A solid state lithium battery stacked in a new, unique way is being shown at the CES show with a promise to make batteries for EVs (and electric boats) lighter, more energy dense and safer. The battery has an overall energy density 29% to 56% higher than EV batteries in use today, according to its manufacturer, Prologium of Taiwan.
The company and founder Vincent Yang won an Innovation Award at the Consumer Electronics Show last year for its technology as well as a Gold Edison Award for best Automotive Materials & Manufacturing product.
The reason for all the awards is that Prologium has developed and combined two technologies to create a battery that not only packs more energy into less weight, but is also safer than existing lithium-ion batteries.
Technology 1: Solid state lithium battery using ceramic
The way batteries work (simple version) is that a material called an electrolyte separates plates of negatively charged material (the anode) from plates of positively charged material (the cathode) until a device (like a motor) is attached and chemical changes in the electrolyte allow electrical charge to flow.
Throughout history the electrolyte has almost always been a liquid, for lots of good reasons, but a solid electrolyte is better for a lot of other good reasons – like longer battery life, faster charging times, and safety, i.e. no fires or explosions.
As you can guess, there are also lots of good monetary reasons for companies to want to develop solid state batteries (SSB). But there are significant challenges and it has been a tough nut to crack, even though literally thousands of researchers and technicians all over the world are working on it.
Prologium’s solution is a lithium ceramic battery, where an oxide ceramic for the electrolyte replaces the usual liquid/jelly polymer.
Technology 2: Multi Axis BiPolar+ construction: MAB
A BiPolar battery is one in which the electrodes are put together with the electrolyte whereby one side of each electrode acts as an anode (-) and the other side of the same electrode acts as a cathode (+). It’s complicated, to say the least.
What the Prologium technology is does is make this whole thing ‘3D’ – Multi Axis BiPolar, or MAB – because the different cells are linked up electrically in series in one aspect and in parallel in another aspect. Think of it kind of like horizontally and vertically connected.
All of this saves space and weight. So put it together with the advantages of solid state electrolytes and you’ve got something pretty exciting.
The video below does a good job of explaining it, but most people don’t need to know how it all works. You just need to know that it does, and that this lower weight is a big advantage, especially for something floating, like a boat.
Most EV battery packs (which are very similar to those used in many electric boats) require a lot of wiring and interconnective material to assemble individual cells of low voltage (like 2 Volts) into a combined battery module/pack with high voltage (like 48 or 96 Volts). That material obviously adds to the weight of the overall battery, and is also essentially ‘dead weight’ because it doesn’t help the battery store energy.
Prologium explains their advantage here:
“The entire battery pack consists of only one large battery. Compared with the traditional battery pack that has dozens of cylindrical batteries connected in series and parallel, the new battery pack can utilize the space originally occupied by dead ends, connecting wires and battery packaging more efficiently, allowing the battery pack to contain more energy in the same volume and extending the driving distance on a single charge.”
What that means in plain English is that:
When the energy density of the battery cells is the same, the energy density of the ProLogium Technology’s battery pack can be enhanced by 29% to 56.5%
Prologium’s better battery was put into an EV in 2017
Prologium definitely earns the title of pioneer. It has been working on SSB since 2015 and claims to be “the only battery manufacturer in the world capable of realizing the commercialization and mass production of SSB”.
In 2017 they partnered with EV manufacturer ENOVATE and in December introduced the first electric car with an SSB. They have also signed ‘strategic co-operational agreements’ with Asian electric car manufacturers NIO and AIWAYS, who became the first Chinese EV manufacturer to receive EU approval in September.
Lots of promises for lighter, better batteries
Plugboats has written about batteries before. It seems there is a new technology being developed in a lab every week that will conquer the solid state issue or there’s a fellow in a garage who invents an aluminum-air battery that can power a car for 2400 km. The problem is that many of them are great in the lab (maybe) but difficult to turn into a viable business.
Prologium has definitely proven itself as a growing concern, as has the UK’s Oxis Energy with their lithium-sulfur batteries, which we wrote about a few weeks ago. The Oxis batteries also have higher energy density than litihum-ion batteries, but it’s due to the chemicals used more than the way the batteries are put together. They are being developed largely with the electric airplane market as the goal but of course electric boats will also benefit.
Other companies are using different approaches for making batteries more convenient for electric boats. The modular Xing Mobility battery lets you hook up battery packs like Lego blocks to conform to different space availabilities for different boats.
These are exciting times, indeed. Electric boats and motors and batteries are the beneficiary of the hundreds of millions of dollars being put into research for electric cars and planes to make better, lighter, safer and more efficient batteries. It seems inevitable that the best is yet to come!