If we are to ever realize our fully-electric, emissions-free future, we’re going to need to invest a lot of money in a familiar piece of tech like battery technology.
Most electric cars today employ lithium-ion batteries, which are similar to those found in smartphones. But with customers demanding longer ranges, faster charging, and greener, more durable batteries, what does the future of electric car battery technology look like?
The Future of Electric Vehicle Batteries
The electric car battery of the future could come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In a competition to manufacture the cheapest, lightest, most energy dense, and longest-lasting battery packs, R&D departments around the world are experimenting with a variety of technologies.
Here’s how future electric vehicle batteries might look:
- The chemistry of batteries.
The chemical makeup of electric car batteries will undoubtedly change in the future.
The majority of electric car batteries are made up of a mix of metals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Following its success in a variety of consumer products such as smartphones and laptops, the ultra-smart lithium battery packs became the most prevalent form of electric car battery in 1991.
Lithium battery packs for cars are three times more efficient and last three times longer than the lead-acid 12V battery present in all traditional cars.
However, they are not without flaws. Lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide is the most widely used lithium-ion battery chemistry (NMC). However, researchers have discovered that lithium iron phosphate batteries (LFP) are both cheaper and safer, as well as having higher thermal and chemical stability.
- Range of the battery
You’ve probably heard of ‘range anxiety’ if you’ve ever owned an electric vehicle or know someone who has. That’s how an EV owner feels when they’re not sure if they’ll make it to the next charging station.
The median electric range was only 68 miles when the first mass-market EVs were introduced over a decade ago. Of course, this figure was only possible on paper, under ideal driving conditions, and (most likely) with the heating switched off.
- Batteries that are structural.
There’s a lot of talk about ‘energy density,’ but structural batteries could be another method to reduce weight while extending an electric vehicle’s range.
The essential notion is that batteries may serve as both a power source and a structural component. This could eliminate the need for other structural components, instead depending on the battery’s strength.
Tesla currently constructs battery packs by assembling a series of cells into modules, which are then assembled into a battery pack and inserted into the car chassis.
All electric vehicle batteries are rated for a certain number of ‘cycles.’ The time it takes for a battery to fully charge and discharge is referred to as a battery cycle.
The battery will degrade over time as a result of frequent charging and discharging cycles. This reduces the car’s maximum range and the time between charges. Most battery manufacturers provide a five- to eight-year warranty, however the average electric car battery is estimated to last 10 to 20 years before it needs to be replaced.