Tuesday, March 20, 2018
New Polymer Material Hailed as 'Breakthrough' in Electric Car Battery Technology
3/6/2018 9:12:44 AM
Arthur J. Villasanta - Fourth Estate Contributor

London, United Kingdom (4E) - A "breakthrough" is being alleged in the long-running quest to develop car batteries that give electric vehicles (EVs) the range to compete against gasoline-powered cars.

Researchers from University of Bristol and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom have developed a new polymer material for "supercapacitors," which are specially designed capacitors holding a very large electric charge. This new material will allow supercapacitors to recharge an EV's batteries in as little as 10 minutes compared to the eight hours for EVs equipped with lithium-ion batteries.

The new supercapacitor material also has enough energy density to see EVs surpass the longest range of current EVs such as those made by Tesla, Inc. Tesla founder Elon Musk himself previously said a breakthrough in EV technology would likely come from supercapacitors rather than batteries.

The technology was originally being developed for mobile devices. Researchers wanted to develop a transparent polymer for Google Glass-like applications.

The British team, however, discovered the energy storage potential of the material and decided to refocused its efforts on developing the new supercapacitor. Its new polymer might be more energy-dense than lithium ion, holding 180 watt-hours per kilogram. In contrast, lithium ion holds around 100-120 watt-hours per kilogram.

"It could have a seismic effect on energy, but it's not a done deal," said r. Donald Highgate, research director for Superdielectrics, Ltd, a company that worked with the universities on the project.

Superdielectrics said the supercapacitor material that can store "remarkable amounts of electricity, far beyond what we've seen before," said CEO Jim Heathcote.

He said the material is cheap to produce, uses no rare elements, and because it's mostly water, it can't catch on fire like traditional batteries.

There are some potential problems with the technology, however. One of these is this thing called an "internal leakage current." Batteries can store energy for weeks or months but supercapacitors can only do so for hours or days before it seeps away.

This will be a problem for electric cars if they were left unused for a few days. Combining supercapacitors with batteries as a back-up could be one solution.

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