A team of EU-funded researchers is leading the development of a unique type of sustainable zinc-based rechargeable battery for electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid EVs (HEVs).
As part of the PolyZion ('Fast rechargeable zinc-polymer battery based on ionic liquids') project, which received a funding boost of EUR 2,400,000 under the 'Energy' Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), research organisations from all over the world are coming together to investigate a plethora of topics, such as ionic liquids, conducting plastics, zinc deposition, pulse charging and batteries, related to battery technology for EVs.
Although the global market for EVs and HEVs is predicted to grow significantly by 2015, current battery technologies are not ready to meet this demand. At the moment, commonly used lead acid, nickel metal hydride or lithium ion rechargeable batteries in EVs have damaging technological, financial and environmental implications, as well as frequent short circuiting issues. This research is therefore essential for ensuring the technology is ready as market demand increases.
Claire Fullarton, a researcher from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester, one of the project partners, explains how the team there has been developing a new type of prototype battery, which would offer better performance, safety and environmental sustainability: 'This research involves the development of a new class of fast rechargeable batteries based on a zinc-plastic system incorporating a novel, inexpensive, environmentally sustainable solvent. This approach is necessitated by the problems associated with petrol and diesel powered vehicles, such as environmental impact, rising fuel prices, the looming shortage of oil and the limitations of batteries available for electric vehicles.'
The PolyZion project brings together a new low-cost, air and moisture insensitive and environmentally sustainable class of electrolytes (ionic liquids) together with nano- structured zinc deposits and novel ultra-fast charging conducting polymers. The resulting battery device will have the energy and power density necessary to compete with alternative battery technologies in the HEV and EV markets. The project will also construct prototype battery units for industry standard testing.
The consortium is made up of partners from Spain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom, as well as Canada and Russia. The project is also based on strong collaboration between academia and industry, with both small and medium enterprise partners with specialised knowledge on specific materials, and large industrial partners well versed in battery manufacturing coming together to share best practices.
Dr Karl S Ryder, from the University of Leicester commented on how the project is going so far: 'This is an exciting new project aimed at exploring and developing new energy storage technologies for a range of power applications but focused particularly on electric vehicles. The problem with many electric cars is that the battery technology is often quite heavy and needs frequent recharging. Newer technologies such as lithium ion are very good but are quite expensive and surrounded by serious safety concerns - they are prone to burn fiercely on impact! Our work is aimed at developing an exciting and totally new battery technology that is light-weight and environmentally sustainable as well as both effective and safe.'