Are EV batteries getting lighter? Discover the latest technology
The development of EV batteries has come a significant distance when compared to the earlier models from only a decade ago. Advancements in battery technology have led to increased energy densities and longer driving ranges, with indications of ranges tripling over the past decade. One aspect that remains a challenge is the weight of these batteries, however there are positive and exciting indications that the research and development within this field have managed to find commercially viable solutions.
Battery Weight in Electric Vehicles
The weight of EV batteries plays a crucial role in the overall performance and efficiency of electric vehicles, where a heavier battery pack requires more energy to propel the vehicle, reducing its driving range. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the added weight also affects the vehicle’s handling and agility, making it less responsive to drive. This may be particularly noticeable to drivers transitioning to an EV for the first time.
One of the primary factors influencing the weight of EV batteries is the battery chemistry within them. Different battery chemistries have varying energy densities, which directly impact the weight of the battery pack. For example, lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density compared to alternatives such as nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride, meaning they can store greater energy in a smaller amount of mass, therefore being more suitable for electric vehicles.
While lighter EV batteries offer numerous advantages, there are several challenges in their development, most notably the maintenance of safety and reliability. Battery manufacturers must ensure that reducing weight does not compromise the integrity of the battery pack or increase the risk of thermal runaway or other safety hazards. Rigorous testing and quality control processes are necessary to ensure that lighter batteries meet the required safety standards, many of which allow little room for major design changes.
Another challenge lies in the cost of developing and producing lighter EV batteries. The research and development required to optimise battery chemistry, design, and construction can be extremely costly, without even considering the wider manufacturing picture. Additionally, lightweight materials used in battery manufacturing may come at a higher price, especially if there are new advanced materials involved. Fortunately, as the demand for electric vehicles continues to grow, economies of scale and advancements in technology are expected to drive down costs in the long run.
Innovations & Research
The pursuit for lighter EV batteries has led to numerous innovations and ongoing research in the field. One approach is the use of advanced materials, such as carbon fibre composites, in battery construction. Earlier this year, a team of research scientists in South Korea successfully developed a carbon fibre paper infused with lithium as a new way to integrate a lithium-metal anode into a battery. Sung-Ho Lee, head of the Carbon Composite Research Centre stated that the “proposed anode material is an important achievement that can accelerate the commercialisation of durable and lightweight lithium metal batteries”.
Solid-state batteries are another potential solution that use solid electrolytes rather than liquid ones, offering higher energy densities and potentially lighter battery packs. Toyota has recently made an exciting announcement regarding their development of solid-state technology in collaboration with Panasonic, which aims to halve the size, cost and weight of their EV batteries. With ambitions to commercialise this technology by 2027, Toyota hope their breakthrough can successfully mitigate durability challenges that have previously arisen with solid-state batteries.
Another solution for improving battery power density and therefore pose the opportunity to reduce overall weight, is the introduction of silicon as a supplement or replacement for graphite in battery anodes. This technology has been developed by Group14 Technologies and Sila Nanotechnologies, who have worked together in order to produce the ‘Titan Silicon nano-composite anode material’. Their findings have already garnered the confidence of major manufacturers including Porsche and Mercedes-Benz.
Researchers are also exploring the integration of nanotechnology in battery design. Nanomaterials can enhance the performance and efficiency of batteries while reducing their weight. By incorporating nanotechnology, battery manufacturers can potentially develop lighter and more powerful battery packs for electric vehicles. This technology is still a way off commercialisation, however there are hopes that the giant automotive manufacturers will adopt nanotech following more research and positive findings.
The weight of EV batteries is a critical factor in the development and advancement of electric vehicles. Lighter batteries contribute to increased driving range, improved performance, and reduced costs. While there are challenges in developing lighter EV batteries, ongoing innovations and research in advanced materials, solid-state batteries, and nanotechnology offer promising solutions. As technology continues to evolve, it is expected that EV batteries will become increasingly lighter, further enhancing the appeal and viability of electric vehicles.
At Elmelin, we develop EV battery solutions designed to improve safety and reliability whilst ensuring performance remains at the highest level. Find out more about our automotive solutions or get in touch for a friendly chat about how we can help you.