An electric car battery that charges in one hour could be the answer to the lack of charging stations in the US – a nation looking to weed out the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2050.
The innovation was made possible by growing uniform lithium crystals on a surface it doesn’t ‘like,’ which resulted in dense uniformed layers that lack battery-performance-degrading spikes called dendrites.
This was achieved by replacing the ubiquitous copper surfaces on the negative side, or anode, with a nano-composite surface made of lithium fluoride (LiF) and iron.
The new advance led by the University of California (UC), San Diego nanoengineers could eliminate a significant roadblock holding back the widespread use of energy-dense lithium-metal batteries for applications like EVs and portable electronics.
The new electric car battery was created by growing uniform lithium crystals (pictured) on a surface it doesn’t ‘like’
The White House has set an ambitious plan to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles.
The government also aims for net-zero emissions by 2050, which means the end of new sales of gas-powered vehicles.
While the action is to combat climate change, the nation lacks the infrastructure to support the initiative – but scientists are working toward a solution.
The team at UC San Diego discovered that seeding lithium metal crystals quickly and uniformly on a surface the crystals normally do not like may be the answer.
To grow lithium metal crystals, the researchers replaced the ubiquitous copper surfaces on the negative side (the anode) of lithium-metal batteries with a lithiophobic nanocomposite surface made of lithium fluoride (LiF) and iron (Fe).
Using this lithiophobic surface for lithium deposition, lithium crystal seeds formed, and from these seeds grew dense lithium layers – even at high charging rates.
The result was long-cycle-life lithium-metal batteries that can be charged quickly.
Ping Liu, the senior author of the new paper, said in a statement: ‘The special nanocomposite surface is the discovery.
The new advance led by the University of California (UC), San Diego nanoengineers could eliminate a significant roadblock holding back the widespread use of energy-dense lithium-metal batteries for applications like EVs and portable electronics
‘We challenged the traditional notion of what kind of surface is needed to grow lithium crystals.
‘The prevailing wisdom is that lithium grows better on surfaces that it likes, surfaces that are lithiophilic.
‘In this work, we show that is not always true. The substrate we use does not like lithium.
‘However, it provides abundant nucleation sites along with fast surface lithium movement.
‘These two factors lead to the growth of these beautiful crystals. This is a nice example of a scientific insight solving a technical problem.’
Several US states have announced a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars in an effort to combat climate change.
California first announced the ban on gas-powered cars in 2020, but the legislation went into effect in August 2022.
The state requires that 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold by 2026 produce zero emissions, then 68 percent by 2030 and 100 percent five years after.
New York was the second state to announce the same ban in October 2022, and Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington recently followed.
However, nearly a dozen more could join the ranks in the coming months.
The other states that follow the emission standards but have not yet committed to the ban are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, District of Columbia and Rhode Island.
However, many states may not be prepared to handle the influx of electric cars – and New York is one of them.
There are just 677 charging stations spread across the five boroughs of New York City and although the city is set to add 10,000 curbside chargers by 2030, it may not be enough to power the thousands that will be cruising around by 2030 – 68 percent of all new cars sold this year be electric.
California is also facing such obstacles, but it has the land and private driveways to build off from.
The west coast state made its ban official in August, but it currently does not have enough charging stations to meet the soon-be demand.
More than 73,000 public and shared chargers have been installed to date, with an additional 123,000 planned by 2025.
These numbers fall short of the state’s goal of 250,000 chargers by 54,000 installations.
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