To go that extra mile with last bit of energy in the vehicle is every driver’s desire! Energy in a vehicle has to be optimised for maximum efficiency to meet this driver demand to provide the longest attainable range. Energy stored in a vehicle in fluid state is restricted due to the packaging volume available, except if it is in a gaseous state, when it can be stored at high pressure to enhance energy density. The same applies to energy that flows through electrons as in batteries, solar cells, capacitors and the like. The endeavour of newer innovations in solid state energy devices is to increase energy density with different form factors.
For a driver, the end game in vehicle energy is ease of availability on the driving routes and road networks, affordability, least amount of tail pipe emissions rather zero emissions, high percentage of recyclability with the lowest carbon footprint. Energy storage devices will continue to co-exist depending on the norms and regulations, vehicle powertrains and vehicle cost, and target customers’ demands.
In conventional vehicles, energy was stored in a fluid form under the floor pan. With the newer solid energy devices that are used in electric & hybrid vehicles, the form factor can be adapted to store under body, in the B-Pillar, below the seats and in spaces around the wheel wells. This provides more flexibility in energy storage and better vehicle range. The solid energy storage devices today are still expensive compared to their predecessors; they add lot more weight to the vehicle resulting in reduction of overall fuel economy, they are still to catch-up on the range that they can provide and most important of all is that they need charging infrastructure similar to the fuelling stations of fluid storage.
In any case, due to the weight distribution, driving dynamics and handling of a vehicle is better tuneable, when energy can be stored strategically in different form factors on a vehicle. The crash worthiness and safety of a vehicle can also be influenced through flexible packaging of energy storage devices.
INNOVATION & RESEARCH
In terms of innovations and research of solid state energy storage, the charging infrastructure and flexibility to deploy are key pillars of the sustenance. Automakers are investing large sums in these devices to partner with providers that are on the cutting edge of energy storage. The flexibility to attach and detach storage devices from a vehicle, to be able to latch on to a grid and to be able to work in a flexible environment is a trend that is on the rise.
Battery manufacturers are working with automakers and home providers to develop packs that are scalable and flexible to bring in economies of scale to achieve cost reduction. The storage devices that have gone through their first life of several hours can later be used in another environment that is not demanding but still can benefit from the remaining life. Further, the storage devices on a vehicle or home applications can be charged through solar panels to enhance their life.
In the current scenario, the key to energy storage in a vehicle is to be able to operationalise an electric ecosystem. The success of a sustainable holistic solution is to have the ability to offer a complete package that works on the road and off-the road, more so to power a home or a mini establishment. Market research projects a scalable $ 3 to 14 bn market by 2021 for grid connected battery storage devices that can be used interchangeably in vehicles or other stationary applications.