Most electric cars have a range of between 80 and 90 miles, some even 120 miles like the E-Cell A-Class, one of the new Mercedes cars, which is enough to do the shopping or to commute to work. However, day trips or vacations with a plug-in car are out of question unless you plan a six-hour stop every 100 miles to recharge the car. While electric vehicles do serve their purpose as clean, environmentally friendly city cars, they fall short as an all-round car.
The limited range of electric cars is regarded as the biggest obstacle to acceptance of this green transportation mode on the mass market. This is why batteries are one of the key components to the success or failure of electric cars as they decide over the reach of plug-in vehicles. Therefore, research into new battery technologies plays an important part for the future of electric cars.
Governments and companies have both recognized the importance of batteries and have started to collaborate in the research. One example where the collaboration bore fruits is the CAEBAT (Computer Aided Engineering For Electric Drive Vehicle Batteries) project by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and CD-apaco. It’s a tool that might help to develop better and advanced batteries for plug-in vehicles in a shorter amount of time. The computer software simulates spirally wound lithium-ion battery cells and helps researchers to test new technologies faster and more efficiently.
“Proliferating simulation methods in the new and rapidly changing field of lithium-ion battery development is the goal of the CAEBAT project,” said Ahmed Pesaran, Energy Storage group team leader of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that developed the software together with CD-adapco. “By including such models in to their mainstream product, CD-apaco is supporting the Department of Energy to meet these goals.”
With the CAEBAT software, battery manufacturers hope to develop battery engineering tools to design cells and battery packs, to validate the accuracy of those tools and to shorten the prototyping and manufacturing processes. They also expect to improve overall battery performance, safety and life as well as to reduce the costs of batteries with the tool.
The latter would have one of the biggest positive impacts on the electric car market as high battery prices and the weight of the packs affect the costs and the reach of plug-in vehicles most. For example, the battery of an electric car with a reach of 80 miles weighs around 200 kilograms and costs approximately £8.000. If you want to increase the vehicle’s reach to 300 miles, the battery pack would weigh 800 kilograms and cost more than £30.000. The heavier the car gets, the more energy has to be used to move it, leading to the need of bigger batteries. A vicious cycle that hopefully can be soon broken with tools like CAEBAT.