The only way Europe might become competitive against Asian countries in the FIELD OF battery production is through the development of new chemistry/technologies based on innovative materials and processes in this manufacturing value chain, allowing for:
- a more environmentally friendly production of the battery components;
- a substantial shortening of the battery assembly procedure, and
- an easier and more effective disassembly and end-of-life recycling.
Altogether, these improvements will allow higher energy efficiency and substantial production cost reductions thus ensuring a real competitiveness based on new technological IP rather than on only mass production optimization.
In the GREENLION project, we address the above issues by the industrial development of eco-designed processes at the electrode, cell and battery module level. At the electrode processing stage (that will be otherwise independent of the active materials chemistry), developing and making use of:
- aqueous slurries rather than toxic organic volatile compounds (25% cost reduction);
- non-thermoplastic polymers that allow for high temperature drying, which results in shorter and less expensive assembly procedures (10% efficiency); and
- easily disposable non-fluorinated polymers (at expected 10 times less materials cost).
GREENLION is a Large Scale Collaborative Project with the FP7 (topic GC.NMP.2011-1) leading to the manufacturing of greener and cheaper Li-Ion batteries for electric vehicle applications via the use of water soluble, fluorine-free, high thermally stable binders, which would eliminate the use of VOCs and reduce the cell assembly cost.
GREENLION has 6 key objectives: (i) development of new active and inactive battery materials viable for water processes (green chemistry); (ii) development of innovative processes (coating from aqueous slurries) capable of reducing electrode production cost and avoid environmental pollution; (iii) development of new assembly procedures (including laser cutting and high temperature pre-treatment) capable of substantially reduce the time and the cost of cell fabrication; (iv) lighter battery modules with air cooling and easier disassembly through eco-designed bonding techniques (v) waste reduction, which, by making use of the water solubility of the binder, allows the extensive recovery of the active and inactive battery materials; and (v) construction of fully integrated battery module for electric vehicle applications with optimized cells, modules, and other ancillaries.
Accordingly, GREENLION aims to overcome the limitations of present Li-ion manufacturing technology for electric vehicle batteries with the goal to: 1- perform breakthrough work to position Europe as a leader in the manufacturing of high energy and environmentally benign batteries; 2- develop highly effective eco-designed processes; 3- develop automotive battery module systems with: A) specific energy higher than 100 Wh/kg and specific power higher than 500 W/kg with respect to the overall weight of the system; B) coulombic efficiency on average higher than 99.95% during cycling; C) cycle life of 1,000 cycles with 20% maximum loss of capacity upon cycling between 100% and 0% SOC; and D) evaluate their integration in electric cars and renewable energy systems.
Developing a modular battery allows an easier handling of cells within a complete battery pack. At this battery module level, GREENLION project will design an autonomous unit including its own electrical and thermal management as a simple and reliable building block that will allow the manufacturing and maintenance of the whole battery packs easier and more inexpensively, with the lowest possible environmental impact. This will be achieved by:
- Lighter battery module designs (including electronics) by implementing air cooled solutions instead of liquid cooling systems (expected 20% less weight),
- bonding process of module housing for safe operation but easy disassembling for maintenance and reuse/recycling at their end-of-life, and
- automation of module assembly process (3 seconds per cell vs. manual assembly).
These developments will be scaled-up and realized in pilot lines during the project, following a continuous environmental assessment of materials and processes. A validation of the finally assembled battery module will be carried out leaded by the automotive end-user who will also provide the targets and specifications for EV application.
Sustainable production of Li-ion batteries
EU-funded scientists are introducing major breakthroughs in lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology that can spark widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
Low labour costs in Asian countries have enabled battery manufacturers to dominate the Li-ion battery production worldwide with low prices. The only way Europe can face this intense competition is to use innovative components, chemical technologies and manufacturing processes to produce cost-efficient, reliable and greener batteries.
The GREENLION (Advanced manufacturing processes for low cost greener Li-ion batteries) project addressed these challenges. The focus was on producing battery components with eco-friendly methods, cutting assembly times and making it easier to recycle parts when the battery is no longer usable.
Researchers worked on developing innovative processes to reduce electrode production costs and environmental pollution by using aqueous slurries for electrode manufacturing. Moreover, new assembly procedures, including the use of laser cutting and high-temperature pre-treatment, have the potential to reduce the cost of cell fabrication by 10 %. Use of non-thermoplastic polymers should increase the efficiency of assembly procedure by 10 %. Regarding the electrolytes, researchers combined different ionic liquids to obtain mixtures that can increase the efficiency of Li-ion batteries.
Developing a new modular design should reduce weight and make heat management more efficient. Autonomous modules can be put together more easily, simplifying and reducing the cost of manufacturing whole battery packs. Project partners considered implementing air cooling instead of liquid cooling systems that take up less space.
Automation of module assembly process will improve the quality and yield of production, while at same time reducing labour costs. Cell assembly will only take three seconds to produce.
Researchers scaled up these innovations on pilot manufacturing lines at project partner sites. End users will assess the final assembly battery module to see whether it meets electric vehicle specifications.
Li-ion battery technology is the key to electric vehicle success. Altogether, the improvements researchers made should allow higher energy efficiency and considerable reductions in battery production costs. These will in turn ensure that European competitiveness relies on developing new technological processes rather than only optimising mass production.