking new ground on EV technology.
Ameya Paleja

Tesla's battery research arm based in Canada published a paper earlier this month that provides details of a battery design that could serve us for 100 years, Electrek reported

As the world looks to reduce carbon emissions, electric transportation is one of the ways that is being touted to achieve emission targets that countries have set themselves. To ensure this can be sustainable, countries need to switch to renewable sources of power, while electric vehicle makers need to ensure that the cars themselves do not become a cause of concern.    

Tesla's tie-up with the world leader in battery technology

Elon Musk's Tesla has teamed up with one of the world's leading experts on battery technology, Jeff Dahn. One of the pioneers of the lithium-ion batteries that are used in most electric devices today, Dahn has been working on li-ion batteries ever since they were invented.

Dahn works at the Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and Tesla set up its Advanced Battery Research division at the university to benefit from Dahn's expertise in the area. Dahn has been credited for the commercial success of li-ion batteries after he worked on increasing their life cycles.

Now that these batteries are a runaway success and the foundation for electric transportation, Dahn has been working to increase their energy density and durability. 

What is the energy density of a battery? 

Energy density is the amount of energy that can be stored in a unit volume of fuel. This is an important metric for an electric vehicle since it determines its range. A battery with less energy density would need a larger battery pack to traverse a given distance. Conversely, a battery with higher energy density would occupy less space in the car while also addressing range anxieties associated with electric vehicles. 

It is worthy of noting that fossil fuels such as gasoline pack the highest energy density known to humanity, and man-made battery packs are less than a hundred times as energy-dense as fossil fuels. However, the impact of fossil fuels on the climate has been too much to ignore, and we need to work on improving the battery technology that we have today. 

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Dahn's work in this area has already produced a lot of patents and papers for Tesla, Electrek reported. A recent paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society provides details of a new type of battery cells that can be much superior to the li-ion cells in use.

The paper speaks about battery chemistry that uses nickel in its mix, bringing in high energy density to the picture which can ensure a higher range for electric vehicles. Interestingly, these batteries also demonstrate higher durability than li-ion batteries when charged at various temperatures. In a hypothetical situation where the battery is used at a temperature of 25 degrees at all times, the battery life could exceed 100 years, the paper notes. 

In the past, nickel batteries have been used with cobalt in them. However, with concerns over cobalt, the researchers found that their new battery design would deliver desired results and work equally well with low or even no cobalt in the battery composition. 

It is hardly a surprise, then, that Tesla recently opted to increase its cooperation with Dahn's group through 2026. We can surely see Tesla exceeding range expectations in the future. 

Study Abstract: 

Single crystal Li[Ni0.5Mn0.3Co0.2]O2//graphite (NMC532) pouch cells with only sufficient graphite for operation to 3.80 V (rather than ≥4.2 V) were cycled with charging to either 3.65 V or 3.80 V to facilitate comparison with LiFePO4//graphite (LFP) pouch cells on the grounds of similar maximum charging potential and similar negative electrode utilization. The NMC532 cells, when constructed with only sufficient graphite to be charged to 3.80 V, have an energy density that exceeds that of the LFP cells and a cycle-life that greatly exceeds that of the LFP cells at 40 °C, 55 °C and 70 °C. Excellent lifetime at high temperature is demonstrated with electrolytes that contain lithium bis(fluorosulfonyl)imide (LiFSI) salt, well beyond those provided by conventional LiPF6 electrolytes. Ultra-high precision coulometry and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy are used to complement cycling results and investigate the reasons for the improved performance of the NMC cells. NMC cells, particularly those balanced and charged to 3.8 V, show better coulombic efficiency, less capacity fade and higher energy density compared to LFP cells and are projected to yield lifetimes approaching a century at 25 °C.

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