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Consortium Plans to Triple Specific Energy in Lithium-Metal Batteries

22 August 2016

The effort to improve the performance of lithium batteries for electric vehicles (EV) continues with the latest announcement coming from the U.S. battery consortium -- Battery500. Led by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the battery consortium plans to significantly improve the performance of lithium-metal batteries for EVs and smart grid storage. Under a $50 million project—over 5 years-- the consortium plans to triple the energy stored in lithium batteries. Specifically, the consortium intends to build a battery pack with a specific energy of 500 watt-hours per kilogram (WH/kg), almost tripling 170-200 WH/kg in today’s EV batteries. The goal is to achieve 1000 stable charge/discharge cycles at a cost of $100/kWh. The project is led by PNNL researcher Jason Zhang who is focused on improving electrodes and electrolytes.

While the negative electrode will be lithium-metal, the consortium researchers are evaluating the material for high-density cathode. Jun Liu, Battery500 director and materials scientist at PNNL, says new electrolytes will be developed for this battery so that they are compatible with the metal anode and high capacity cathode materials. Regarding the operating temperature range, the consortium executive says it will satisfy the need for EVs.

With the energy density of the batteries more than doubled, the driving range of the EVs will also be more than doubled when the same weight of the batteries are used, according to the researchers.

“The exact driving range, however, will also depend on the characteristic of the cars in which the consortium’s batteries are installed,” adds Liu.

The consortium intends to deliver prototype battery cells with different capacities during the period of this project, which is five years. To reach the goal, the scientists believe that the major hurdles are lithium loss and degradation of both the lithium-metal anode and cathode materials.

According to the White House, the Battery500 consortium will receive up to $10 million a year, over five years from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. To make smaller, lighter and longer lasting batteries at low cost, this multi-disciplinary consortium includes researchers from DOE national labs, universities and industry. Besides PNNL, other partners are Brookhaven National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Binghamton University (State University of New York), Stanford University, University of California, San Diego, University of Texas at Austin, University of Washington and IBM as an advisory board member.

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