Life-cycle analysis of batteries will help boost electric vehicle uptake

A new project which has developed innovative strategies for producing cleaner, safer and better performing lithium-polymer batteries is a promising step towards increasing the uptake of electric vehicles, say researchers.

The research team behind the European Union (EU)-funded SOMABAT project demonstrated the feasibility of using recyclable and synthetic materials for lithium-polymer battery components.

Lithium-polymer batteries are an advanced type of battery in which the electrolyte is a solid, polymer composite rather than a liquid like conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The project team also investigated new ways of recycling the different components of the battery and performed life-cycle analyses.

SOMABAT project manager Leire Zubizarreta of the Instituto Tecnológico de la Energía in Spain said: “We conducted a complete analysis, from the raw materials to the final battery, to try to identify the processes that are not environmentally friendly, nor sustainable”.

Using the new synthetic and recyclable materials significantly reduces the likelihood of the battery short circuiting, overcharging or over-discharging as well as the impact following critical failures such as crushing the battery.

According to the project team, such improvements in safety are particularly relevant to manufacturers of electric vehicles.

“Users must feel that they are safe in these vehicles. It is well-known that some explosions could be related to the lithium batteries of electric cars. However, batteries that do not contain free liquids are safer,” explains Zubizarreta.

The team also claims that cost is a key issue to greater electric vehicle uptake, and safer batteries are expected to reduce the amount of resources spent on ensuring a vehicle’s safety.

Leigh Stringer

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