Long road trips with an electric car no longer a fantasy as imec develops breakthrough battery

10/04/2018

Researchers at imec have reached a milestone for batteries to power future long-range electrical cars. A new type of solid-state battery is set to outperform the current batteries in distance, charging speed, lifespan, and reliability. In time, the battery will match most petrol fueled cars.

The milestone was reached after a prototype battery was made where the electrolyte was applied into the battery cell as a liquid precursor, and solidified afterwards. The electrolyte is the heart of the battery since it serves as a highway for the ions to travel between both poles of the battery. In most of today's batteries, the electrolyte is a liquid. However, researchers have been working on a battery type where the electrolyte is solid, a so-called solid-state battery. These batteries provide more energy, shorten charging times, offer increased reliability and lengthen lifespan. 

Up until now, solid-state batteries weren't a hit because of their low conductivity. “Our results show that we can make solid-state batteries that have the potential to reach the capabilities of wet batteries, and this using manufacturing processes similar to those for wet batteries,” says Philippe Vereecken, principal scientist and program manager at imec.

"Applying the electrolyte as a liquid and then solidifying it, frees up space which can be used to increase the battery's capacity without increasing its volume", Vereecken continues. "Another advantage is that the liquid penetrates the ions before solidifying. This greatly improves the contact between the electrolyte and the ions, resulting in significant shorter charging times; one of the biggest challenges of the standard solid-state batteries we know today."

Charging time: 20 minutes or less

By mid-2019, imec hopes to have implemented this new technology. "We'll have reached the level of the current wet batteries and will quickly surpass and outrun them after", Vereecken continues. The range of an electric vehicle will then increase by 50%. "More than enough to consider electric cars as a means of travel", Vereecken concludes. He also estimates that charging times wil keep on dropping to a mere 20 minutes or even less in about five years. 

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