In popular culture today, the electric vehicle (EV) image tends to be that of a luxury vehicle. Something good for the environment but restricted by cost for those capable of affording it. Unfortunately, this contrasts with the general awareness of the pollution of everyday internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and the demand for an affordable EV that the average person can afford.
The driving factor behind the cost of EVs is the batteries. One of the materials that are required to manufacture EV batteries is graphite, which is quite expensive and limits the amount of EVs that could be produced. Recently, new material has been developed and trialled by the University of Berkeley to help curb the cost and improve range and charge/discharge rates. This is how HOS-PFM could be the major development in EV technology to bring sustainable cars to the masses. HOS-PFM is a conductive polymer coating that transfers both ions and electrons at the same time, thereby increasing battery life and charging speeds.
Right now, EV battery electrodes are manufactured using graphite. The reason is that graphite doesn’t wear down quickly and provides a reasonable charge/discharge rate. However, graphite is an expensive and rare material that, while essential, drives up the cost of EV batteries and thus influences the total price of the EV for the end consumer.
Scientists at the Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory recognized this problem. They took on the task of developing a new way of producing EV batteries that can lower the price to a reasonable level for average consumers. They tested their new material using aluminum silicon electrodes, which are abundant but not feasible on their own for EV batteries because they wear down quickly after a few cycles.
During experiments at the Advanced Light Source and Molecular Foundry, the researchers demonstrated that the HOS-PFM significantly reduced the wear on the silicon-aluminum electrodes, so much so that the cycle rate was on par with today’s standard for electrodes. These results are incredibly promising on their own but combined with the fact that HOS-PFM can ensure high battery stability, maintain high charge/discharge rates, and work as a battery adhesive that can extend the lifespan from 10 years to 15, the material has the potential to revolutionize the EV battery industry.
While industrial and commercial vehicles are the greatest contributors to road emissions, personal-use vehicles represent a sizeable portion of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. People want to know that their personal decisions mean something in the transition toward clean energy.
To make that a reality, new technology must be developed to bring prices into the realistic range for everyday people. Lower-cost batteries could be the catalyst to bring everyday people on board to the new future we are moving towards. Finally, HOS-PFM allows the use of up to 80% silicon electrodes, which increases energy density compared to graphite electrodes by at least 30%.
These developments will hopefully accelerate the EV market forward as the next plan for the Berkeley researchers is to scale up the manufacturing of HOS-PFM.