Researchers Develop Self-Extinguishing Electric Vehicle Battery to Combat Runaway Fires

June 10, 2024
Through a myriad of tests, including operating at extreme temps and even having a stainless steel nail driven through it, the battery survived without catching on fire.

Scientists from Clemson University have potentially developed a solution to one of the largest obstacles facing electric vehicle adoption: battery fires.

Apparao Rao of Clemson University and Bingan Lu of Hunan University released research demonstrating the success of a self-extinguishing EV battery they’ve developed, reports the Cool Down. Through a myriad of tests, including operating at extreme temps and even having a stainless steel nail driven through it, the battery survived without catching on fire.

This was achieved through a seemingly simple innovation: the researchers took the most commonly used electrolyte in EV batteries, which is made up of lithium salt and an organic solvent, and replaced it with chemicals from a commercial fire extinguisher.

“We wanted to develop an electrolyte that was nonflammable, would readily transfer heat away from the battery pack, could function over a wide temperature range, was very durable, and would be compatible with any battery chemistry,” the researchers explained in a press release.

A battery with these chemicals is able to operate for over a year without losing too much capacity, according to the research team. Some work did need to be done in a lab to make the chemicals compatible with batteries, taking into consideration toxicity levels and pollution.

Though the findings are indicative of a potential solution to one of the biggest challenges facing EVs, the researchers mainly studied potassium-ion and lithium-ion power packs. More research will need to be done on how the solution interacts with other battery types, such as zinc, sodium, and aluminum-ion.

“If the industry embraces it, we expect that companies will be able to manufacture nonflammable batteries using their existing lithium-ion battery facilities,” wrote Rao and Lu.

About the Author

Ratchet+Wrench Staff Reporters

The Ratchet+Wrench staff reporters have a combined two-plus decades of journalism and mechanical repair experience.

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