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Battery technology for electric cars

by Jeremy Horne, Ph.D.

Before exploring what may lie in store for battery technology in electric vehicles, both all-electric and hybrids, we should review what makes up a battery in the first place. At that point we can begin understand the potentials and limitations of electron storage as a source of energy for propelling ourselves down the road. A battery simply is device that stores electrical charges based on the chemistry used in the materials making it up. The difference in electrical potential (the number of electrons in one substance) between two substances determines how much electricity there is. Place your tongue between two coins made of different metals, such as one made from copper and the other aluminum, and allow the two coins to touch. You will feel a slight tingle and an acid taste. This is a simple battery, and what you feel are electrons flowing from the nickel to the penny. Two metals, commonly immersed in an acidic liquid will act as attraction points, or electrodes, for charged particles, negative or positive. When a device or electrical resistance connects the two electrodes current, or electrons, flow. The Table of Periodic Elements is the basis for calculating electrical potential in materials. The principle of detecting current is rather ancient. About the year of 1936 in the village of Khuyut Rabbou'a, near Baghdad, Iraq was discovered a three piece set of objects consisting of a clay pot with a stopper, a coiled up sheet of cooper inside, and an iron rod that fit in the middle of the roll. In 1938, these artifacts came to the attention of Wilhelm Knig, the German director of the National Museum of Iraq, they being housed right in the same museum! They have assumed the appellation of Baghdad battery. Knig thought that the artifacts
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dated to the Parthian period (between 250 BCE and 224 CE), and that date hasn't been substantially challenged since [1]. While the assemblage could theoretically be used in conjunction with an electrolyte to for copper plating or to get a tingling sensation as in medical therapy or religious ceremonies, the actual ability to do has shown to be marginal. Nevertheless, it is intriguing to consider that this may have been the first battery. Alessandro Volta in 1792 invented a device, an electrochemical cell (called a pile) that could store charges, and in 1800 he placed a number of these in series to make what could truly be called the first battery, a means of storing electricity using the chemical properties of materials. The word pile means battery in Europe. It can be argued, however, that the Leyden jar, invented independently by German cleric Ewald Georg von Kleist on 11 October 1745 and by Dutch scientist Pieter van Musschenbroek of Leiden (Leyden) in 17451746 was the first battery, inasmuch as it, too could store charges. It has been known since classical Greek times that stroking an amber rod with cloth will produce sparks, and electrostatic generators were built to do this mechanically. In fact, "elektron"() is Greek for amber, and one easily can discern the word being the root word for our present day electricity. Even at the beginning of the 20th century Leyden jars were used extensively in early wireless telegraphy (spark transmitter) and in equipment for medical therapy. Now, capacitors are used. Electrostatic generators were created in the 18th century, often consisting a large wheel against which were placed soft substances, such as cloth, to scrape electrons off the wheel. By allowing this current from the generator to the Leyden jar, electrons would flow to electric plates to main until drawn off by coming into contact with an object. Today, this principle is known as capacitance, and one need only open up just about any electronic device to see the characteristic barrel-shaped
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objects that store electricity and marked often in microfarads (f). Typically, they are made of aluminum sheets interleaved with an insulator and coiled to result in the drum-like shape. There have been numerous designs for the Leyden jar, with most being constructed of a metallic foil coating both the inner and out part of a bottle's wall, with the two pieces never touching each other. A conductor, such as a chain, leads from the center of an insulated cap to the bottom of the jar and touches the inner foil. The exiting chain has a contact point to which is touched the discharge point of the electrostatic generator. The outer foil is grounded. When the outer and inner foil meet, there is a spark, hence electricity.

Water filled Leyden jar (left) and 1914 physics book drawing (right) [2]

Battery construction and operation There are two battery types, primary, or disposable, and secondary, or rechargeable. The first are ubiquitous in unsophisticated devices like flashlights, used one time, and are less expensive per battery. The second is the focal point of our interest, as they can be used numerous times after recharges, but they are considerably more costly. Numerous constructions and materials exist, nickel-metal hydride battery being used in most electric cars in 2009 [3], but, for our discussion,
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we consider the lithium-ion battery, as the former are being phased out. They are the same type of batteries used in laptop computers, cordless tools, and many electronic devices. The basic operation occurs in discharge by ionized lithium flowing from the anode (positive terminal made from lithium embedded in carbon-based materials, usually graphite) to the electrolyte (composed of lithium salts in organic solvents) through a plastic separator (a micro porous membrane) and then to the cathode (negative terminal made of lithium metal oxide or phosphate). Concurrently, the anode releases electrons to an electric circuit connected to the battery and is oxidized. Upon re-charging, the process is reversed, with the lithium ions traveling from the cathode to the anode via the separator and electrolyte. The electrolyte can be liquid, a gel, or solid polymer, with the greatest ease of ion flow being in the liquid then the gel, and lastly, the polymer.

Movement of charges in lithium ion battery [4]

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Energy usage varies with the type of vehicle, hybrid electric (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV), and straight electric (EV). HEVs use the battery for assisting the motor, while the PHEVs start out with the battery being the sole source of power and afterwards only as a power assist, and the latter is the only source of power. In all cases, a lithium-ion battery is used. The first two require only a shallow cycle (the battery not being fully charged) and the EV's a deep cycle (where you fully charge and can drain without damage, marine batteries being an example).

