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Impact-Resistant Electrolyte

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte (SAFIRE)

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$550,000
Location: 
Oak Ridge, TN
Project Term: 
11/01/2013 to 10/31/2015
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Driving range, safety, and cost remain the biggest hurdles in the way of mass electric vehicle (EV) adoption. Innovative approaches to EV battery manufacturing present the opportunity to maximize stored energy relative to the weight of EVs, allowing for up to three times the driving range. These new battery chemistries and designs prevent overheating, are immune to catastrophic failure, and can be incorporated into the structure of a vehicle to improve strength in some cases. Much of this can be accomplished at a 30% lower cost compared to conventional batteries, thus bolstering widespread adoption of EVs.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is developing an electrolyte for use in EV batteries that changes from liquid to solid during collisions, eliminating the need for many of the safety components found in today's batteries. Today's batteries contain a flammable electrolyte and an expensive polymer separator to prevent electrical shorts--in an accident, the separator must prevent the battery positive and negative ends of the battery from touching each other and causing fires or other safety problems. ORNL's new electrolyte would undergo a phase change--from liquid to solid--in the event of an external force such as a collision. This phase change would produce a solid impenetrable barrier that prevents electrical shorts, eliminating the need for a separator. This would improve the safety and reduce the weight of the vehicle battery system, ultimately resulting in increased driving range.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, ORNL's new impact-resistant electrolyte would reduce the amount of shielding needed for EV batteries, ensuring safety while decreasing overall weight and increasing driving range.

Security: 

The mass adoption of EVs would diminish the demand for petroleum, dramatically reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Environment: 

Greater use of EVs would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, 28% of which come from the transportation sector.

Economy: 

Technological advancements from the RANGE program could enable EVs to travel significantly further on a single charge at a much lower cost than that of current EVs and conventional vehicles.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ping Liu
Project Contact: 
Dr. Gabriel Veith
Partners
University of Rochester
EnerDel
Release Date: 
8/21/2013