While the electric vehicle market expands, some drivers remain hesitant to switch to a fuel-free car or truck because of range anxiety, or the fear that the battery of their EV won’t have enough power to get to another charging station. But researchers have found a way that could give EV batteries a pretty substantial boost, extending the vehicle range more than 10 times.
Researchers from Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH) and Sogang University collaborated on a study, which they published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. The team developed a polymeric binder for a stable, reliable, high-capacity anode material rather than conventional anodes made of graphite or other materials.
Typically, swapping conventional anodes for high-capacity anode materials, like silicon, can expand while reacting with lithium, and this volume expansion can limit the battery’s performance. To confront this challenge, the team worked with charged polymer binders to minimize volume expansion.
“The research holds the potential to significantly increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries through the incorporation of high-capacity anode materials, thereby extending the driving range of electric vehicles,” Soojin Park, professor for the Department of Chemistry at POSTECH, said in a statement. “Silicon-based anode materials could potentially increase driving range at least tenfold.”
Existing research has used chemical crosslinking to create covalent bonding between binder molecules as well as hydrogen bonding. Bonds formed in chemical crosslinking cannot be reversed once broken, which has been a challenge in creating more reliable batteries. Then, the issue with hydrogen bonding is that it is not as strong.
So, the researchers developed a polymer to take the benefits of hydrogen bonding, namely that the bonds can be broken and restored, and paired them with Coulomb force, meaning the force of attraction between unlike charges (positive and negative) creates a stronger bond. The result? A layered polymer with alternating positive and negative charges that has strong, reversible bonds to better control volume expansion, giving potential to create stronger, more reliable EV batteries.
While EV range anxiety is a common concern for drivers, especially considering the general need for more charging infrastructure, previous studies have found that EV batteries typically provide more than enough range for most people, from everyday commuters to weekend roadtrippers. One recent study found that up to 37% of drivers could meet their regular driving needs in EVs with smaller batteries and ranges, but even those who want to travel farther distances can get where they need to go just fine on EVs with larger batteries.
Today, many drivers can ride an EV for about 250 miles before needing to recharge, while most drivers only travel up to 30 miles per day. According to EverCharge, many gas cars have a range of about 250 to 300 miles. With ongoing innovations and research into EV batteries, range anxiety could soon be a thing of the past, with EVs that could have better ranges than conventional vehicles.