Battery performance for electric vehicle types [5]

There are four parameters that have been used to assess the appropriate battery for an application, these being energy/weight ratio, energy/volume ratio, power to weight ratio, and the cost in watt-hours (in the U.S., that being the watt-hours per dollar). While lead-acid produces more energy per dollar, it still is not suitable for EVs because of its power per unit weight and energy per volume in watt-hours, as the following chart illustrates.

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Energy/weig Energy/volu Battery Type ht Watthours/Kg Lead-acid NIckel-Zinc Lithium-Ion LithiumPolymer 30-40 60-70 160 130-200 me watthours/L 60-75 170 270 300

Power/wei Energy/US ght watt/Kg 180 900 1800 to 2800 $ watt-hr/$ 4-10 2-3 3-5 3-5

Lead polymer batteries are used in hybrid vehicles. [6]

Two other values often are considered, the self-discharge rate, meaning charge dissipation with age, and the cycle life of the batteries, or how many times the batteries can undergo a deep or complete discharge and still be re-charged [7]. Problems associated with lithium ion batteries In terms of efficiency energy per unit mass a lithium ion battery is much lower than for other power sources, such as petroleum. Weight is a major problem, the metals used to create the power being the major factor. Most of the weight of the vehicle is the battery (average of 333 kg 2009) [8] and motor, of course, most of the energy expended in powering that vehicle is just to transport the battery itself! A conventional mid-sized car, by contrast has the power train (v-6 engine 181 kg and transmission) not even half the vehicle weight. Perhaps the most limiting factor is the range; the average electric car is lucky be able to get 150 range [9]. That range is extended only in hybrids, such as a gas/natural gas/electric car. There are environmental costs, not the least of which is the energy to produce them, from the
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mining of the minerals, energy required in their manufacturing, and disposal. Recycling is not easy, as there are not many usable components. Lithium-ion batteries, while having good power density, have short cycle lives, with the battery degrading with each recharge. Even sitting on a shelf the battery degrades. Besides the cathode being somewhat toxic, there is a fire risk if the battery is punctured or not charged properly. Lithium-ion batteries don't like cold conditions, and in very cold places, inefficient heating devices have to be used just to keep the battery going. A central problem with lithium-ion batteries is their loss of capacity to store electricity over time. A minor scandal has erupted over Apple's sale of the very expensive iPods amounting to several hundreds of dollars with their failing a few short years because of battery's inability to be recharged [10]. Laptops have the same deficiency, and it is not inexpensive to replace this power source. Scientists have investigated the problem and discovered that the lithium ions carrying the electric charges were not only diminished but has accumulated on the anode, with a lessened concentration of lithium, as opposed to new batteries. One cannot reverse this problem and only can dispose of the battery. In addition, the nanostructures of the battery coarsen over time [11].

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References (Subject is indicated by URL accessed 7 October 2011) [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Battery [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leyden_jar [3] http://gigaom.com/cleantech/the-future-of-electric-vehicle-batteries-lithium-ion-china/ [4] Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles: The U.S. Value Chain, p. 15, https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.cggc.duke.edu/pdfs/Lithium-Ion_Batteries_10-510.pdf&embedded=true&chrome=true [5] Ibid., p. 12 [6] http://www.allaboutbatteries.com/electric_cars.html [7] http://www.allaboutbatteries.com/electric_cars.html [8] DOE - http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/Battery-and-Electric-Vehicle-Report-FINAL.pdf [9] http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/avta/light_duty/fsev/fsev_batteries.html [10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod_Mini [11] http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_batteries [12] http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/Battery-and-Electric-Vehicle-Report-FINAL.pdf [13] http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/flow-batteries-0606.html [14] http://www.nrel.gov/vehiclesandfuels/energystorage/ultracapacitors.html [15] http://www.nrel.gov/vehiclesandfuels/energystorage/ultracapacitors.html [16] http://arpae.energy.gov/ProgramsProjects/BEEST/TheAllElectronBatteryaquantumleapforwardi.aspx [17] http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/88/8847sci1.html, http://www.physorg.com/news176646131.html [18] http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/electromag/electricity/batteries/metalair.html [19] http://www.ict.fraunhofer.de/EN/coreco/AE/Batt_tech/Bat_dev/index.jsp

Resources (Subject is indicated by URL accessed 7 October 2011) http://www.sweethaven02.com/ModElec/electrical01/Lesson0402.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_battery http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_batteries

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlI1duF4K9o http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leyden_jar Batteries for Electric Cars - http://www.bcg.com/documents/file36615.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_vehicle_battery

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piezoelectricity#Mathematical_description http://inhabitat.com/new-crash-proof-electric-vehicle-battery-can-be-mass-produced/ http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/avta/light_duty/fsev/fsev_batteries.html http://spinnovation.com/sn/Batteries/Batteries_and_Ultracapacitors_for_Electric_Hybrid_and_Fu el_Cell_Vehicles.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_vehicle_battery http://www.bcg.com/documents/file36615.pdf http://www.iqpc.com/Event.aspx?id=473352

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