The National University of Singapore is developing fast-charging batteries that would fully charge an electric vehicle (EV) in the time that is taken to fill up petrol at the petrol pump.
These fast-charging batteries are among the key projects of a new $5 million battery innovation NUS facility which is backed by the National Research Foundation, that was officially opened on May 22. The battery is made using Niobium metal with the aim to last a full decade longer than those powering EVs today, and it may possibly outlast the vehicle itself. The NUS has come into the race of innovating next-gen batteries at a time when lithium-ion batteries are currently in short supply amidst EV boom.
The lab was launched in collaboration with Brazilian company CBMM, the world’s leading supplier of niobium, to develop fast charging batteries with lifespan of 30years. “This facility allow developers to build and test all parts of their battery prototype in one site instead of them going around to multiple manufacturers to develop each battery part,” said Professor Antonio H. Castro Neto, director of NUS’ Centre for Advanced 2D Materials (CA2DM).
He further informed that the centre is home to the new facility – the CBMM-CA2DM Advanced Battery Laboratory, where manufacturers can use a host of battery testing tools, such as a furnace to grow new materials and X-ray scanners to study the properties of elements used. “The project is very much a pilot line for battery production.It’s not a large-volume facility like a gigafactory but the idea is to produce enough batteries for third-party makers to test, get a first look at, and get (them) approved for market use. The facility is open to approved battery makers and enterprises keen to develop next-generation batteries,” said Prof Castro Neto.
He added that each project will be reviewed by a panel of scientists, who need to be convinced that the project is truly innovative rather than providing an incremental improvement to batteries already available.
“The centre is first placing its bets on niobium-graphene batteries, which combine niobium’s resistant molecular structure with graphene’s electrical conductivity.Over the last four years, CBMM has sold niobium to improve the durability of batteries used in electronics like electric scooters and power tools,” said CBMM global head of batteries Rogerio Ribas.
“Niobium’s structure is more resistant to stress while the battery is charging, which prolongs the battery’s lifespan and prevents it from overheating,”said Mr Ribas.“Once ready, niobium-built batteries can be charged at least 10,000 times, while keeping around 80 per cent of its starting capacity, he said. This projection is up to five times higher than what standard EV batteries today are capable of,” he informed.
“If you have a battery that lasts longer, you don’t have to replace and bring new materials to the market,” said Ribas. The company has a target to develop car batteries which are capable of getting charged completely in 10 minutes that is around three times faster than the latest fast-charging cells found in EVs today ensuring durability and safety,too. He added further, “It is yet to be seen how long each charge will last on a niobium-built battery, but fast-charging capabilities will mean that smaller battery packs can serve more vehicles,” and further informed that these batteries offer a more sustainable alternative to the present lithium-ion batteries, which produce toxic waste when discarded. NUS is also in the midst of creating a solid-state battery without flammable liquids inside.