Nissan breakthrough

in battery power

Nissan Leaf, battery pack cutaway
Nissan Leaf, one of the 48 batteries
Nissan LEAF 30 kWh, front, action

ONE of the greatest drawbacks in turning to all electric power for daily motoring is the restricted range of most current offerings.

But Nissan, a pioneer of electric driving with cars such as the Leaf, has made a breakthrough and has gone atomic with its research.

The Japanese car maker, which makes the Leaf at its Sunderland factory in Britain, is involved in what it calls atomic analysis methodology that will help boost the performance of lithium-ion batteries and ultimately extend the driving range of zero-emission electric vehicles.

The breakthrough was the result of a combined effort between Nissan Arc Ltd., a Nissan subsidiary, Tohoku University, the National Institute for Materials Science, the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute and Japan Science and Technology Agency.

The analysis examines the structure of amorphous silicon monoxide, widely seen as key to boosting next-generation lithium-ion battery capacity, allowing researchers to better understand electrode structure during charging cycles.

Silicon is capable of holding greater amounts of lithium, compared with common carbon-based materials, but in crystalline form possesses a structure that deteriorates during charging cycles, ultimately reducing performance.

However, amorphous silicon monoxide is resistant to such deterioration.

Its base structure had been unknown, making it difficult for mass production. The new system devised by Nissan provides an accurate understanding of the amorphous structure, based on a combination of structural analyses and computer simulations.

The findings show that its structure allows the storage of a larger number of lithium-ions, in turn leading to better battery performance.

Nissan believes that its work is leading to an extended cruising range of electric cars, underlining the confidence it has in a wide range of energy sources for tomorrow's vehicles.

To me this could represent the breakthrough that has long been awaited in electric power.

It all seemed to hit a brick wall when it appeared that lithium-ion batteries could not really be made more efficient.

However, the writing could now be on the wall for electric cars really to take off.

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