Teaming Up for Better Batteries

June 2, 2015

MIT’s Yang Shao-Horn and BMW’s Odysseas Paschos collaborate to advance fundamental research on lithium-ion battery technologies.

Launched last year in the United States, the BMW i3 is a well-received electric automobile that highlights the promise and the practicality of current electric vehicles. With its extensive use of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic and other innovative engineering, “the BMW i3 is a deep dive into what the car of the future should be,” the New York Times commented. “It is efficient, sustainable and essentially a think tank on wheels.”

As electric cars have quickly evolved from curiosities to real consumer choices, auto manufacturers globally have pushed hard to improve the mileage range and other characteristics of the lithium-ion batteries that power the vehicles. That quest brought BMW to look around the world for academic partners doing complementary research—which in turn has launched a fruitful three-year collaboration with MIT’s Yang Shao-Horn, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering.

“The lithium-ion battery is a technology that has been made into a product without fully understanding how it works,” says Odysseas Paschos, a BMW battery researcher. “We don’t really understand what phenomena are occurring on a nanoscale level inside the battery cell that affect its performance, its lifetime, and its safety. Professor Shao-Horn’s group is known worldwide in this field, and we are very happy that we managed to start this collaboration with her.”

“All the exciting electric vehicles that BMW is developing leverage batteries more and more, and the current technology is not meeting the targets,” says Shao-Horn. “Energy density needs to be twice what the current lithium-ion battery technology can provide. Battery technologies that meet the power and safety requirements, have a lifetime of 10 years, and provide really fast charging are critical for the success of this fleet of vehicles.”

Read the full story at MIT's ILP Insider

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