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The innovation could have significant potential for the growing electric car market, where consumer appeal has been somewhat limited due to the need to recharge at frequent intervals. New battery technology being pioneered by the EU-funded LISSEN project addresses this by offering three times higher energy density and enabling increased driving ranges, making electric cars more practical and attractive. For Europe’s burgeoning electric car industry, this means increased competitiveness.
There are potential environmental benefits for Europe as well. Electric vehicles emit no tailpipe CO2 and other pollutants such as NOx, NMHC and PM at the point of use. Broad adoption of renewable and carbon-free energy sources in the transport sector could help the EU meet its targets on CO2 emissions reduction. Electric cars also provide quiet and smooth operation and consequently create less noise and vibration.
‘Market predictions foresee several million electric cars on the road by the year 2030, with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and electrical vehicles expected to account for 39 % of new sales by 2035,’ says project coordinator Riccardo Carelli from Consorzio Sapienza Innovazione, Italy. ‘The success of this market however depends on the availability of efficient batteries to power these electric engines.’
There is significant potential for longer-lasting rechargeable batteries in other applications as well, ranging from laptops and cameras to power tools. Even renewable source storage facilities make use of rechargeable batteries. The LISSEN project therefore taps into a market that is full of potential: the global rechargeable batteries market was worth EUR 8 billion in 2008 and is predicted to top EUR 28 billion by the end of 2015.
‘Steady growth has been estimated at between 10 and 20 % annually, mostly driven by lithium (Li)-ion batteries,’ adds Carelli. ‘The global market for Li-ion batteries in light duty vehicles is predicted to grow from EUR 1.2 billion in 2012 to almost EUR 22 billion in 2020.’
The LISSEN project, which was completed at the end of August 2015, covered all aspects of battery production, from investigating new materials to testing large-scale prototypes. 3D geometric models were used to represent material properties. This revealed that the used of modified organic solutions and stable ionic liquid electrolytes could reduce environmental problems associated with sulphur cathode dissolution, while without lithium metal, the batteries would be safer to use.
The new battery developed by LISSEN consists of a silicon-carbon composite anode and a nano-structured lithium sulphide-carbon composite cathode. ‘Our efforts in this project were directed toward the replacement of all present battery components with materials that have higher performance in terms of energy, power, reliability and safety,’ explains Carelli. Prototypes are currently under development at the battery testing centres and industrials partners involved in the LISSEN consortium, where scalability issues and fabrication aspects are now being studied.