Why is this revolutionary battery…

THE batteries are a bit of the Holy Grail ofautomobile industry. Those who know how to take hold of it will be able to make electric shift a real success and catapult their brand to the forefront in this field. But for now, the dominance of China, which leads the market for rare battery materials, and dependence on start-ups and suppliers stand in the way of a quick solution. THE batteries in so statelide, better known as solid state, are the subject of intense scrutiny, but their complex production and high cost relegate this technology to the background for the moment. She will appear, but not for a long time. And perhaps first on expensive high-end models.

What’s the problem with batteries lithium ion current? The big boss of Stellantis, Carlo Tavares, declares: “The big challenge is to make our electric cars lighter. For now, there is a big problem. We simply cannot make every vehicle 500 kilos heavier. But when we move from one car to another, we must always remember to protect the range.

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Bet on different horses

In doing so, Mr. Tavares not only highlights the weaknesses of the current generation of batteries, he also provides the solution. ” There energy density of cells must double. In this way, less is required, allowing the additional weight to be kept at 250 kilos and, above all, reducing costs.

Stellantis follows several paths at once. With Safta branch of TotalEnergies, the automotive group has already developed revolutionary technology for lithium-ion batteries. With the Chinese company CATLStellantis is working on cheaper batteries using the LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate)a chemistry already used by Ford, Mercedes and several Chinese automakers.

But the Italian-French-American automobile group continues to think about something completely different: the lithium-sulfur (Li-S). Last year he invested in the American start-up Lyten for this pioneering chemical compound. This company has just delivered its first samples for testing in cars, which makes the laboratory work even more concrete. Lithium-sulfur has the advantage cited above by Mr. Tavares: its energy density is twice as high (up to 550 Wh/kg compared to a maximum of 260 Wh/kg for lithium-ion), which allows to obtain the same autonomy with half the number of cells.

The magic of sulfur and graphene

The raw material sulfur also has particular advantages: not only is it widely available and cheap, but it can also be mined anywhere. And since this type of battery does not need cobalt, nickel or manganese, it goes a long way in reducing the dependence on China.

But the key isn’t just adding sulfur. Lyten has found a revolutionary application of graphene – a new material discovered in 2004 that is 100 times stronger than steel – known as a panacea for batteries. The company found a way to stack layers of graphene and make a solid structure. This allows it to play its role in improving battery properties such as charging capacity (up to seven times faster) and durability (up to three times longer). In addition, graphene helps reduce CO2 emissions from lithium-sulfur batteries by 60% compared to lithium-ion batteries.

It is therefore not surprising that Mr. Tavares is over the moon: “We are impressed by the potential of this technology.” The supplied test cells, which have also been sent to a few other European car brands, are only in their early stages. Furthermore, the stability and safety of this lithium-sulfur compound still need to be proven. But this allows us to relaunch the incessant search for revolutionary batteries.

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