Honda Claims Eco-Friendly New Auto Battery

Honda claims an automotive grade battery it has helped to develop offers more energy for its size, lower operating temperatures and is much more environmentally friendly than current lithium-ion items.

A combined group of researchers from the Honda Research Institute (HRI), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are claiming to have created rechargeable batteries based on fluoride. The joint study, published in Science magazine, reports claims that the high energy-density batteries can last far longer than previous incarnations.

While fluoride-based batteries (FIB) are considered a strong contender for the “next-generation” of high-density energy storage devices, they have been limited by their required temperature requirements. The research team found they could overcome these limitations by demonstrating the room-temperature operation of fluoride-ion based energy cells.

According to HRI, owing to the low atomic weight of fluorine, rechargeable fluoride-based batteries could offer very high energy density but the current batteries need to operate at high temperatures. The research team has been working on two advances toward batteries that can operate at room temperature: a room-temperature liquid electrolyte based on a stable combination of chemical elements and a copper core-shell cathode material that allows for the transfer of electrons to generate electricity.

“Fluoride-ion batteries offer a promising new battery chemistry with up to ten times more energy density than currently available Lithium batteries,” Dr. Christopher Brooks, chief scientist at HRI and a co-author of the paper, said in a statement. “Unlike Li-ion batteries, FIBs do not pose a safety risk owing to overheating and obtaining the source materials for FIBs creates considerably less environmental impact than the extraction process for lithium and cobalt.”

Current electric cars are powered by lithium-ion batteries, essentially bigger version of the ones that power smartphones and laptops. Another emerging battery technology, solid-state batteries are still years away, according to some experts. While solid-state batteries are smaller and more flexible than traditional lithium-ion cells, they are more energy dense.

So far, solid-state batteries haven’t even made it from the test lab into consumer electronics, let alone four-wheeled vehicles but solid-state battery start-up Solid Power, based in Colorado, recently received $20M in a Series A investment round from Hyundai, Samsung Venture Investment, Sanoh Industrial, Solvay Ventures and A123 Systems.

With many believing solid state battery technology is still years ago, the advances developed by HRI, Caltech and their research partners could offer an alternative path forward for longer-lasting, more powerful electric vehicle power sources. However, lithium-ion battery production capacity is expected to nearly quadruple by 2021, led by German automakers heavily reliant on Asian battery manufacturers, as well as Tesla, the biggest buyer of lithium-ion battery cells in the world.

According to research firm Frost & Sullivan’s Global Electric Vehicle Market Outlook 2018 report EV sales were expected to climb from 1.2M in 2017 to 1.6M in 2018 and further upwards to an estimated 2M in 2019. However, the report also noted the EV industry needs to overcome major challenges related to battery technology and charging infrastructure, both of which have failed to match the accelerating pace set by EV sales.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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