Progress in Lithium Battery Technology
As the electric vehicle (EV) and ebike market continues its rapid growth in both the US and the UK, some exciting news has recently been announced which will have a major effect on the industry. Researchers have developed a new battery system which will allow EVs to be recharged almost instantaneously.
This technology, dubbed the ‘Ifbattery’ by its creators, can be produced cheaply and is environmentally friendly. It uses a system known as a flow battery, but has been adapted to work without the membranes usually used in such units. This change will reduce production costs and remove some of the problems associated with battery membrane fouling, such as a limited number of recharge cycles and the risk of fire.
To avoid such difficulties, the Ifbattery uses fluid electrolytes to store energy in a way that can be used be used in electric cars and electric bikes as well as a range of other electric and hybrid vehicles. These electrolytes are contained in a mixture of water and either ethanol or methanol, which can be used to top up the battery when it is low on charge.
The recharging process is similar to refuelling a conventional car with fossil fuels; at the refuelling station, drivers would discharge the spent fluid from their vehicle and use a pump to replace it with fresh. The process is made particularly environmentally friendly because the used fluid can be taken to a wind, hydroelectric or solar power plant to be reconstituted and can then be reused many times.
Professor John Cushman of Purdue University in Indiana developed the system and recently presented a paper on it at a conference in the Netherlands. He and Professor Eric Nauman, working alongside doctoral student Mike Mueterthies, have established Ifbattery LLC (If-battery) to continue developing and promoting the product.
Advantages for Industry
This new technology looks set to facilitate much faster uptake for electric cars and ebikes for two main reasons. Firstly, since they are cost effective and reusable over a long period of time, they will reduce the cost of running these vehicles.
Secondly and most importantly, they will dramatically reduce the need for supportive infrastructure. Currently, EVs and e-bike batteries must be recharged after a certain distance travelled. This means that dedicated charging points need to be available at regular intervals throughout the transport network, and would need to be designed and built before these vehicles could be more widely used.
However, the different charging process for the Ifbattery means that it can be recharged using a standard fuel pump. In fact, it has been suggested that existing fuel infrastructure could be gradually repurposed as demand grows, which would reduce costs and allow EVs and e-bikes to be widely taken up in a much smaller time frame.
The team behind the Ifbattery hopes to begin mass production before too long, though they need to focus on publicising the product in order to raise its profile. They aim to prepare it for mass production by attracting investors and bringing in a wider group of people to carry out research and development.