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Energy

290: Million-Mile Battery

Problem:

Most electric car batteries today already last 100,000 to 200,000 miles before needing replacement, though, while most gas-engine cars today only last 150,000 miles before getting junked. A large proportion of these batteries include cobalt, an expensive and precious material that is often mined by workers who are subject to poor pay and brutal conditions.

Solution:

Three companies have developed a battery that can claim 1 million miles (1.6 million km) in total lifespan, last at least two decades in grid energy storage and give an electric vehicle an autonomy of 600 miles (1000 km).


Adam S. Kwiatkowski and a team at General Motors’ Global Electric Propulsion Systems have developed the Ultium large-format pouch cell battery which follow a NCMA (nickel cobalt manganese aluminium) chemistry that was developed within GM and require fewer connectors and other parts to function.

Compared to existing NCM cells, the Ultium is lower in cobalt content but with aluminum added to the cathode structure for longer life. Zero-cobalt and zero-nickel cells are also being tested, as well as with electrolyte additives and zeolite additives.

GM is working on such advances as zero-cobalt electrodes, solid state electrolytes and ultra-fast charging. GM is aiming to ramp up to a million electric vehicles per year by 2025, to be split between the U.S. and China. The new joint venture will supply U.S. vehicle production and could build up to 30 gigawatt-hours annually.

The second company is Tesla who will soon introduce a lower-cost, longer-lasting “million mile” battery for its electric vehicles in China. The battery, also a pouch-cell design, is being co-developed with Chinese battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL) working with battery experts recruited by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, including Jeff Dahn at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The battery is expected to lower the cost per kilowatt hour (the unit of energy most commonly used to measure the capacity of the battery packs in modern electric vehicles) to under $100. By a coincidence, Tesla’s Chinese battery cell provider CATL is also working with GMs local partner SAIC (formerly known as Shanghai General Motors Company Ltd).

In Baoding in the Hebei Province of China, Svolt Energy Technology (the former battery business unit of Great Wall Motor Company) has produced a 24 GWh cobalt-free lithium-ion battery. By using single-crystal Co-free materials and stacking technology for cell design, plus the array-PACK design and the automotive-grade intelligent manufacturing process, Svolt has created a battery with a warranty of 15 years or 750,000 mi (1.2 million km) and an EV range of almost 500 mi (800 km)

Discover Solution 291: Single-walled and mass-produced nanotubes

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