Switzerland’s energy technology company Innolith announced yesterday that it’s developing a high-density lithium-ion battery that could become the world’s first 1,000 Wh/kg rechargeable battery. The new battery technology, which is being developed at the company’s laboratory in Germany, will drastically improve the range of electric vehicles aside from extending their durability.
Electric car manufacturers have long been pushing for a battery breakthrough. Based on the current lithium-ion battery technology, the maximum energy density for a lithium-ion battery is around 260 Wh/kg. But there are new targets to surpass this limit. Tesla is looking for ways to increase the density of its latest battery cells from around 250 Wh/kg to 330 Wh/kg. The US Department of Energy is funding a program to develop battery cells that will pack up to 500 Wh/kg of energy density. In other words, Innolith’s battery technology represents a significant breakthrough, if it goes beyond laboratory doors.
In a rough estimate, the battery technology is “four times the current state-of-the-art for lithium-ion,” Innolith chairman Alan Greenshields told The Verge in an interview. “And it’s two times the energy density target [that] organizations like the US Department of Energy have set. So this is a big deal.”
What’s more intriguing is the technology’s giant leap over new heights yet to be achieved by tech giants. A battery with 1,000 Wh/kg can power an electric car for 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) on a single charge. That’s over three times better than the existing lithium-ion batteries. Tesla’s long-range vehicles can reach up to 330 miles of range and most automakers jumping into the EV market are aiming for a similar range. The promising solid-state battery technology, which some electric car manufacturers like Henrik Fisker are banking on, is yet to go beyond papers, despite claims it could only offer 500 miles of range.
The concept of Innolith battery technology
The lithium-ion batteries available in most electric cars use “wet” liquid electrolytes to shuttle energy around, a technology condemned by solid-state battery technology. In solid-state batteries, cells are made using “dry” and solid conductive material. However, its production is scheduled to start in 2025.
Innolith said its high-density lithium-ion batteries will use “wet” liquid electrolytes, but replaces the highly flammable organic solvent with a less flammable and more stable inorganic substance.
The highly flammable organic solvent, which limits energy doping ratio, is the biggest challenge associated with current lithium-ion battery technology. Greenshields said Innolith replaced the material with “basically salt-like materials” to reduce the risk of overheating while also getting rid of “the most reactive components in the system.” This makes it easier to pack in a lot of energy when building a battery “without the thing becoming unstable,” he added.
In other words, Innolith’s innovation is basically to do away with the “principle source of side reactions,” which makes the current rechargeable batteries “non-productive” over time.
Innolith says the high-density battery development and commercialization will take at least three years. That means the battery won’t make it to the market until 2022.