New super battery for electric vehicles can withstand extreme temperatures, scientists say

A new type of battery for electric vehicles can survive extreme hot and cold temperatures longer, according to a new study.

Scientists say the batteries would allow electric vehicles to travel farther on a single charge in cold weather – and be less prone to overheating in hot climates.

This would result in less frequent charging for EV drivers and give batteries longer life.

Super battery for electric vehicles
A new type of battery for electric vehicles can survive extreme hot and cold temperatures longer, according to a new study.
Simon Galloway, SWNS/Zenger

The American research team has created a new substance that is chemically more resistant to extreme temperatures and added it to high-energy lithium batteries.

“You need high-temperature operation in areas where ambient temperatures can hit triple digits and roads get even hotter,” said lead author Professor Zheng Chen of the University of California. in San Diego.

“In electric vehicles, the battery packs are usually under the floor near those hot roads. Also, the batteries just get warmer because current is flowing through them during operation.

“If the batteries cannot withstand this high temperature rise, their performance will degrade rapidly.”

In an article published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesthe researchers describe how, in tests, the batteries retained 87.5% and 115.9% of their energy capacity at -40 Celsius (-104 Fahrenheit) and 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) respectively.

They also had high Coulomb efficiencies of 98.2% and 98.7% respectively, which means the batteries can endure more charge cycles before they stop working.

This is thanks to an electrolyte composed of lithium salt and dibutyl ether, a colorless liquid used in certain manufactures such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

Dibutyl ether helps because its molecules easily release lithium ions when the battery is working and improves its performance in sub-zero temperatures.

Additionally, dibutyl ether can easily withstand heat because its boiling point of 141 degrees Celsius (285.8 degrees Fahrenheit) means it remains liquid at high temperatures.

Electric car charging in mall parking lot
A new type of battery for electric vehicles can survive extreme hot and cold temperatures longer, according to a new study. In this photo, an electric car charges in a mall parking lot on June 27, 2022 in Corte Madera, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The particularity of this electrolyte is that it can be used with a lithium-sulfur battery, rechargeable and equipped with a lithium anode and a sulfur cathode.

The anodes and the cathodes are the parts of the battery through which the electric current passes.

Lithium-sulfur batteries are a milestone in EV batteries because they can store up to twice as much energy per kilogram as current lithium-ion batteries.

This could double the range of electric vehicles without increasing battery weight while reducing costs.

Sulfur is also more abundant and causes less environmental and human suffering at source than cobalt, which is used in traditional lithium-ion battery cathodes.

Generally, lithium-sulfur batteries cause problems – the sulfur cathodes are so reactive that they dissolve when the battery is working and this gets worse at higher temperatures.

And lithium metal anodes can form needle-like structures called dendrites that can puncture parts of the battery, causing a short circuit.

As a result, these batteries only last for dozens of cycles.

The dibutyl ether electrolyte developed by the UC-San Diego team solves these problems, even at extreme temperatures.

The batteries they tested had a much longer lifespan than a typical lithium-sulfur battery.

“If you want a high energy density battery, you usually have to use very harsh and complicated chemistry,” Chen said.

“Higher energy means more reactions happening, which means less stability, more degradation.

“Making a stable high-energy battery is a difficult task in itself – trying to do it over a wide temperature range is even more difficult.

“Our electrolyte helps improve both the cathode side and the anode side while providing high conductivity and interfacial stability.”

The team also engineered the sulfur cathode to be more stable by grafting it onto a polymer. This prevents more sulfur from dissolving into the electrolyte.

Next steps include increasing battery chemistry so that it operates at even higher temperatures and further extends cycle life.

Produced in collaboration with SWNS.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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