Gasoline-powered vehicles have typically extended their range between fill-ups by utilizing larger gas tanks, improving engine efficiency and decreasing vehicle weight. And while some of these approaches work for electric vehicles, any real improvement to their driving range will entail the ability to extract more power from their batteries. Researchers from the University of Waterloo think they’ve found a safe, scalable, and reliable way of tripling EV battery storage.
The first issue was ensuring that the batteries wouldn’t explode or catch fire when the lithium metal was exposed to structural changes as it cycles through power losses and gains. The second issue centered on a reaction that inherently creates corrosion, and could therefore limit how well the battery’s electrodes work, as well as how long they can last.
The solution was found by adding a chemical compound made of phosphorus and sulfur to the electrolyte liquid that carries electrical charge within the batteries. These elements react with the lithium metal electrode and produce a thin, yet protective layer that simultaneously prevents corrosion and improves battery density. This layer allows the battery to retain more power during charging and while it’s in use.
Researchers Quanquan Pang and Linda Nazar feel the approach could pave the way for electric vehicle batteries that enjoy the expanded storage capacity and driving range stemming from lithium metal electrodes without comprising safety or battery lifespan. Extending driving ranges could have a dramatic effect on adoption levels, as stopping to charge the battery on longer trips has been an obstacle for many.