Plans to develop a battery that would enable an electric car to travel 150 miles on just 6 minutes of charge were revealed at the British Science Festival today.
Last week, the Faraday Institution – a research charity backed by the UK government – announced £55 million of funding for five battery projects, in a bid to improve the technology that sits at the heart of electric vehicles.
One of the projects chosen was the Nextrode project, led by the University of Oxford, which is researching ways to make electrodes for Li-ion electric vehicle batteries more efficiently.
Today’s Li-ion batteries are made using a process called “slurry casting”, whereby the active materials are mixed in a wet slurry and coated onto thin foils of aluminium or copper, then dried and compressed.
This process is highly effective for mass production, but is developed through trial and error at great cost to the manufacturer.
Slurry cast electrodes also limit the performance of the battery, as the active electrochemical materials are uniformly distributed throughout the electrode structure.
Research has shown that arranging the materials in a structured way can dramatically improve battery performance, but at present there is no mass-manufacturing route to do so.
The Nextrode project will investigate new manufacturing methods to create structured electrodes cheaply, and in high manufacturing volumes.
The hope is that this will lead to the development of an electric car battery that can retain enough charge in 6 minutes to travel 150 miles, according to Professor David Greenwood from the University of Warwick, who is also involved in the project.
This should satisfy 98% of electric vehicle users, he said, who have round trips of 100 miles a day on average.
The research will take place at the University of Warwick’s £60 million state-of-the-art innovation centre, allowing the researchers to adopt a “bench to bedside” approach.
“We’re able to start and end the process of battery making – from experimental chemistry all the way through to its manufacture – under one roof,” explained Mark Amor-Segan, Chief engineer at WMG, University of Warwick.
He added that that they will be able to offer car owners more accurate information on the lifespan of their batteries, due to longer-term assessments of performance.
“Some companies tell you that your car battery should last 10 years but in reality they haven’t tested it for longer than 2,” he said.
This trust-proofing is highly attractive not only to automotive companies but to a range of other applications including, rail, maritime and aerospace.
Commenting on the news, business minister,Nadhim Zahawi said: “We are committed to ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of developing the battery technologies needed to achieve our aim for all cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.”
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport added: “Bringing together experts across industry and academia, this exciting research will significantly improve the UK’s ability to develop the high-performance electric vehicles of the future.”