Leading Germany based auto
components maker Bosch (www.bosch.com)
is researching batteries that will make it possible to drive longer
distances without recharging, and will also cost less than current batteries.
“Our battery experts are playing a key part in paving the way for
electromobility,” says Dr. Michael Bolle, president of the corporate sector for
research and advance engineering at Robert Bosch GmbH. As early as 2020, Bosch
batteries should be capable of storing twice as much energy while costing
significantly less. The market forecasts are correspondingly bullish: ten years
from now, Bosch expects some 15 percent of all new vehicles worldwide to have
an electrical powertrain. As a result, Bosch is investing 400 million euros a
year in electromobility.
Dr. Thorsten Ochs, head of
battery technology R&D at the new Bosch research campus in Renningen,
explains what will be necessary for progress in battery technology. “To achieve
widespread acceptance of electromobility, mid-sized vehicles need to have 50
kilowatt hours of usable energy,” he says. With conventional lead batteries,
this would mean increasing the weight of the battery to 1.9 metric tons, even
without wiring and the holder. That is the same weight as a modern-day
mid-sized sedan, including occupants and luggage. At a weight of 19 kilograms,
a conventional lead battery – as found today in nearly every car for powering
their starters – stores a comparatively low 0.5 kilowatt hours.
The goal: a weight of just 190 kilograms, recharged in 15 minutes
Today’s lithium-ion batteries
are superior in this respect. They store more than three times the amount of
energy per kilogram. At a weight of 230 kilograms, the battery of a modern-day
electric car provides approximately 18 to 30 kilowatt hours. But to achieve the
desired 50 kilowatt hours, a battery weighing 380 to 600 kilograms would be
necessary. With his colleagues around the world, Ochs is therefore working on
energy storage media with even better performance. Their goal: to pack 50
kilowatt hours into 190 kilograms. In addition, the researchers are looking to
significantly shorten the time a car needs to recharge. “Our new batteries
should be capable of being loaded to 75 percent in less than 15 minutes,” Ochs
Ochs and his colleagues firmly
believe that improved lithium technology will make it possible to achieve these
goals. “There is still a long way to go when it comes to lithium,” Ochs says.
To make progress in this area, his team in Renningen is working closely with
Bosch experts in Shanghai and Palo Alto. And as a further measure to advance
lithium-ion battery research, Bosch has established the Lithium Energy and
Power GmbH & Co. KG joint venture with GS Yuasa and the Mitsubishi
More space for electrical power – thanks to start-up technology from
In theory, the solution sounds
simple: “The more lithium ions you have in a battery, the more electrons – and
thus the more energy – you can store in the same space,” Ochs says. But because
researchers need to improve cells at the atomic and molecular level, putting
this into practice is a challenge. One of the main keys to achieving this goal
is to reduce the proportion of graphite in the anode (the positively charged
part of the battery), or do without graphite altogether. Using lithium instead
of graphite would make it possible to store up to three times as much energy in
the same space. Ochs and his colleagues have already developed many approaches
for removing the graphite and replacing it with other materials. The Bosch CEO
Volkmar Denner recently presented a prototype solution at the IAA. Thanks to
its purchase of Seeo Inc., a start-up based in Silicon Valley, Bosch has now
acquired crucial practical expertise when it comes to making innovative
solid-state batteries. Such batteries have one other decisive advantage: they can
do without any liquid electrolyte. Such an electrolyte is to be found in
conventional lithium-ion batteries, where, in certain circumstances, it can
pose a safety risk.
Improved lithium-ion batteries
would benefit not only drivers, but also all other applications that employ
this technology, such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, cordless household
appliances and tools, and many more products.
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