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Lithium-ion battery structure that self-heats at low temperatures

Abstract

Lithium-ion batteries suffer severe power loss at temperatures below zero degrees Celsius, limiting their use in applications such as electric cars in cold climates and high-altitude drones1,2. The practical consequences of such power loss are the need for larger, more expensive battery packs to perform engine cold cranking, slow charging in cold weather, restricted regenerative braking, and reduction of vehicle cruise range by as much as 40 per cent3. Previous attempts to improve the low-temperature performance of lithium-ion batteries4 have focused on developing additives to improve the low-temperature behaviour of electrolytes5,6, and on externally heating and insulating the cells7,8,9. Here we report a lithium-ion battery structure, the ‘all-climate battery’ cell, that heats itself up from below zero degrees Celsius without requiring external heating devices or electrolyte additives. The self-heating mechanism creates an electrochemical interface that is favourable for high discharge/charge power. We show that the internal warm-up of such a cell to zero degrees Celsius occurs within 20 seconds at minus 20 degrees Celsius and within 30 seconds at minus 30 degrees Celsius, consuming only 3.8 per cent and 5.5 per cent of cell capacity, respectively. The self-heated all-climate battery cell yields a discharge/regeneration power of 1,061/1,425 watts per kilogram at a 50 per cent state of charge and at minus 30 degrees Celsius, delivering 6.4–12.3 times the power of state-of-the-art lithium-ion cells. We expect the all-climate battery to enable engine stop–start technology capable of saving 5–10 per cent of the fuel for 80 million new vehicles manufactured every year10. Given that only a small fraction of the battery energy is used for self-heating, we envisage that the all-climate battery cell may also prove useful for plug-in electric vehicles, robotics and space exploration applications.

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Figure 1: The ACB.
Figure 2: Power performance of the ACB cell.
Figure 3: Power on demand at 50% SOC for 10-s HPPC at −30 °C.
Figure 4: ACB cell durability.

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Acknowledgements

We thank W. Zhao and C. E. Shaffer for early discussions on using battery simulation software to discover the all-climate battery. This work was inspired by US patent publication numbers 2014-0342194, 2015-0303444 and 2015-0104681 and Patent Cooperation Treaty publication numbers WO 2014/186195, WO 2015/102709 and WO 2015/102708.

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Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

C.Y.W. developed the concept and wrote the manuscript. S.G., T.X., Y. J. and X.G.Y. designed and built the cells, G.Z. built the test stand and carried out the performance characterization, and Y.L. performed the cycle life experiments. All authors contributed to development of the manuscript and to discussions as the project developed.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chao-Yang Wang.

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Competing interests

C.-Y.W. is the founder and chief technology officer of and has an equity stake in EC Power, an academic spin-off company working in the field of battery and fuel cell technologies. The remaining authors declare no competing financial interests. The all-climate battery is the subject of patent protection including US patent publication numbers 2014-0342194, 2015-0303444 and 2015-0104681 and Patent Cooperation Treaty publication numbers WO 2014/186195, WO 2015/102709 and WO 2015/102708.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Cell voltage and temperature evolution during activation and subsequent 1C discharge.

a, −30 °C. b, −40 °C. The insets show the Vact = 0.4 V activation more clearly.

Source data

Extended Data Figure 2 Cell current variations during activation.

a, −20 °C. b, −30 °C. c, −40 °C. d, Activation time τact and average activation current Iact versus the ambient temperature Tamb.

Source data

Extended Data Figure 3 1C charge/2C discharge cycling of ACB cell at room temperature between 2.8 V and 4.2 V.

a, C/3 capacity retention. b, 1C charge/discharge curves of the fresh and aged cells.

Source data

Extended Data Figure 4 ACB cell discharge with various C-rates of discharge and at room temperature.

Source data

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Cite this article

Wang, CY., Zhang, G., Ge, S. et al. Lithium-ion battery structure that self-heats at low temperatures. Nature 529, 515–518 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature16502

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