Earlier this year, researchers at Harvard University revealed that they have developed a new battery that will revolutionise the electric vehicle (EV) market. With all manufacturers now racing headlong into EV development, what difference will this battery make, what other solutions are being developed and what are the markets saying?
The car market is huge, approximately 70 million vehicles are sold globally each year. With tighter government restrictions on emissions and a consumer consciousness on environmental matters, new generations of drivers are willing to pay extra to get behind the EV wheel. Global sales of EVs rose by 43% in 2020 to £120 billion, despite overall sales dropping by a fifth during the Coronavirus pandemic. Unsurprisingly, Tesla pipped all other competitors to the top spot, but they were closely followed by Volkswagen.
General Motors (GM) is investing $27 billion into EV development, followed by Ford at $22 billion which just illustrates the scale of the competition. Many manufacturers, like GM, are even setting goals to stop the production of petrol cars altogether.
At the moment, EVs (and most other electric gadgets) are powered by lithium-ion batteries. They’re formed of certain elements including carbon or graphite, metal oxide and lithium salt. These elements make up positive and negative electrodes, which combined with the electrode, produce a current to power the car. But they have their drawbacks: dendrites. Imagine dendrites as a lithium tree, snaking through the battery. The branches will grow and eventually pierce the battery, causing it to degrade and eventually expire.
But researchers at Harvard have now developed a new type of battery: lithium-metal, which prevents dendrites from occurring and also creates more structural stability. This means the batteries last much longer.
In their press release, Harvard researchers said: “This battery technology could increase the lifetime of electric vehicles to that of the gasoline cars—10 to 15 years—without the need to replace the battery. With its high current density, the battery could pave the way for electric vehicles that can fully charge within 10 to 20 minutes.”
Batteries for EVs is one of the manufacturers greatest costs - they can each cost thousands of dollars and still they are flawed with a relatively short lifespan. This, plus the sheer weight of them makes them cumbersome and less than ideal. But the development of the lithium-metal battery could see manufacturers reaping huge savings.
But this new battery is in early-stage development and won’t be seen under our bonnets any time soon. So what developments are happening now?
For consumers, one of the greatest drawbacks of a purely electric vehicle is the fear of running out of charge partway through a journey. No one wants to set off for a road trip and have to plan in advance where to stop to re-charge, or worse still be stranded on a hard shoulder. But Israeli company StoreDot has developed a solution: a lithium-ion battery that is capable of being fully charged in five minutes.
This five-minute charge requires a much higher-powered charger than used today, however using available infrastructure, StoreDot aims to deliver 100 miles of charge to a car battery in five minutes by 2025. These batteries are being produced on a mass production line already, and show early-stage commercial viability.
StoreDot started small, demonstrating their extreme charging technology in phones, scooters and drones first and now are showcasing their technologies to car markers. They were named Bloomberg New Energy Finance Pioneer in 2020 and have investors from Daimler, BP, and Samsung.
But what are the markets saying? Last year, Workhorse (WKHS) saw gains of over 551% and Tesla’s (TSLA) shares climbed 740%. But this is nothing compared to Blink Charging (BLNK) who have seen their gains skyrocket by 1,740%. And this is just the tip of the EV iceberg. We’re seeing an industry in rapid change and growth and no sense of it slowing down.
There’s a science to redefining the car market, and a science to being right.