2,000 kilometers of range with an electric car, is it really possible? A team of German and Dutch scientists makes us dream by announcing the development of a new cell manufacturing technology.
Around the world, researchers are working to improve the performance of batteries for electric cars. Solid batteries, lithium-sulfur, lithium-air, graphene… there is no shortage of announcements of innovative “chemicals”. But this time, the team of German and Dutch scientists are not presenting us with a new chemical “recipe” but rather an innovative process for the manufacture of battery cells. Called “Spatial Atom Layer Deposition”, or SALD, it should allow, according to its designers, to provide cars that will be equipped with a range “well over 1,000 kilometers”.
As the name suggests, SALD is a patented process for applying thin-film coatings to a substrate. So thin, it’s about the thickness of an atom! While there are many fields of application, the one that interests us obviously concerns the manufacture of electrodes in battery cells.
The technology currently used by most lithium-ion cell manufacturers consists of mixing the active material of the electrodes (composed of nickel, manganese and cobalt for the cathode, and graphite for the anode) with a solvent, then deposit the paste thus obtained on conductive metal sheets. These then pass through ovens to evaporate the solvent before being rolled up or stacked to form the cells. This process is relatively expensive, energy intensive, slow and harmful to the environment because of the solvent used.
The new process was jointly developed by the Dutch company SoLayTec, the German Fraunhofer Institute and the Dutch research institute TNO. World-renowned scientists in the field of new technologies and more particularly those of batteries. The partners created the company SALD, based in Eindhoven to industrialize and commercialize their innovation.
These researchers have developed a technology to deposit the active material in the electrodes in the form of an ultrathin layer whose thickness is measured in nanometers. According to them, the capture of lithium ions in the electrodes takes place only on the surface of them and it would therefore not be necessary to have thicker electrodes.
A range of 2,000 km would be possible!
For equal volume or weight, this process would therefore greatly increase the surface area of the electrodes and consequently their capacity in terms of stored electricity, but also the charging speed. The team of scientists explains that cars equipped with batteries made with this technology have a range three times longer than that of current electric vehicles. And the charging speed would be multiplied by five.
“A small electric car would therefore have a range of at least 1,000 km and a large limousine could even travel 2,000 km without recharging,” claims Frank Verhage, CEO of SALD. “It’s not about setting a theoretical distance record. But we are saying that in the worst case, even adopting a sporty and dynamic driving style and running the air conditioning or heating, you could still have 20 to 30% of charge after 1,000 km, ”he adds. he. For him, a battery could be recharged to around 80% in ten minutes, and a full charge would last only twenty minutes.
The advantage of the new process is that it can be applied to the different chemistries of existing cells of the NMC or NCA type but also to those which are still in the development stage such as solid electrolyte batteries. Frank Verhage even explains that the SALD technology is similar to that towards which Tesla is moving. “When I listen to Elon Musk during the Battery Day he organized a few months ago, I understand that Tesla is based on the same principles: to develop the performance of batteries, you have to accelerate the flow of ions between them. electrodes and this enables revolutionary progress to be made, ”he explains. He even adds that the SALD technology could perfectly be applied to the manufacture of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells that Tesla intends to ship in Model 3s made in China.
And you, do you believe in this autonomy of 2,000 km?
Personally, I will not hide from you that this announcement leaves me a little skeptical because the capacity of a battery still depends on the ability of the electrodes to store as much lithium as possible during the charge and discharge cycles. But where will these ions find a place in these ultrathin electrodes? Finally, I am not a battery expert. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany are world-renowned and have already been the basis of many battery innovations. Those of TNO in the Netherlands are also recognized in the field. So much the better if I’m wrong. One thing is certain: innovations in battery technology are not about to dry up. And if in practice, they are slow to materialize in terms of the performance of electric vehicles placed on the market, it is for a very simple reason: between the development of a new technology and its industrialization and then its implementation. market, many years go by. Developed in the 1990s, the lithium-ion battery was not massively adopted until 20 years later …