Lithium ion batteries and electric vehicles

The Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) initiative has provided funding to projects at Dalhousie that will "build a better battery" and create ways for Titanium to be more cost-effective and in turn see increased use in the automotive industry, reducing vehicle weight and improving fuel economy.

Dalhousie University received over $6 million for two research projects. Dr. Jeff Dahn has received $4.1 million to advance the performance of lithium-ion batteries. His research centres on developing long-lasting Lithium-ion batteries, which are rechargeable and that can store around twice the energy of traditional batteries. Dr. Stephen Corbin has been granted $2.2 million to develop less expensive titanium parts for vehicles. Replacing steel with titanium alternatives reduces the weight of a vehicle by 50 percent, thus decreasing the costs of production of vehicles. These projects will be supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC).

Jeff Dahn’s project will seek to find ways to improve the life of lithium-ion batteries. These batteries, when used for cars, must meet more stringent requirements than those for portable electronics. They must last for 10 years, sustain over 3,000 charge/discharge cycles and withstand extremes of temperature. Batteries for grid energy storage and medical devices have similar requirements. A major goal of Dahn’s project is to rapidly identify those cell chemistries and operating ranges that give optimum battery cycle and calendar life. The funding will help enable the creation of three state-of-the-art labs to further Dahn’s work.

A suite of advanced diagonistic equipment is being added to the existing battery R+D capacity at Dalhousie to aid in the rapid development of long-lived, low-cost, high-energy Li-ion batteries for Automotive, Medical and Grid Energy Applications. The partners come from non-competing sectors so collaboration can occur: 3M is a Battery materials maker; Magna makes automotive Li-ion Batteries; Medtronic makes and uses Li-ion batteries for medical applications; GM makes electrified vehicles and NS Power is an electric utility interested in battery storage.

The cornerstone of the application is the first Ultra High Precision Battery Charger in the world capable of measuring the difference between the charge stored and delivered by Li-ion batteries of any size to a precision of 10 parts per million. Lithium-ion batteries would last forever if this difference is exactly zero, so accurately detecting and minimizing this difference, by making changes to battery chemistry, will lead the way to batteries that will last decades.

"The equipment we’re putting in place builds on work we’ve been doing over the last three years that shows it is possible in a three-year time frame, with the right measurements, to make statements about about battery lifetime," says Dr. Dahn.

Engineering professor Steve Corbin is looking into ways to develop a more cost effective Titanium. Titanium (Ti) is as strong as many steels yet 45% lighter. It can be used to make exhaust systems, engine valves and other automotive parts that will last a vehicle’s lifetime. A team of researchers from Dalhousie, Queen’s and the University of Waterloo, in partnership with two Ontario companies: Wescast Industries of Brantford and Kingston Process Metallurgy (KPM) aim to develop made-in-Canada technologies capable of producing Ti parts at a reduced cost. Reducing the cost of Ti will allow its increased use in the automotive industry, reducing vehicle weight and improving fuel economy.

"This new industrial initiative within Canada will open up new operations in Canada’s tech center, and allow for high quality job productivity," says Dr. Corbin.

APC is a five-year $145 million federal initiative launched in 2009 that supports collaborative research and development (R&D) activities of benefit to the entire Canadian automotive industry. It is a partnership among five federal research and granting organizations within the portfolio of Industry Canada: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), National Research Council (NRC), Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and Canada Excellence Research Chairs program. A key guiding principle of APC is that all projects (or programs of research) to be funded within this initiative must be driven by industry needs and must have active industrial participation and collaboration. In addition to the APC funding, the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT) will be providing $1,825,526 funding for Dr. Dahn’s project.