Self-Heating Lithium-Ion Battery Could Cut Winter Range Woes


Penn State EC Power "all-climate battery" self-heating lithium-ion cell

Penn State EC Power "all-climate battery" self-heating lithium-ion cell

Enlarge Photo

For some electric-car drivers--and potential buyers--range loss in cold winter weather is a significant concern.

"Range anxiety" is already an issue for many consumers, and the potential for a loss of up to one-third of the total rated range in cold weather compounds the problem.

To tackle that problem, Penn State researchers are working on a lithium-ion battery that can heat itself up when necessary.

DON'T MISS: Electric-Car Battery Energy: Why Waste It On Cabin Heating? (Video)

Penn State spinoff EC Power claims to have created an "all-climate battery" (ACB) cell that can heat itself at temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

This is done without any external devices or electrolyte additives, the researchers said in an article published in the journal Nature (via Green Car Congress).

In its current form, researchers claim the ACB cell can heat itself from -20 to 0 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees to 32 degrees Fahrenheit) within 20 seconds, and from -30 to 0 degrees C (-22 to 32 degrees F) to 0 degrees in about 30 seconds.

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

Enlarge Photo

Heating cycles consume 3.8 percent for -20 to 0 degrees, and 5.5 percent for -30 to 0 degrees.

The research team hopes to cut the time to heat a cell from -20 to 0 degrees Celsius to just 5 seconds by 2017, and to reduce the energy consumption of the process as well.

The ACB cell uses a 50-micrometer-thick nickel foil, with one end attached to the negative terminal, and the other extending outside the cell to create a third terminal.

MORE: Wintry Michigan: Not The Best Place To Drive An Electric Car? (Feb 2015)

A temperature sensor attached to a switch causes electrons to flow through this foil, completing a circuit.

This heats the foil, and in turn warms the battery cell.

Once the cell is sufficiently heated, the switch turns off, and electron flow is redirected to the normal pattern.

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

Enlarge Photo

Nickel was chosen for this heating element primarily because of its low cost, researchers say.

They claim the self-heating cell is being developed to weight just 1.5 percent more than a standard lithium-ion cell, with a 0.04-percent increase in cost.

In addition to electric-car applications, they believe the self-heating ACB cell could prove useful for high-altitude drone operations, robotics, and space exploration.

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