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Battery for Electric Cars: Self-Heating in Very Cold Weather

Jan 21, 2016 05:15 PM EST
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All-climate battery that reheats at temperatures below freezing
Considering that batteries tend to slow down in very cold weather, a new battery that can be used in electric cars and reheats in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit could really relieve car-owner "range anxiety," say researchers from Penn State who developed it.
(Photo : Chao-Yang Wang / Penn State)

In very cold weather, batteries in electric vehicles, drones, space applications and some other instances slow down and perform poorly. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University and the software company EC Power say they have a solution: a new lithium-ion battery that can self-heat if the temperature is lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Basically, this would relieve lots of "range anxiety" for electric-car owners, say the researchers.

"It is a long standing problem that batteries do not perform well at subzero temperatures," Chao-Yang Wang at Penn State said in a release. "This may not be an issue for phones and laptops, but is a huge barrier for electric vehicles, drones, outdoor robots, and space applications."

Currently, at below-freezing temperatures, normal batteries can lose a great deal of power. This has the result of slower charging in the cold, restrictions to the regenerative braking, and a decrease in the vehicle's cruise range by possibly 40 percent. In order to compensate, owners generally need larger, more expensive battery packs.

The new battery weighs only slightly more than a standard one -- 1.5 percent more -- and has a financial cost of 0.04 percent of the base battery. It can go from -4 to 32 degrees in 20 seconds and to 32 degrees from -22 in 30 seconds, taking up only 3.8 percent and 5.5 percent of the capacity of the cell, as a statement confirmed.

The battery includes nickel in its materials, which is a low-cost resistance-heating element and works well, say the researchers in the release. 

A description of the research and the battery was published in the journal Nature

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