Industry celebrates International Battery Day

Industry celebrates International Battery Day

Feature articles |
By Nick Flaherty

International Battery Day is celebrated every year on February 18, the birthday of Italian physicist Alessandro Volta, who introduced the first battery in 1801.

The first cells were rudimentary, with thin strips of copper, cardboard and zinc, separated by damp leather. Volta’s conducting element was his own tongue. This Friday, the battery reaches the grand old age of 221 years and with the rise of electric vehicles battery technology and renewable power has never been more important says Dr Michael Baumann, co-CEO of battery analytics startup Twaice in Munich.

The battery is both an electrochemical energy store and a converter: When discharged, stored chemical energy is converted into electrical energy by the electrochemical reaction. This converted energy is then available to consumer devices independently of the power grid.

So much more than an indispensable component in smartphones and laptops, life without batteries today seems unimaginable says Baumann.

The breakthrough of a commercially viable lithium-ion battery was, however, relatively recent: in 1979, researchers John B. Goodenough in Oxford and Koichi Mizushima in Tokyo developed a rechargeable lithium cell with about 4 volts, that used lithium cobalt dioxide as the positive electrode.

Although research into rechargeable lithium batteries stems from the 1960s, with M. Stanley Whittingham in the UK reporting a rechargeable lithium metal battery in the 1970s, it was the work by Goodenough and Mizushima that was the crux of the lithium-ion battery’s triumph. Its rechargeability made it the basic prerequisite for battery-powered e-mobility.

From Great Britain to Germany

The emergence of electromobility is strongly associated with the name of the British naturalist Michael Faraday. The year 1821 is considered the birth of electromobility because Faraday was able to show how permanent rotation was created with the help of electromagnetism.3

By the end of the 19th century, electric cars were more advanced than cars with internal combustion engines. The very first four-wheeled electric-powered vehicle was introduced in Coburg in 1888 by German entrepreneur and inventor Andreas Flocken.

Find out more about early electric vehicles: Grid weakness killed early electric vehicles

This was the catalyst for continuous, rapid development in electromobility, Baumann points out. Back then, the share of electrically powered vehicles was almost twice as high as that of vehicles with combustion engines. But due to the interaction of the automotive and oil industries, the automotive trade and users, the media and politics an automotive system was established in which, unfortunately, e-cars were not able to gain momentum. It sounds crazy that all these great discoveries and ideas had to lie waste for almost a century, and that only now e-cars are back in the fast lane due to increasing environmental problems. The figures concur – the EY Mobility Lens Consumer Index shows that more than 40% of current new car buyers plan to invest in an electric car. Ecological awareness and environmental protection are high on the consumer’s agenda.

Today, renewable energies, battery energy storage systems and e-mobility are key to sustainability and an environmentally friendly energy system. Other propulsion options exist, such as hydrogen. However, scientific studies have shown that with hydrogen as a form of propulsion, most of the energy is lost in the technology chain and around 80% of the efficiency is sacrificed. In the case of battery-electric drive, this is a maximum of 30% of the energy used, making this form of drive the most viable alternative engine for the foreseeable future.

Bidirectional charging 

The still new concept of bidirectional charging should make e-mobility even more attractive and sustainable in the years to come. If vehicles are connected to a bidirectional charging network while idle, the battery could actively participate in the energy market by joining forces as a “virtual power plant” with other vehicle and home storage batteries, even generating income.

If the “state of health” of the battery can then be predicted – with the help of software that can determine the wear and aging process for each type of battery under certain usage conditions – the value chain can be significantly expanded. This is because such information makes a second life cycle of the battery possible. Predictive battery analytics software is now on hand to help us understand this nucleus of a world-changing technology.

UK events for International Battery Day 

FutureCat researchers from the University of Sheffield and UCLDr Beth JohnstonDr Kirstie McCombie, Dr Bonan Zhu and Dr Alex Squires, will be describing their research to find next generation cathode batteries.

18th February 1-2 pm – Register here

Imperial College London is holding an event for undergraduates to learn more about careers in batteries. Engaging talks from Faraday Institution researchers followed by a poster session, pizza and drinks! In person and online versions of the event

18th February 5pm – Register here



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