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Carbon Coating Improves Electric Vehicle Batteries

Western Engineering professor Andy Sun is working toward increasing the performance of electric cars, by using lithium iron phosphate batteries. Image: Paul Mayne, Western NewsWestern Engineering professor Andy Sun is working toward increasing the performance of electric cars, by using lithium iron phosphate batteries. Image: Paul Mayne, Western NewsWhile you may see a Chevrolet Volt here, or a Nissan Leaf there, the future of the electric car has a way to go when it comes to safety, cost and, especially, performance. However, Western Univ.’s Engineering professor Andy Sun may have an answer to that final challenge.

Recently published in Nature Communications, Sun’s research showed, for the first time, carbon coating on electric car batteries not only affects conductivity and performance, but also alters the chemistry of the battery material’s interactive surface. Unlocking this secret may lead to better batteries – and longer distances traveled on the road – for these vehicles.

Currently, the average electric car gets 90 kilometers per charge.

“So, it’s best only in the city,” Sun says. “For the highway, 90 kilometers is not enough. That’s why we want to develop a battery with much higher capacity. You can make bigger batteries to run longer, but they’re too big for the car. Like a computer, you want to get it smaller and better.”

With the assistance of the Canadian Light Source, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Western Chemistry professor T. K. Sham, Sun has revealed a new underlying mechanical interaction that occurs during the carbon-coating process.

“The problem is with connectivity, which is really low. We have to increase connectivity,” Sun says. “We know there is an interaction, but we’re not clear as to why they are reacting in certain ways. After carbon coating, the surface changed and we want to avoid that. Something is produced from this interaction, which we never knew, which gets us back to performance.”
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