In this article we are going to take a deeper look into some of the top trending battery technologies that are making waves in the automotive industry and how they are influencing large manufacturers such as Toyota, to change the way they look at building hybrid and electric vehicles. These technologies are going to change your future Toyota Prius, RAV4 hybrid and other hybrid and EV cars like Tesla Model 3, Model S and Nissan Leaf.
1. Nanowire Batteries
Problem: Cycling Li-Ion batteries wears them out and over time causes them to fail. While the tech has improved over the years, we are still in a losing battle. Most cellphone batteries which utilize lithium technology are rated to go through about 750 cycles before the battery is not going to perform as it did when new. That is typically about 2 years. Translate that into Li-Ion batteries in a Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, Tesla Model S, X, 3 or others and you have a real issue or range on your hands. The cycling of batteries causes them to short out and if you are utilizing a battery pack that houses many individual cells, this means reduced energy capacity and loss of usable driving range.
Solution: One of many that we will be exploring here is nano wire batteries. Nano wire tech is simply put a bundle of tiny (less than a human hair) wires that puts these gold wires in that are coated in a manganese dioxide shell then encased in electrolyte gel. This makes the wires have better flexibility and withstand hundreds of thousands of charging cycles with almost zero damage.
So for a company such as Toyota this means better quality Prius batteries and happier customers.
2. Solid State Batteries
Problem: Current lithium ion batteries are volatile and can be unstable, not to mention if they do let go, you will more than likely lose your car, cell phone or whatever device is utilizing that battery tech. If you do not believe me, just use our best friend Google and type in Samsung phone fire or Tesla fire and you will quickly get the picture.
Solution: Solid state batteries. All the perks about Li-Ion just got even better. According to a really great article from Digital Trends found here. Toyota is pushing for solid state battery tech by as early as 2020. Solid state takes out the high risk factor that is current lithium products and makes a far more stable, energy dense, medium to utilize. The liquid electrolyte is replaced with a solid medium that allows for greater overall capacity and increased safety.
This means that Prius, Tesla, Honda, or anyone joining in the ranks of being electric or who are already electric, just made safety and reliability their top priority. Customer satisfaction: level 10
3. Graphene Batteries
Problem: Fast charging heat cycles Li-Ion and also it takes what seems to be forever. We have all seen the phone junkies running around the airport either attached to the wall to catch the next social media update or you have a person that is utilizing a power bank to extend the use interval and keep them at 100% while waiting for their flight. These people suffer from the instant gratification syndrome while I am a fan making my own way I would sure enjoy having a phone that charges in 3 minuets and lasts 33 percent longer than current battery tech. Not only that but what if my electric car ( or even my plug in Toyota Prius) could be fully charged after a quick trip to the grocery store or also taking a potty pit stop on the road to see the family. Count me in.
Solution: Another super promising piece of battery tech is graphene. Graphene as stated earlier is a fast charging energy dense material that looks incredibly promising. While I personally am not sure of what Toyota is doing with it or Tesla for that matter I can assure you some company is. Our fast paced world demands fast charge times and longer battery life, because seriously who has time to plug in when you are right in the middle of watching the last episode of Game of Thrones? Point taken.
While again there is no hint from any one specific car manufacturer that graphene will be the next best thing since sliced bread, we can expect that it will be utilized somehow in our technologically diverse world we live in.
4. Micro Super capacitor
Problem: Li-Ion with prolonged exposure can cause nervous system problems. Mining lithium also is impacting the environment. With large mines exposed in the surface of the earth we have been impacting the outside world in ways that we really are not even sure of yet. Everything comes at a cost, we need to watch and pay attention to the long term effects of what lithium will have on our society.
Solution: Micro Super capacitor batteries.Using lasers and plastic (idea for recycling?) these energy storage devices do not require a massive mining operation but instead, depending on the source, could be a very eco friendly way to reduce our dependance on massive mining operations. Couple that with the fact that these batteries charge 50 times faster, discharge slower and are super rugged, you have a serious power plant that any hybrid or electric vehicle would be happy to wield.
5. Foam Batteries
Problem: Short life span and decreased performance has made Li-Ion become increasingly problematic. While yes, Li-Ion is our current main source for hybrids and electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius, or the Tesla Model 3 we still face issues with this tech that has forced our hand to discover new and better tech. Foam batteries are no exception to that. Even though Li-Ion is super light, it could still shed some weight and be the runway model we all know and love. Not to mention during manufacturing you pretty much have to shape it and stick with that shape. No sexy curves or filling up wasted space leaves us a “B” category model that just is not as attractive.
Solution: Foam batteries. While they may not be supermodels, they certainly are far more attractive and moldable given that they can be incorporated into wearables relatively easily. Add that to the fact they are on a super lean, no fat, carb, or sugar diet and you have a seriously light battery that has 5 times greater density and charges significantly faster than the Li-Ion predecessor. This could mean great things for a car such as the Toyota Prius. It is already an engineering feat, but what if we could fill in wasted space with more battery storage. Result: a better fuel sipping vehicle or longer range (if it is a plug in).
We have explored 5 really neat types of battery tech that is sure to make anyone think of what the future is going to hold for us in the automotive industry. We here at Torque News are super excited to see this unfold and bring you the latest information as soon as we get our hands on it.
Please leave your comments for discussion and see you in the next story where I am discussing how I paid $1,000 for a used Toyota Prius and repaired it and that you can do too.
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Peter Neilson is automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He is an automotive technology instructor at Columbia Basin College. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reache on Linkedin and at Certified Consulting.