Between limited mileage range and mining of rare earth minerals, battery issues have been a major sticking point for widespread adoption of electric vehicles. But a Tesla research team is working on a battery design that could last a whopping 100 years.
World-renowned battery technology expert Jeff Dahn works at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. So, Tesla started its Advanced Battery Research division at Dalhousie in 2016 to partner with Dahn and his colleagues and graduate students.
Dahn, research colleague Michael Metzger and PhDs in the program all worked on a paper with the memorable title “Li[Ni0.5Mn0.3Co0.2]O2 as a Superior Alternative to LiFePO4 for Long-Lived Low Voltage Li-Ion Cells,” which was recently published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society. The paper explains the potential of a nickel-based battery chemistry. Like lithium ion phosphate batteries (the LiFePO4 in the paper’s title), the new technology holds a charge longer and has higher energy density than lithium ion batteries. Since the new technology requires fewer battery cells, it helps solve problems of material shortages and brings down the cost of the EV.
The use of nickel will up the new battery’s energy density. The paper noted that in an ideal situation where the battery maintained a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), its battery life could last more than a century. The new design could work with little or no cobalt. This is key because cobalt mining can lead to polluted water, air and soil, and miners with respiratory and other health problems.
In the quest to develop the perfect battery, energy density is key. Less density means a bigger battery pack is required to go a given distance. Higher density batteries take up less space in a car and let you drive farther. The reason it’s so hard to give up fossil fuels is that they provide such high energy density—more than 100 times the density of manmade batteries invented thus far.
Tesla has opted to continue partnering with Dahn and his group of fellow geniuses through 2026. Here’s to a future with lower-cost, more efficient electric vehicles.
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