“Using an innovative system design and new chemical processes, we want to make an ultra-efficient battery that takes up less space and weighs less. Our idea is to make the battery modular and scal-able so that it can be used in trucks and buses as well. This will also make it easy to repair, because you only have to replace the defective part and not the entire bat-tery,” says Assistant Professor Corneliu Barbu from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Aarhus University.
He’s heading a new project, which may have a major impact on a full European transition to electrified transport.
The idea is to design the battery as a carpet of modular blocks installed under the seats in the car. This will make it possible to maintain a low weight, while at the same time providing greater safety, lower production costs, and significantly more efficient heat management.
“We want to digitalise heat control, and make it intelligent. It is a key element. It takes huge energy transfer to recharge so quickly, and therefore a crucial engineering challenge in our research is to secure a sufficiently high level of safety,” he adds.
Part of the project is for the researchers to develop the charging stations for the new battery. They expect to be able to take their first outing with a prototype of the new battery in just four years, and that it will be ready for commercial production in seven years.
This will mean that the project could have an impact on a full transition to a green transport sector in Europe, and Denmark could play an important role in the electric car industry together with the other European partners, says Corneliu Barbu:
“The transition will definitely take place over the 2020s. There’s fierce competition to take the lead in battery technology in the motor industry, but it’s not something you can do alone. We believe we’ve got a lot to offer by pooling our knowledge across disciplines and European universities. The design proposal we’re working on is extremely innovative in both materials and electronics, and we’ll be sending all the data from the batteries up into the cloud and using artificial intelligence to create optimum performance and control.”
The researchers will use advanced digital twin technology to develop the battery. This will enable them to avoid errors, make better electronic and computer-technology design decisions, and identify the best choice of material.
“We have great expertise in digital twins, power electronics and battery management systems at Aarhus University. This gives us a significant competitive advantage in the development race,” says Corneliu Barbu.
Sustainability is an essential part of the researchers’ work on the next generation of batteries. The goal is to make a much smaller carbon footprint than is possible with the batteries in today’s electric cars.
“We’re looking at the entire battery lifecycle, from raw materials to industrial production, distribution, long operation-al lifetime and then recycling. A circular-economy design perspective is absolutely essential to the project. It’s about creating a cycle of resources where we can reuse raw materials or the entire bat-tery in new applications. This is good for both the environment and the end user’s finances, because the battery is both greener and cheaper to produce,” says Corneliu Barbu.
The project has a total of 18 partners from eight countries and it will run over the next four years.
The EU Horizon 2020 programme has granted a total of DKK 85.5 million (EUR 11.5 million) for the Helios project.
Electric car batteries typically have a capacity of 30 to 60 kwh and usually weigh between 300 and 600 kg.
The researchers aim to develop a prototype for the next generation of electric car batteries with less weight (-30%) and volume (-20%), with a capacity of 350 kWh, and with a full recharging time of just a few minutes.
They are aiming to develop a sustainable system design for the battery, which, among other things, will reduce the need for lithium and significantly improve energy density.
Today, lithium-ion technology is dominant in batteries for electric cars, but it is doubtful whether global lithium deposits will be able to meet demand in a fully electric transport sector.