Swiss claim Li-ion battery for 1.000 km EV range
Swiss battery technology company, Innolith, claims a major breakthrough in lithium-ion batteries that could give an electric car a range of 1.000 km or more. The ingenious solution is said to be in the non-flammable organic electrolyte, making it possible to build stable batteries with densities up to 1.000 Wh/kg. That’s four times more than a current Tesla battery.
Innolith’s co-founder and chairman, Alan Greenshields, explains the principle to The Verge. “We take out the organic materials that make the solvent highly inflammable and replace it with an inorganic substance that is more stable and less flammable.”
Nothing to burn, no fire risk
“When there is nothing to burn, you eliminate the fire risk and secondly you get rid of the most reactive components in the system, which makes it easier to build a battery you can pack in a lot of energy without the thing becoming unstable.”
How much energy density you can pack into a battery is measured in Watt-hours per kilogram. Tesla, for instance, uses for its Model 3 a newly with Panasonic developed ‘2170’ battery cell with a density of 250 Wh/kg and says it will push that to 330 Wh/kg. On the other hand, the US Department of Energy funds research into a 500 Wh/kg high-density battery.
So what the Swiss start-up claims is huge. Tesla’s most powerful batteries today promise a range of 330 miles (530 km). Car designer Henrik Fisker who made his Fisker car company re-emerge from its ashes, bets on a 500 mile (804 km) range electric car with a solid-state battery by 2021.
In a solid-state battery the electrolyte is made out of ‘dry’ conductive materials instead of (inflammable) fluids. Worldwide a lot of research is done in this field, but no ‘solid-state batteries’ have made it into production yet.
Belgian research centre IMEC claimed in March 2019 it has developed a prototype of a solid-state battery, where the conductor starts as liquid but becomes a solid material. It would speed up production processes and allow EV battery ranges up to 600 km.
Solid-state was always hyped to be the Holy Grail of batteries and car manufacturer Toyota, for instance, has announced a production-ready solid-state battery for 2020. But the Swiss stay with the liquid electrolyte.
Licensing the technology
Like the Belgian, IMEC researchers say, “solid-state technology is difficult because a fluid conductor creeps into every tiny hole, a solid electrolyte can’t, unless it starts as a liquid and becomes solid afterwards.” For the Swiss it doesn’t need to become solid and it keeps the advantage of existing production processes to be easier to adapt.
Innolith, that emerged from the remains of former Swiss battery maker Alevo going bankrupt in 2017, says it will start an first pilot production in its R&D facilities in Bruchsal, Germany, followed by partnerships with major battery and car manufacturers through licensing.
Eventually, Alevo’s former Chief Technology Officer, Alan Greenshields, current chairman and former COO, Sergy Buchin, current CEO, bought the intellectual property and the R&D facilities in Bruchal and started a new company based in Basel, Switzerland.
Grid-scale battery built
The company says it not only relies on lab results, but has already demonstrated the breakthrough character of its technology by building the first non-organic ‘Grid Scale Power Battery’ that is used in the US by grid managing company, PJM, to stabilize frequency.
“The chemistry used in this battery has been proven to operate for more than 55.000 full depth of discharge cycles, which is between 10 and 100 times the maximum number of cycles of existing Li-ion batteries in use today”, Innolith claims on its website.
For the next generation EV batteries, Greenshields and Buchin say it will likely take three to five years for the full development and commercialization. That means the battery won’t be ready available in products on the market before 2022 at the earliest.