What We Found Most Exciting at the PlugVolt Battery Seminar 2022

By Dr. Michelle Tokarz, VP of Partnerships and Innovation. Dr. Tokarz works closely with our global research institutions as they evaluate CHS and customers as they research integrating CHS into their proprietary processes. 

I attended the 2022 PlugVolt Battery Seminar in Plymouth Michigan this last Wednesday in order to understand current industrial challenges in battery development and to network with various players in the industry from material suppliers, to cell manufacturers, to OEMs, and recycling technologies.  

Most players in this ecosystem acknowledge the very real tension between the anticipated increased demand for electric vehicles (and the associated batteries needed to power them) and the current supply chain issues. Strategies that were discussed to attempt to address this tension mainly included innovations in battery technologies needed to increase performance. Some of these innovations that have potential in this regard include anode-less batteries, lithium metal anodes formed with PVD processes, cathode improvements, and increased silicon in graphite anodes. 

Tobias Glossman from Mercedes-Benz did a very nice job describing the design process employed to create their Vision EQXX, their newest EV model. Part of the development of this vehicle included the introduction of a “high silicon anode” as compared to a graphite anode in their previous model. Their engineers placed a high importance on the increase of energy density and accordingly, this model claims 400 Wh/L capacity.  

Additionally, Owen Lu from Ford presented a great overview of the challenges of incorporation of silicon into anodes. While the cycle life of silicon anodes overall is improving, it still remains a significant issue in the industry. Of the various ways to address the SEI issue associated with reduced cycle life, his talk was focused on improvements in electrolytes to best reduce SEI formation.   

Finally, Kurt Kelty of Sila Nanotechnologies gave an update on the scale-up of their silicon-based active anode material, including production scale-up to support their recently announced partnership with Mercedes-Benz. He explained the importance that Sila places on being able to initially work directly with the OEMs, mainly in order to properly match the right electrolyte to obtain the best performance for the targeted application.

Additionally, OEMs generally discussed strategies to address production scale-up issues, typical of any new technology. In particular, Tobias Glossman explained that the kinds of Technology Readiness Levels that are often mentioned in discussions of how to develop a new technology come from NASA and are usually PRODUCT-focused. They cannot accurately be used to describe the necessary evolution of PRODUCTION processes needed to implement such products.  

Oliver Gross of Stellantis walked the audience through their strategy of implementation of new battery technologies in Formula E cars, which allows Stellantis to properly assess the battery’s performance in a high-stress environment with a greatly reduced need to focus on cost. He also talked about a concept called vehicle demand energy (VDE) which is used to understand the energy efficiency as a function of various battery parameters. He explained that his main job is “getting more for less”.  

With respect to battery chemistries and structures, there was a heavy focus on solid-state batteries, which continue to be the “holy grail” in the industry due to their very high theoretical capacity. However, scaling up of this technology will necessarily include at a minimum, 1. Addressing current misperceptions about safety 2. Minimum 10X increases in stack pressures that need to be applied to finished batteries over current stack pressures used in production.

Overall, while OEMs continue to do phenomenal research on solid-state technologies, they are already including silicon in their anodes (in both traditional lithium ion and solid-state batteries). It is clear that the ability to increase the amount of silicon in anodes in such a way that capacity is added without detrimental effects to the cycle life would be welcome.  

The Coretec Group is excited to be able to contribute to the improvement of silicon-graphite anodes that are already finding traction in the industry. Our proprietary nano-structured, active anode material has the potential to increase cycle life while increasing the amount of silicon that can be added to existing graphite anodes.  

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