The cost, which is still considered “elitist,” and the old question of battery life are the main deterrents for buyers when it comes to purchasing an electric car. This fear, combined with the novelty and innovation factor that seemed to limit the “electric question” to a few, is now a sentiment that has persisted but is beginning to lack of solid foundations thanks to the growing number of charging stations.
This doesn’t mean that electric cars cannot be improved. In fact, there is much discussion about the range of batteries and how it could be enhanced by making them more efficient and less expensive. In a market that is gaining momentum, such as batteries one, it is also being recognized that battery range is a “dead space” that doesn’t channel energy.
According to electrochemist Euan McTurk of “Plug Life Consulting,” the battery must be made of 100% active material: every part of the battery pack should store energy, which in practice translates to larger batteries that would require an even heavier structure to support them. The weight of batteries and, therefore, of cars is the biggest challenge for a designer.
Batteries typically use cell modules that are connected in packs. “Standard modules may fit well within some packs but leave large areas of ‘wasted’ space in others. Wasted space equals dead weight,” says Richie Frost, founder, and CEO of electric vehicle technology company Sprint Power.
The first companies to make moves in improving battery space are Tesla and Chinese companies like BYD and CATL. According to Tesla, the development of a type of adhesive that acts as a fireproofing material could make the entire battery pack load bearing, eliminating 370 parts of the vehicle. This would result in a 10% reduction in total weight and a 7% reduction in battery cost per kilowatt-hour, ultimately leading to an increase in range.
From Shenzhen, BYD is developing cell-to-pack technology, where cells are directly inserted into the pack instead of being assembled first into modules, maximizing the number of cells that can be accommodated. They have also developed a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery with greater chemical stability and lower production costs, although it has a lower energy density which could potentially be mitigated by increasing the number of insertable cells.
CATL is the world’s largest producer of batteries for electric vehicles, with a 33% market share, and they offer cell-to-chassis technology where the battery, chassis, and lower parts of the electric vehicles are combined into a single structural power unit. By compacting more cells within each vehicle, the range could be increased. This could enable a range of up to 1,000 km on a single charge, a 40% improvement compared to current technological estimates.