Creating Climate-Immune Electric Vehicles with a Self-Heating Battery

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Scientists from Penn State University have created a new kind of battery for electric vehicles. This new battery not only has rapid charging power, it can also self-heat. Because of this remarkable feature, the battery can charge quickly regardless of how cold the temperatures might get.

While traditional lithium-ion batteries cannot quickly charge if the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the new battery is of a much sturdier breed. The new model is capable of fully charging in 15 minutes at any temperature — even when it drops as low as negative 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Electric vehicles are popular on the west coast because the weather is conducive. Once you move them to the east coast or Canada, then there is a tremendous issue. We demonstrated that the batteries can be rapidly charged independently of outside temperature.”

Xiao-Guang Yang, assistant research professor in mechanical engineering, Penn State.

The battery incorporates a thin nickel foil into its design. One end of the foil is attached to the negative terminal; the other extends outside the cell, creating a third terminal. A temperature sensor is attached to a switch.This allows electrons to flow through the nickel foil, so they they can still complete the circuit even when the temperature of the device is below the ambient temperature. The activity of the electrons rapidly heats up the nickel foil, warming the inside of the battery. As the battery’s internal temperature rises above the outside temperature, the switch flips and electric current can quickly flow into the battery.

One of the most impressive features of the cell is that it is capable of switching from heating to charging automatically. Another is its sheer durability. When tested, scientists determined the prototype was capable of withstanding 4,500 cycles of 15-minute charging at freezing temperatures, while suffering only a 20% capacity loss. For the layperson, this mean that you could drive roughly 280,000 miles an enjoy a lifetime of 12.5 years.

By comparison, a conventional battery simply didn’t match up. Tested under the same conditions, the battery lost 20% of its capacity in a mere 50 charging cycles. Scientists are now moving on to commercialization of the new battery, which they believe could significantly help encourage growth in the electric vehicle market.

One Response

  1. David Mullins

    Couldn’t a similar heater be built into the entire battery pack? This would serve the same purpose and keep battery construction much simpler. For instance, if a battery pack was made up of 100 cells, the entire charging system is dependant upon 100 heaters and 100 switches all heating and switching before the batteries can charge. Some cells on the edge of the system may take longer to self-heat, delaying the charging of the entire system and allowing cells already switched over to cool. Once all the batteries switch over to charging mode, what will happen if conditions cause the batteries to cool, again (heat dissipation due to charging is less than heat loss)? By controlling cell temperature on a system level, more application specific variables, such as these, can be engineered into a better solution.


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