Electric cars: battery project aims for 1,000 km of range

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute are working on a new design for lithium batteries that would allow electric cars to have a range of 1,000 km on a single charge. The first real-world tests with vehicles will take place in 2020.

With the charging time, the range of electric cars is still, for the moment, their main weakness. The goal of manufacturers is to be able to offer a capacity that is at least equivalent to that of a gasoline car with its full, and if possible more. A course that will break down the anxiety barrier that still holds many drivers fearing battery failure or not wanting to make several prolonged stops during a long journey.

In Germany, a triumvirate consisting of the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS, ThyssenKrupp System Engineering and IAV Automotive Engineering is working on a new lithium battery format that allows us to envisage a gain autonomy and very significant power. Indeed, based on laboratory tests considered very conclusive, this team announces that it aims for a range of 1,000 kilometers.

To reach this conclusion, engineers redesigned the design and interconnection of batteries. To better understand their innovation, let's start by talking about the current situation. In electric cars, there are not one but dozens of lithium batteries made up of hundreds of cells that are each protected in a compartment, connected to each other by cables and monitored by sensors. This connection and electronics monopolize about 50% of the space occupied by the batteries. Not to mention that the connection points between cells are all sources of electrical resistance that cause loss of power.

The team led by the Fraunhofer Institute has therefore worked to simplify this design to the maximum, drawing inspiration from that used for fuel cells that use bipolar plates placed on each face and act as a cathode and anode. From there was born the lithium battery concept called EMBATT which replaces compartments and connectors with bipolar plates.

A design borrowed from fuel cells
This bipolar electrode comes in the form of a metal ribbon, each side of which is covered with a mixture of powdered ceramics, polymer and conductive materials. The formulation of this mixture varies depending on which side will play the role of the anode and which will play that of the cathode. As a result, the cells can be stacked on top of each other, a conductor coating interspersed between the bipolar plates that circulates the current over the entire battery surface.

The EMBATT design offers a very significant space saving that not only allows a more powerful battery to hold in the same surface but also reduces electrical resistance and thus improves performance. The Fraunhofer Institute designs bipolar plates, ThyssenKrupp System manages the manufacture of batteries and IAV Automotive Engineering will integrate them into electric cars.

The next step in the project is to make the manufacturing process more reliable for its transition to an industrial scale. Researchers will now work on designing a sized battery for an electric car. They hope to be able to conduct the first tests in real conditions around 2020.

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