As the world’s vehicle fleet decarbonizes by transitioning to electric drivetrains, the answer to what makes the best battery solution remains elusive.
Electric vehicle consumers seek a comfortable range for their batteries’ capacity and easy access to charging stations, especially those with fast-charging capabilities. Current lithium-ion batteries leave room for improvement in these areas and can present safety and weight concerns.
While electric vehicle battery fires aren’t common, when they do occur, the batteries’ chemistry makes them more difficult to extinguish than fires fueled by gasoline. In Texas, it took firefighters four hours to subdue the flames from a Tesla vehicle that ignited due to a crash, requiring between 25,000 and 30,000 gallons of water.
Lithium-ion batteries are also large and heavy, which can increase both the batteries’ size and their strain on road and parking infrastructure. Engineers in the U.K. have expressed concerns that old, improperly maintained parking structures could collapse under the weight of heavy electric vehicles as they become more common.
Candace Chan, an associate professor of materials science and engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, is working on two projects to help alleviate problems in applications that use lithium-ion batteries such as electric vehicles. In these projects, she is investigating how to make solid-state batteries a viable solution for consumer applications.