The electrification of electric vehicles is one of the most important initiatives for de-carbonization. However, EVs have yet to achieve parity with internal-combustion-engine (ICE) vehicles when it comes to refueling or recharging.
The battery industry is still wrestling with the critical challenge of combining high energy storage and fast charging in a single, long-lasting battery. While the average range of EVs has increased dramatically to 300 miles or more, recharging an EV is still a time-consuming proposition, with the fastest charging times still requiring 30 to 60 minutes.
Addressing that issue, Ionblox announced the launch of fast-charging lithium-silicon cells for EVs. The company's new cells leverage silicon's energy-storage capacity to dramatically reduce charging times while increasing range.
The technology is said to enable charging of 60% of the battery's capacity in just five minutes and 80% in 10 minutes. The high-energy cells enable EV manufacturers to either extend the range of an EV by 30% to 50% using a similarly sized Ionblox battery pack or reduce weight and cost with a smaller battery pack. These advances make it possible to charge EVs as quickly as filling a gas tank, removing one of the main barriers to adoption.
“The battery industry has long wrestled with the critical challenge of combining high energy storage and fast charging in a single, long-lasting battery,” said Dr. Herman Lopez, Chief Technology Officer at Ionblox. “We have developed high-performance cells that are not only compact and lightweight, but also robust enough for continuous operation at extreme fast charges of 5 minutes, effectively closing the performance gap between electric vehicles and their combustion engine counterparts.”
Battery Chemistry Configuration
Ionblox achieved this step change in performance by replacing the graphite used in the anode with high-capacity silicon monoxide. In addition, anodes were infused with a patented range of supplemental lithium to boost performance. Meanwhile, a nano-engineered solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) layer and new cell architecture increases conductivity and ensures a high cycle life with minimal capacity loss, even with extreme fast charging, according to the company.
Ionblox claims its lithium-silicon cells not only charge more efficiently, but also maintain their performance throughout the life of the vehicle. Rigorous testing—more than 1,000 extreme fast charge cycles—of large-format (32-Ah capacity) pouch cells has shown minimal degradation of the batteries.
That’s made possible by a patented pre-lithiated silicon-monoxide anode and a unique cell architecture that the company said can be built on existing cell manufacturing facilities. Pre-lithiation is a process of lithium replenishment to compensate the initial active lithium loss. The company has more than 50 issued patents covering pre-lithiation of all types of silicon-based anodes.
In 2022, Ionblox received a new contract from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) to develop low-cost and fast-charging silicon-based cells for electric vehicles. It also received a strategic investment from Lilium, a leading eVTOL aircraft company. The fast-charging cell technology will enable eVTOLs to fly multiple times a day, extending their time in the sky.
With an Ionblox-equipped battery pack, an EV would have 30% more range. Therefore, the average EV with 300 miles of range would see a range increase to 390 miles using these cells. With extreme fast charging, the same EV could charge up to 60% in just five minutes for 225 miles of range. The fast-charging cells with extended range reduces the performance gap between electric and ICE vehicles, enabling mass adoption.
Ionblox is producing large-format pouch cells for automotive and aviation customers using commercially scalable materials and equipment. The company is now working with ecosystem partners to place its cells into higher-volume production.