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EV BATTERY TECHNOLOGY Improving energy density to drive the EV revolution

Author / Editor: Luke James / Nicole Kareta

There’s a lot riding on finding ways to improve the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, not least in the electric vehicles industry where range anxiety continues to be one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption.

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The key to wider adoption of EVs is lowering their price and getting longer distances out of charges, and that in turn means that big improvements are needed in energy density.
The key to wider adoption of EVs is lowering their price and getting longer distances out of charges, and that in turn means that big improvements are needed in energy density.
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While the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is on the rise, there’s still a major problem that needs to be overcome: the energy density of lithium-ion (Li-ion) EV battery technology.
Significant research efforts are – and have been for a while now – well underway to address this problem, with no fewer than 17 projects involved in the latest round of Faraday Battery Challenge funding which has allocated £10 million to help build a better British battery industry for the future of zero-emission travel.
The Faraday Battery Challenge is a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) initiative that is investing up to £330 million in research and innovation projects to drive the growth of a strong battery manufacturing industry in the UK. This comes shortly after the official opening of the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) on July 15.

Why energy density is important

The key to wider adoption of EVs – or, better, mass adoption – is lowering their price and getting longer distances out of charges, and that in turn means that big improvements are needed in energy density.
According to global energy research and consultancy group Wood Mackenzie (‘WoodMac’), if the EV industry can drive advances in battery energy density and improve charging rates, eight in ten cars sold could be fully electric in as little as ten years. While WoodMac’s base case scenario for EV adoption would see EVs account for just 14 % of sales in 2030, this could rise to 40 % if energy density issues can be addressed.

Part of the problem is that automakers only began using Li-ion batteries in EVs less than a decade ago, and so research into their automotive applications is relatively limited. Ultimately, the success of EVs in the future will depend on making drastic improvements to Li-ion batteries for EV applications and boosting their energy density so that fewer materials will be needed to achieve better range.

£1.5 million awarded to the SABRE project

One of the most notable recipients of the recent round of funding is University College London. The university received £1.5 million for its Silicon Anode Battery for Rapid Electrification (SABRE) project which will develop battery cells with higher energy density, enabling them to hold their charge for longer.

Partnering with Nexeon and Britishvolt, UCL will use the SABRE project to transfer its research to accelerate the development of advanced batteries. Nexeon’s silicon anode material has been shown to improve the performance of Li-ion batteries, meaning that battery cells with higher energy density can be produced. It does this through a combination of high lithium capacity with low volume change, translating to a longer battery life cycle. Meanwhile, Britishvolt will utilize its computer-aided cell design and simulation IP to accelerate the integration of silicon into the anode.

Starting immediately, the project is set to run for 12 months and culminate in the production of battery cells to test and validate the researchers’ new battery cell design.
“We are very excited to lead this important work, and to collaborate with our partners in designing and producing higher performance battery cells,” said Scott Brown, CEO, Nexeon. “This project, and others like it, are important in building a UK-based lithium-ion battery capability, and reducing risk in an increasingly competitive supply chain.”

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