One of the biggest limits of electric vehicles is range. The cleanly-powered cars can only go so far on today’s batteries without recharging, but German research institute Fraunhofer is testing a new battery design that could afford drivers the peace of mind they have in gasoline-fueled vehicles. The researchers are working towards a range of 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles.
The batteries in electric cars today are comprised of hundreds or thousands of battery cells, and each one requires its own housing and terminals and cables to connect it to the vehicle. Sensors for monitoring take up space too. These added components use up 50 percent of the battery pack space. Fraunhofer’s design, called EMBATT, frees up space. They decided to stack large cells on top of each other, eliminating housing and contacting so more batteries can fit in the vehicle. They’ve run some initial tests in the laboratory, and so far it looks like this new design could offer electric cars almost double the range they have today.
The researchers took inspiration from bipolar plates in fuel cells. The plates cover fuel cells on both sides and collect the electricity the cell generates; one plate side acts as a cathode and the other as an anode. Fraunhofer decided to replace battery housings and connectors with plates similar to those in fuel cells. This new design is simpler and makes more electricity accessible faster. It also reduces the resistance caused by electrical connections in today’s car batteries.
Fraunhofer’s bipolar plates are comprised of metallic tape coated with ceramic storage materials on both sides. Project manager Mareike Wolter says they are easy to manufacture and have a long life.