What’s Next for EV Batteries?

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

The battery is the main element of an electric vehicle: More cells provide more charging capacity, which means longer distances to travel before needing a recharge.

The automotive industry is undergoing a sea change from the internal combustion engine (ICE) to an all-electric power platform supported by wide-bandgap materials. The shift to power electronics based on gallium nitride or silicon carbide is occurring because the theoretical limits of silicon MOSFETs have been reached for many power systems. Battery charging is the first high-volume market to demonstrate GaN adoption, and SiC devices are increasingly used in high-voltage power converters with strict size, weight, and efficiency requirements.

CES 2021 showcased many updates to power electronics solutions and devices. Even in its new, all-virtual format, the event was an opportunity to engage with peers and explore the strides being made with GaN and SiC to accelerate our world’s electrification while reducing our CO2 footprint. The use of new materials will allow us to reduce energy losses with significant energy savings.

With e-mobility becoming increasingly important, environmentally friendly battery technology is no longer an option but a necessity. The business of manufacturing a battery is a bit like orchestrating a symphony: A lot of complex processes are required to achieve a cohesive whole. Evolution in this segment has been constant. The brief history of modern electric cars has seen lithium-manganese oxide (LMO) batteries used in Nissan’s first-generation Leaf, lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide (NMC) in the BMW i3, and lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminum oxide (NCA) in Tesla models.

One new frontier on which research is moving is the elimination of the amount of cobalt used in batteries. The stability provided by cobalt is being replaced by increasing it with nickel that has been processed to make it comparable in physical properties to cobalt, with an aim of cutting costs. This process thus far has yielded a chemical composition in which cobalt is less than 5% of the total. Panasonic has said it will be able to bring high-density cobalt-free cells to the market within a few years. Eliminating cobalt will significantly reduce battery production costs, which today are about 30% to 40% of the total cost of making an electric car.

The battery is the main element of an electric vehicle: More cells provide more charging capacity, which means longer distances to travel before needing a recharge. The use of wireless solutions in battery management offers designers the ability to lighten the load of an electric vehicle and balance the electrical charge while meeting the highest functional safety standards to improve reliability.

Each cell must be monitored to maximize battery performance. Because a typical EV has 100 cells or more, the ability to remove bulky and heavy cables improves system reliability. Wireless approaches eliminate the potential for failure in wiring exposed to vibration, humidity, and other problems. This makes access to the batteries themselves for maintenance more straightforward.

Wireless battery management systems (wBMS) have a pivotal role in electric vehicles’ powering process. Eliminating wires, connectors, and high-voltage isolation parts can substantially boost the overall reliability of the system. The use of wireless solutions in battery management offers designers the ability to lighten the load of an electric vehicle and thus balance the electrical charge while meeting the highest standards of functional safety to improve reliability.

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