Electric batteries: the future of transportation

Future of Electric Vehicle Batteries

Climate change and global warming are amongst the most dangerous and fast-approaching threats to humanity. One of the most efficient methods to tackle these environmental issues is by reducing the amount of carbon emissions that our vehicles are producing.

According to a 2019 report, 24% of the global CO2 emissions are produced by fuel-burning vehicles.

Electric vehicles (EV), low-emission alternatives to fuel-powered cars, are fast gaining popularity amongst those who value environmental accountability. In 2018, sales of electric cars rose by a staggering 68%.

However, one question still remains: how environmentally friendly are EV batteries? There is no straightforward answer but the latest developments in electric car batteries show that we’re slowly getting to a point where they are becoming as sustainable as possible.

 

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Li-Ion batteries have been around since the 1970s and after five decades of research and development, they turned out to be one of the best performing battery types available right now. This kind of batteries is commonly used in electronic devices and electric vehicles as it offers the right balance of lower costs and higher energy density.

Currently Tesla’s Model 3 successfully uses Li-ion batteries that are much cheaper and make the cars more affordable, with a warranty for 120,000 miles and they can easily last between 300,000 to 500,000 miles. In 2019, Elon Musk announced a 1-million-mile battery under production that will use additive electrolytes combined with lithium-ion – a promising aspect.

 

Solid State Li-Ion Batteries

Some companies claim that solid state Li-ion batteries can achieve twice the energy density of normal Li-ion ones. According to researchers at Australia’s Deakin university, this could pave the way for batteries that are lighter, cheaper, and have more extended ranges than the conventional Li-ion battery. Moreover, the use of solid polymer instead of the highly flammable liquid electrolytes would make the batteries much safer to use.

Nonetheless, these batteries are a relatively newer introduction and need to be developed further before they can be applied as widely as Li-ion batteries.

Auto industry giants such as Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and others are in the process of developing these batteries and they may become more common over the next few years.

 

Crumpled Graphene Balls and Li-Ion Batteries

Li-Ion batteries are constantly being improved over the years due to their rising demand and need in the electric vehicle industry. One such development has been the use of graphene balls in the battery anode instead of graphite or silicone.

The use of graphene balls prevents detrimental side reactions and provides better pathways for the Li-ion batteries. Scaffolding made of graphene balls is porous and prevents growth from the residual matter of lithium shifting back and forth.

In short, these batteries will have a reduced environmental impact. They also have extended longevity on the road as they can hold more lithium.

 

Reduced Cobalt Content

Li-ion batteries that use REE (rare Earth elements) such as cobalt have a heavier cost on the environment as they rely on mining. Mining for cobalt is often a polluting and depleting method for our planet. It may involve an unethical approach.

To address this problem, more and more manufacturers are trying to phase cobalt out of their battery production processes. Big names like Tesla and Panasonic are developing ways to replace it with alternates, for instance magnesium or iron. However, they still struggle with lack of efficiency. The 2170 batteries used in Tesla’s Model 3 used significantly less cobalt than the previous versions.

 

Solid State Carbon Ion Batteries

Speaking of low REE content, ZapGo Ltd has developed batteries that charge a hundred times faster. These batteries have no cobalt or graphite. The technology will make the batteries lighter and cheaper than ever. At the same time it limits their negative impact on the environment.

According to the manufacturer’s official claims, one 35-second charge could provide energy for up to 500 kilometers. Moreover, these C-Ion batteries are not flammable like li-ion batteries and can be safely recycled at the end.

 

Zinc-Ion Batteries

Unlike lithium, zinc is an abundantly available resource. It can be used as an alternate to form electric batteries for vehicles. However, like ordinary Li-ion batteries they’re also prone to forming dendrites due to the friction in the battery anodes. That can cause short-wiring even faster than the Li-ion counterparts.

However, an advanced battery management system (BMS) can be used to control the flow by charging during low-usage periods. This solution allows zinc batteries to be rechargeable, and was developed by the CUNY Energy Institute.

With recent developments in place, it’s exciting to imagine where electric vehicle batteries will stand a few years from now. All the current challenges might be solved. The steady rise in the EV sales certainly looks promising for the future of Eco-friendlier transportation.

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