Launching Aerospace Battery Tech for EVs

Nanoramic and USABC kick off R&D project to demonstrate new Li-ion cells with high energy density, fast charging and low cost.

Comparison data of a typical 2021 Li-ion EV battery vs. Neocarbonix technology. (Nanoramic)

Advanced materials and energy storage company Nanoramic Laboratories is in the early stages of a 30-month project to develop a low-cost/fast-charge Li-ion battery for electric vehicles using its patent-pending technology. The company expects to test the technology, called Neocarbonix at the Core, in a vehicle in 2024. “This will demonstrate fast-charging capabilities as well as extended vehicle range using our battery cells integrated in a pack,” said Nicolo Brambilla, CTO for Boston-based Nanoramic.

Off-the-shelf materials help lower the cost of Nanoramic’s cells, said CTO Nicolo Brambilla. (Nanoramic)

The $3.6-million, low-cost/fast-charge development project is being funded 50/50 by Nanoramic and the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), a technology collaborative involving Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. This is Nanoramic’s second contract with USABC, Brambilla noted, the first being a technology assessment of the Neocarbonix cell chemistry and structure. The current contract aims to demonstrate how Neocarbonix can provide large battery cells with improved energy density, cost, and charge time. “This is a big step in the technology’s path to commercialization,” Brambilla said.

Prior to its focus on EV applications, Nanoramic demonstrated how super-capacitors can use Neocarbonix 100% carbon electrodes. “With this technology, we enable low operating temperatures [-55C], which are very beneficial for aerospace applications,” Brambilla explained. A technology transfer is unfolding to automotive, with key aspects of Neocarbonix, including the manufacturing process, remaining the same, according to Brambilla.

A Nanoramic ‘Neocarbonix at the Core’ electrode for Li-ion batteries during the coating process. (Nanoramic)

Compared with traditional Li-ion battery chemistries, Neocarbonix at the Core is unique. It doesn’t use NMP (N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone) solvent or PVDF (polyvinylidene fluoride) binders in the cathodes, Brambilla said. Instead, it uses a 3D nanoscopic carbon binding structure to form a cohesion layer. “The same technology is also applied to silicon dominant anodes, where this carbon composite structure is ideal to cycle silicon particles,” he noted.

USCAR has initiated nine fast-charge/low-cost EV battery programs to date, said executive director Steve Zimmer. (USCAR)

Nanoramic’s technology has several pending patents addressing various items, including the cathode, the anode, the electrolyte and the cell. Brambilla points out that when a Neocarbonix at the Core silicon dominant anode design is paired with highly conductive PVDF-free cathodes, the result is faster charging performance than other Li-ion types. The company claims it can achieve an 80% state of charge in less than 15 minutes in cells with energy densities greater than 900 watt-hours per liter.

Cost reduction was another development target. “We use off-the-shelf silicon materials that are inexpensive, allowing us to provide a cost advantage of up to $27 per kilowatt hour,” said Brambilla. The company’s contract is one of nine low-cost/fast-charge EV programs initiated to date. These programs collectively total more than $24 million, according to Steve Zimmer, executive director of the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), an umbrella organization that includes USABC. “Additional programs are under consideration,” Zimmer noted, “and USABC would encourage further submissions from any interested developers.”

USABC’s mission is focused on facilitating the commercialization of electrochemical energy storage (EES) technologies for next-generation EV applications. Since the beginning of the current cooperative agreement with the U.S. Dept. of Energy, USABC has managed 40 advanced EES programs, including low-cost/fast-charge batteries for EV applications, and development of advanced microporous separators for Li-ion batteries. Twelve of those 40 programs are currently active.