DTU confident of battery breakthrough

The Technical University of Denmark is working on a project to develop batteries for electric cars that are twice as powerful as those currently available.

Poul Norby, senior researcher at DTU Energy, the Department of Energy Conversion and Storage, said, ‘The only real challenge is that the battery needs to be cheaper and better. Driving an electric car is already pleasurable, and if you can increase the mileage on each charge and speed up charging, electric cars will really take off.’

Norby is leading a European research project called Hi-C that aims to develop better and cheaper batteries. It will announce its initial findings next year

He said, ‘Electric cars represent a huge market. A solution viable for electric vehicles will see high sales volumes, which in turn will help drive down the price and develop the technology. Drivers are used to filling up quickly at petrol stations. Fortunately, there is a good chance that we can find ways to charge the batteries even faster

‘Technologically speaking, Tesla’s latest batteries aren’t revolutionary, but the company has managed to exploit them in a new way. At the same time, Tesla is generating a lot of attention about the importance of batteries in the society of tomorrow. I’m delighted about that.’

The dominant rechargeable batteries on the market are lithium-ion-based. A single cell in a lithium-ion battery can generate a maximum voltage of four volts. The higher the voltage in the individual cell, the fewer cells needed, and the cheaper and lighter the final battery.

Norby said, ‘If we succeed in significantly improving the batteries, it will be enough to secure a major breakthrough for electric cars. We are optimistic about finding ways of making lithium-ion batteries more efficient without compromising safety.’

Hi-C is also looking at other types of battery, such as lithium-sulphur and lithium-air.