Current lithium-ion batteries, which use graphite anodes, liquid electrolytes, and cathode materials such as NMC and LFP, are generally considered to be approaching their performance limits. Nonetheless, there are still methods to further enhance performance and save costs, starting with battery materials and design.
Switching from graphite to silicon
An intriguing substitute that can greatly increase performance and energy density is silicon anodes. Despite the fact that silicon has only ever been used as an anode at a weight percentage of less than 5%, its inherent volume expansion and the ensuing stability and cycle life problems have made it challenging to surpass silicon’s use as an additive. But in the last ten to fifteen years, advances in silicon anode technology have made it possible for batteries to use 5–100% silicon in the anode.
A new approach to cathode synthesis
It is probable that a comparable range of currently available commercial cathode materials will be utilized in future lithium-ion batteries. As an exception, LNMOs or LMFPs related to LFPs provide a different trade-off between high performance and low cost, but neither one improves energy density. Manganese-rich lithium cathodes could offer slight improvements in energy density, but there has been little commercial development, and the field is moving slowly. The cathode material will typically improve gradually.
Conversely, their synthesis techniques might be the source of the greatest advancements in cathode technology and innovation. The current synthesis methods use a lot of water and reagents at high temperatures over extended periods of time (several days), which drives up production costs and environmental impacts.
Solid electrolytes and new electrolyte formulations
Although solid-state electrolytes have received a lot of attention in the field of electrolyte technology, liquid electrolyte systems can also be continuously improved through the use of novel additives and formulations. To help increase performance and safety, New Dominion Enterprises, for instance, is creating solvents and electrolyte additives based on nitrogen and phosphorus compounds.
In particular, the solid electrolyte/electrode interface (SEI) formation, vapor pressure reduction, and thermal stability can all be enhanced by their electrolyte additive materials. The company’s long-term goal is to fully replace conventional organic solvents with their electrolyte systems, which could greatly increase safety. Still, solid-state batteries—which can greatly increase safety by substituting solid-state electrolytes for the flammable liquid electrolytes currently in use—remain the holy grail of battery technology for many electric vehicle manufacturers. Furthermore, the utilization of lithium metal anodes, which can raise energy densities above 1000 Wh/L, is possible with the solid-state electrolyte.
Space-efficient battery packs
Another vital way to improve performance is through battery pack design, especially for electric vehicles. In order to reduce materials related to the module housing and maximize packaging efficiency, a number of automakers have declared their adoption of battery cell assembly designs. This will ultimately improve energy density and battery integration within the vehicle. The main disadvantages of less expensive LFP batteries are lessened by maximizing energy density, which also offers a means of producing less expensive batteries with a greater range. These battery designs have the drawback of decreasing serviceability, which might restrict their application in commercial vehicles.
Smarter battery management systems
Multiple aspects of battery performance can be enhanced through advancements in battery management systems (BMS) without having to deal with the difficulties associated with material development. The enhanced BMS will be extremely beneficial for other end applications, such as power tools or smartphones, in addition to the electric vehicle industry. While trade-offs between important performance traits like energy density, cycle life, fast charging, and safety are common in the evolution of batteries, it may be possible to improve all of these traits by making improvements to the BMS.
In the end, there are numerous ways to lower costs and increase battery performance, including a number of other ways not covered here. Even though some innovations might only provide little advantages, taken as a whole, they will enable lithium-ion battery performance to increase gradually.
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