Current lithium-ion batteries can take several hours to recharge, and even the fast-charging of EVs takes over 30 minutes. With consumers seeing long charging times as a barrier to purchase, the need for faster charging and higher power batteries has never been greater.
|By the numbers|
|Approaching 100||Industry-relevant cylindrical cells manufactured, capable of full charge in under 5 minutes, compared to an average of 30 minutes for fast charging to 80% charge for current EV batteries|
|Over 300 meters||Prototype anode processed using standard cell making equipment, demonstrating repeatability and scalability.|
The founders of Nyobolt Ltd, including Prof Clare Grey, University of Cambridge and Principal Investigator of the Faraday Institution project on extending battery life, discovered and developed a new niobium-based anode material with unparalleled fast charge and high-power capability that could solve such problems. The company founded in 2019 has embarked on the journey to fully commercialise its technology.
Typically, new battery material discoveries are demonstrated in the laboratory using small coin cells but, whilst these can point towards future potential and help understand the underlying properties, demonstration in industrially relevant cells is essential. With this transition to larger and more representative cells comes challenges in both the quantities of reliable, consistent materials needed and in the development and manufacture of prototype devices. In these cells, challenges lie in adapting conventional electrode and cell design to the additional demands necessitated by higher currents, cell heating and novel operating conditions. Such challenges must be overcome for these cells to fulfil their promise of a step change in fast charging and the whole new class of applications that capability can create.
The winding of electrodes with separator in the production of prototype cylindrical cells.
Through the Faraday Institution Industry Fellowship that began in 2019, Dr Alex Roberts of Coventry University’s Cell Prototyping Laboratory has worked closely with the Nyobolt team to help deliver the transition from small lab cell to full prototype demonstrator cells. The prototyping and high-power testing facilities as well as experience available at Coventry, combined with the expertise and experience in cell development in both Nyobolt and Coventry, have resulted in a rapid progression to industrial pouch and cylindrical cell builds. This has demonstrated the potential of Nyobolt’s materials in commercially relevant cells. The ongoing collaboration is enabling initial prototypes to be further developed and tailored to specific applications to meet future customers’ needs.
The prototype devices developed under this programme were essential to demonstrate the potential of Nyobolt’s technology and, in so doing, helped secure a £8m Series A investment for Nyobolt early in 2021. This investment helps to ensure the continued future growth of Nyobolt, to build battery technology leadership in the UK and to enhance the battery supply chain in the UK.
As we see battery technologies adopted in more applications, there is constant demand for faster charging from the end user. The materials being developed by Nyobolt have the potential to offer a step change in fast charge capabilities. The Industrial Fellowship has given me the exciting opportunity to work with Nyobolt in ensuring their materials achieve their full potential in commercially relevant prototype cells, whilst also gaining insight and learning in the business aspects behind taking a discovery from lab to commercial reality.”
Dr. Alex Roberts, Faraday Institution Industrial Fellow, Coventry University
In the near term, the capability developed within this project to rapidly turn around industry relevant prototypes has allowed the parallel optimisation of cell chemistry, cell engineering and applications development. This has significantly increased the speed with which it has been possible to demonstrate the performance of this technology to customers and investors – key steps on the path to commercialising this UK discovery.
Through the information and learnings gained under this program, new approaches to cell design and engineering are being developed to address the shortfalls in conventional cell design that would otherwise limit the performance of this new class of high-power, fast-charge materials. Such learnings will be essential in future battery applications and across battery technologies as the expectations of end users regarding charging times become even more demanding.
In addition, the fellowship is leading to new collaborations between Coventry University and industry partners and recognition of Alex as an expert in this field. It has also led to potential further external investment in the facilities at Coventry University.
Alex Roberts outlines the scope of the fellowship in November 2021.
Success story updated November 2021