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Li-EcoSafe – more efficient and safer batteries for electric vehicles

The range and performance of electric vehicles depends directly on the batteries used. Lithium-ion batteries are currently considered very promising for use in alternative vehicle propulsion systems due to their high energy density and low capacity loss when frequently, but incompletely, charged and discharged. In the joint project Li-EcoSafe’, battery experts at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) are working together with the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (Zentrum für Sonnenenergie-und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg; ZSW) and the University of Ulm because lithium-ion batteries are more efficient, less costly and safer to manufacture. The scientists wish to contribute to their everyday practicality, thus improving consumer acceptance of electric vehicles. In the course of the project, the researchers will consider the entire development process, from materials to suitable operating strategies. The network is a Centre of Excellence for Battery Research, which is funded under the ‘Excellent Battery’ programme by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung; BMBF).

Diversity is the key – different types of lithium-ion batteries

The term lithium-ion battery refers to a type of battery in which lithium ions are used as charge carriers. These ions usually migrate between the two electrodes in a liquid medium, the electrolyte. Depending on the design and materials used, special variants can be created, such as lithium cobalt oxide or lithium iron phosphate batteries, which sometimes have different characteristics. “To further develop the concept of the lithium-ion battery, the chemical reactions at the interface between electrodes and electrolytes are especially interesting for us, because they affect the properties of such a battery,” explains Norbert Wagner, who supervises the project at the DLR Institute of Technical Thermodynamics in Stuttgart. With this knowledge, new materials for use in lithium-ion batteries can be developed or the surface of the electrodes can be made in such a way that the batteries exhibit the most desirable properties and can be operated safely.
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