A new project that aims to increase the range EVs can travel before needing to stop and charge has been awarded £7m ($9.5m) in funding this week from the country’s innovation agency.
According to silicon materials company Nexeon, which leads the SUNRISE (Synthomer, UCL & Nexeon’s Rapid Improvement in the Storage of Energy) project, the key to extending EV battery life to provide a range of 400 miles or more is improved battery materials based on silicon as a replacement for carbon in the cell anode.
To date this has proved difficult, Nexeon said. While silicon is already used as a partial replacement for up to 10 per cent of the carbon in battery anodes, expansion when the cells are charged and discharged remains problematic.
The SUNRISE project aims to address these issues through new silicon anode material with a polymer binder, which can be used as a drop-in replacement for the current graphite anode systems. Nexeon claimed this will allow more silicon to be used, which will increase the energy density that can be achieved in the cell.
Ultimately, lower cost and improved performance from power sources will reduce the time required for EVs to achieve mass adoption, Nexeon said.
The company will lead the silicon material development and scale-up stages of the project, while polymer firm Synthomer will lead the development of a next-generation polymer binder optimized to work with silicon as well as ensuring anode/binder cohesion during a lifetime of charges. Nexeon and University College London (UCL) will jointly lead the work on material characterization and cell performance.
Funding agency Innovate UK will fund a majority of the £10m research project as part of its Faraday Battery Challenge, which aims to invest a total of £246m over four years to support UK-made energy storage technologies.
The importance of the project was underlined by Nexeon CEO Dr Scott Brown, who said: “The biggest problems facing EVs – range anxiety, cost, charge time or charging station availability – are almost all related to limitations of the batteries.”
Ruth McKernan, head of Innovate UK, said the battery challenge will “draw the very best of the UK’s world-leading research into commercial technologies, and put UK businesses at the forefront of electric vehicle battery development”.