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Battery breakthrough doubles lifespan of electric car batteries

Engineers have discovered a way to more than double the lifespan of batteries used in smartphones and electric cars.

The battery breakthrough was successfully demonstrated by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia, who increased the lifespan of a lithium-ion (li-ion) battery from several hundred charge/discharge cycles, to more than 1,000.

“Our process will increase the lifespan of batteries in many things, from smartphones and laptops, to power tools and electric vehicles,” said Professor Lianzhou Wang from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

“This new approach features a minimal protective coating at a scalable process, paving the way for the deployment of these abundant high-voltage materials for next-generation high energy batteries.”

The method works by adding an atom-thin “epitaxial” layer of lab-grown crystals to the surface of the battery’s high-voltage cathode in order to significantly reduce the corrosion that takes place during charging cycles.

This technique also means the battery requires less precious metals, which are required in current li-ion batteries used commercially in order to prevent the cathode from eroding.

The method was published in the journal Nature Communications.

“New methods like the use of epitaxial surface layers to improve the cycling efficiency and cycle life of high-voltage cathodes are vital in the quest to improve the energy density of Li-ion batteries,” said Dr Rosalind Gummow, a technical specialist from the R&D firm VSPC, which is working on developing and commercializing advanced cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

“The methods developed here also have potential to stabilize other cathode materials that degrade rapidly with cycling.”

The discovery comes in the same week that Tesla’s former chief technology officer said that the lifespans of electric car batteries need to improve significantly in order to realize true mass adoption of the vehicle type.

Speaking at the CERAWeek energy event, JB Traubel said customer requirements would be a minimum of 15 years “in most cases” without needing to replace it.

“I think battery life will probably track the life of the vehicle life,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s less likely that people will place a new battery in an old car.”

Professor Wang said the new li-ion battery could be ready for market within the next couple of years.

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