Electric vehicles consist of batteries that are conventionally known to be able to perform one function, i.e., to supply power without having any role towards the vehicle’s load-bearing structure. In this manner, even though batteries constitute a significant part of a vehicle’s weight, they do not have many parts in its structural integrity.
Researchers, after years of research, have been successful at making structural batteries a reality. Structural batteries are the ones that can be integrated into a vehicle’s body, resulting in a battery that is basically ‘massless’ and can still store energy. This is a significant breakthrough in the Electric Vehicles Battery Market as the newly developed battery is several times better than all its previous versions with a great malfunction performance, energy density of 24 Wh/kg, and stiffness of 25 GPa.
There has been a long history of constant research behind this feat. In the year 2007, attempts were made to produce a structural battery. However, the project came to be a failure as the electrical and mechanical properties of the prototype were abysmally lacking. Since then, with the efforts of several research teams collectively, in 2018, the discovery of carbon fibers with excellent power storage capacity was made. It was referred to as Physics World and was considered one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of that year.
All previous attempts concerning structural batteries either had excellent mechanical properties or good electrical properties. It is only now that researchers have made a battery using carbon fiber that has both the benefits of competitive energy storage capacity and rigidity. The new battery has a negative electrode which consists of carbon fiber with a positive electrode which is made up of aluminum foil coated with lithium iron phosphate. Both electrode types are kept separated by a fiberglass fabric in an electrolyte matrix.
Even though the battery has a very low energy density, it still has much lighter than its lithium-ion counterparts. This reduces the overall energy requirements while making the battery’s stiffness compatible with other vehicle manufacturing materials.
The research was taken up by the team with the aim to investigate the material architecture and separator thickness. The team expects that this study will bring forward much more exciting developments in the coming years. The researchers reveal that if further improvements are made on the batter, it could even have a stiffness of 75 GPa and density of 75 Wh/kg. This would lead to the production of such smartphones, laptops, and other consumer electronics, which have half of the weight that they have today.
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