New Lithium-metal ‘recipe’ increases lifespan of EV batteries to record level

A group of scientists from the US Department of Energy (DoE)’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has developed new battery chemistry with the potential to increase the lifespan of batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs).

PNNL claims the lithium-metal they have developed has the ability to increase both the lifespan and the capacity of EV batteries. In terms of capacity, the researchers claim they have doubled the amount of energy the lithium-metal battery is able to hold compared to models of the battery technology currently being tested elsewhere and in the market.

In a test conducted by the DoE lab, the new battery technology lasted for 600 cycles and retained 76% of its initial capacity after these cycles. In previous tests of the technology, lithium-metal only lasted a fraction of the time of today’s lithium-ion batteries. The breakthrough means lithium-metal can now be fully charged and discharged 600 times before it dies. The development would in turn help increase the range of EVs in which the lithium-metal batteries would be fitted in.

While the lithium-ion batteries used in EVs today hold less energy, they last longer, typically at least 1,000 cycles. But vehicles won’t go as far on one charge as they would with a lithium-metal battery developed by PNNL, according to a statement released by PNNL.

Studies conducted two years ago on lithium-metal batteries achieved 50 cycles which researchers at PNNL increased first to 200 and now 600 cycles, says the national lab in a press statement.

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In addition to increasing the capacity and lifespan of the battery technology, researchers at PNNL claim their new battery is lighter and less expensive compared to the ones already on the market. This would also help reduce the prices of EVs they are used in, a development that would see widespread adoption of smart mobility which is required to meet net-zero goals.

To increase the lifespan of the battery, researchers instead of using anodes with more lithium, used thin strips of lithium, just 20 microns wide, far thinner than the width of a human hair.

The research was conducted through the DoE’s Innovation Center for Battery500 Consortium designed to bring together researchers from various sectors to develop EV technologies that are energy-intensive, less expensive, and lighter.

Jie Xiao, a PNNL scientist, said: “Many people have thought that thicker lithium would enable the battery to cycle longer. But that is not always true. There is an optimized thickness for each lithium-metal battery depending on its cell energy and design.”

Find out more about how researchers at PNNL achieved the breakthrough.