Automotive Mar 01, 2022

By Shivam Mittal

Image courtesy: TechCrunch

Humanity has been using automobiles for about a century. The first kind of automobiles used coal for external combustion to produce steam. These vehicles' efficiency was low and succeeded by more efficient and relatively less polluting internal combustion vehicles that we still widely use today.

The problem with both types was still the carbon released by these vehicles from their production to scraping. Initially, nobody forecasted their widespread use as we see today. Rising sea levels and extreme calamities have forced Mankind to check on every tech that produces carbon. Due to this trend, electric vehicles are gaining popularity in today's market, with 25% less carbon footprint even with our fossil-produced electricity, which is an excellent alternative to IC engine-powered vehicles. As governments worldwide increase renewable energy production, the carbon footprint of EVs would lower further. EVs lack the use of any explosive energy which IC vehicles have, and hence EVs require less maintenance.

EVs are of two types: one receives the energy through a collector system (used widely in trains as shown in the image), and the other is powered autonomously by a battery. The second type is most commonly used for road transit.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

EVs face significant challenges in their range and charging time. People are used to almost 500 km with one refueling of the IC engine car. However, electric vehicles range around 300 km with about an hour of charging time, creating range anxiety among the owner, and first-time users find it difficult to adapt. This can be addressed using innovations in battery technology.

Most electric gadgets, including EVs, use lithium-ion batteries for energy storage. Due to their low energy density, these batteries are the limiting factor of an EVs range. A lithium-ion battery uses liquid electrolytes. Liquids are volatile to temperature, thus need a cooling system to control their temperature for safety. Another problem with current technology is its life. Most EVs can last for ten years before replacing the battery, drastically reducing the vehicle's resale value. Hence, forcing consumers to buy new and increasing the waste produced.

Image courtesy: Chargedevs.com

Almost all of the problems can be solved using the solid-state battery. As the name suggests, it uses solid electrolytes in place of liquid. Since solids are rigid, the two electrodes can be packed at more minor differences, increasing the energy density to almost double, implying a double range with the same battery volume. Solids can withstand higher temperatures without any hazard, saving cost and volume occupied by cooling mechanisms, which can further be utilized for even larger batteries. High-speed charging causes a steep temperature rise, limiting current batteries' charging speeds. These batteries can charge up to 2-3 times faster.

However, this promising technology faces a few challenges before it becomes mainstream. These costs are very high, making them impossible to use in consumer-grade products. At shallow temperatures, solid-state batteries cannot be used. Nevertheless, with the ever-increasing demand for research in improving the technology by tech giants like Samsung, the tech will improve and hopefully help build a sustainable future.


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