Research seeks affordable energy storage for electric vehicles

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Stuttgart-based M+W Group have signed an agreement for a research cooperation to significantly reduce energy and material costs in the battery production of electric vehicles.

The high costs for batteries are regarded as a major roadblock for a broad introduction of electric vehicles. One of the reasons for the high costs is the complex manufacturing process for lithium ion batteries.

The cooperation embraces research on drying room technology, resource-efficient factory and manufacturing control systems. M+W possess comprehensive experience of these three subjects—the company’s main business is planning and construction of semiconductor fabs.

“For us, the cooperation with an internationally renowned factory planner and plant engineering company offers the option to apply our research results directly to innovative manufacturing concepts for battery and cell production and thus market them globally,” said Andreas Gutsch, coordinator of the “Competence E” project at KIT. “We want to further develop industrial processes with focus on costs.”

So far, the production of lithium-ion cells is characterized and dominated by energy-intensive processes such as drying the coated electrodes, cell assembly in specific drying rooms and cell formation. The cooperation between the KIT scientists and the M+W technology experts will contribute to optimise the total energy system of cell and battery factories. In doing so, the researchers will get granular on the energy efficiency of the building as well as of the processes installed. At the same time, they will increase the share of renewable energies in energy-intensive production. For instance, KIT experts plan to install a photovoltaic system with integrated stationary
energy storage at the KIT campus. Thus, it will become possible to establish a “green” cell production based on renewable energies. “M+W Group links the goal of significant cost reduction for lithium-ion battery factories with the highest manufacturing quality requirements,” said Rudolf Simon, Technology Manager Automotive and Batteries for M+W Group. “In doing so, we can make use of experience in other high-tech industries such as semiconductors or photovoltaics.”

The “Competence E” project bundles all KIT activities associated to the storage of electric energy for mobile and stationary applications. The focus on the holistic approach in the development of industrial-scale cost-effective solutions for battery systems and next-generation electric drives is unique. In parallel to developing and building prototypes of new cells and batteries, new production methods are developed. As a first step, scheduled for February 2013, the partners will install a particular energy-efficient drying room for the assembly of lithium-ion batteries at the KIT.