A second major hurdle to the acceptance of lithium-ion batteries is their high cost, much of it due to the catalysts that must be added to speed up fuel cell chemical processes. In the most commonly used fuel cells, the anode is covered with a costly noble metal powder that reacts with the fuel. Researchers at Finland's Aalto University have developed a fuel cell manufacturing method with ALD that allows the cover to be much thinner and more uniform, lowering costs and boosting performance.
The Finnish method depends on the use of alcohol instead of the more common hydrogen as a fuel, along with a catalyst made of palladium. The most common catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells is platinum, which is twice as expensive as palladium. In addition, alcohol is easier to handle and store than the more commonly used hydrogen fuel. The research team says commercial production could start in five to 10 years.
Meanwhile, the plastics processor Rehau, one of 80 partners in the EU's lightweight StreetScooter short distance concept EV, is developing thermoplastic battery housings to save weight and avoid corrosion. Plastic's low thermal conductivity also eliminates the need for the foam sheet thermal insulation used in metal housings. In Rehau's Ultralitec process, up to 27 layers of fiber-reinforced thermoplastic are heated and compression molded. They are then combined with other components added via injection molding to create a battery housing with half the volume and a third less weight than an equivalent housing made of metal.
To keep up with our EV coverage, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Chevy Volt across America to interview engineers.
Glad to see there's a big R&D effort underway around materials to advance the utility of Li-ion batteries in EVs. There's been so much written about the development and use of bigger battery units as a way to up the power and increase the charge, it's refreshing to read about work done in other sectors that can advance the cause. Clearly things have to change/improve on the battery front in order for EVs to really gain traction among consumers.
Unless I'm missing something, the first development in Ann's article (the germanium suboxide anodes) relates to Li-ion batteries, but the second development (the atomic layer deposition process) relates to fuel cells - NOT batteries. Batteries and fuel cells are two different things. What am I missing here? What do fuel cells have to do with making Li-ion batteries which last longer?
I was surprised to see how much work is being done on new/alternative materials for EV batteries, both li-ion and fuel cells. It makes sense, though. If better materials can shrink the size of batteries and/or make them last longer, that will help the whole EV acceptance process.
Ultimately, research such as this will be the way to cut battery costs. Economies of scale will only get us so far, according to a report done by an Indiana University Blue Ribbon panel in 2010. The panel said: "Additional battery R&D may achieve even greater cost reductions, perhaps more significant than the cost reductions expected through economies of scale and 'learning by doing' in the production process."
I too was confused by this article.The first page was about battery anodes and then jumped to fuel cell materials without an explanation.
As far as this article, the improvements we are and will see in batteries will make EV's a reality, contrary to all the naysayers out there who apparently think the world is a static place.As oil becomes harder to find, EV's will take over more applications. They will initially start with short commutes in the city and I believe in 30-50 years, most of us will be driving EV's wether we want to or not.
I agree, Chuck, it's well funded R&D that seems to be behind some pretty amazing breakthroughs, at least in materials, for sustainable and alternative energy sources. I'd like to see more of what that report said. Can you post a link to it?
In the EV world what promoters and battery manufacturers seem to not pay any attention to is the COST PER MILE!
It does not matter how much you bring down the battery cost, if it does not last.
The Li useful life of between 250 and 400 times, which translates to about 18 to 24 months of EV use in real life driving, before the battery deteriorates to a point that range is seriously reduced becomes a big problem few years from now.
California ZEV mandate requires OEM to Warrant the battery for 80,000 to 150,000 miles depending on the "emissions" certification.
Granted Li battery even after 600 cycles may be still "useful" but not to a person whose 100 miles range is now only 40 miles per charge.
I can see big lawsiuts over when the battery needs to be changed for FREE in the consumers vehicle.
And it is not just the cost of battery replacement, or loss of range per charge but the astronomical depreciation of "used" EV that makes Cost of Driving per mile more than a luxury.
MIROX, those are really good points. And I agree with philipp10, market forces caused by pressure to find more and better alternatives will make improvements in EV batteries, as well as other EV technologies.
You are absolutely right, MIROX. You rarely see the cost per mile estimates given for any EV or hybrid. I always laugh at the ads for hybrids when they say something about great MPG - which relates to absolutely nothing. Your second point is likewise correct. These new cars are given some "range per charge" but that range has such are large deviance over its life, use, ambient temperature, etc. that it too is basically useless. And when somebody's 80 mile/charge car dies at 40 miles at -2 degrees, there will be lawsuits coming.
Quote: "The Li useful life of between 250 and 400 times, which translates to about 18 to 24 months of EV use in real life driving, before the battery deteriorates to a point that range is seriously reduced becomes a big problem few years from now."
Where is your data? I have a LEAF and have recharged daily for the past 300 days and there is no sign of battery degradation after 8,000 miles. I don't know how long the battery will last but your data of 250 to 400 times is not supported by the 20,000 LEAFS running today. Some users have logged 20,000 miles and battery reports are reporting no issues.
Your other arguments are all based on this error.
In addition the battery is expected to degrade to 70% as end of life. At this level the battery will have 18 to 20 KWHr capacity which can power a typical house for 1 day or provide peaking power capability to the grid. So while the range will be reduced in an EV, if the range is still adequate then there is no need to replace the lower range battery.
Now for cost per mile - my prior car got 17 mpg and burns preminum gas currentl at $4.07 a gallon for $0.24 per mile fuel cost. The LEAF uses 10KWHr from the grid for 35 miles of range and my average cost for electricity from PG&E is $0.14/KWHr resulting in a $0.04 cost per mile. So the $0.20 per mile savings or $1600 for 8K miles can go toward a replacement battery. By the time I reach 80K miles it will be $16,000 provided gas prices don't rise and if the battery lasts 160K well it paid for the entire vehicle. True we don't know if these are facts yet but I'm liking what I'm seeing and by the way, very little maintanence on a LEAF or EV so far. Brake fluid in 2 years, coolant flush in 3 year, 12 lead acid battery in 5 years and tire replacement.
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