Scottish seaweed sparks idea to boost electric vehicle batteries. Subscribe to Electric Vehicle News Bitesize Podcast for FREE to hear more!
Materials from Scottish-grown seaweed could help to improve the life-span and charge time of lithium-ion batteries used for the likes of electric vehicles, with a new first-of-its-kind prototype already being tested by expert researchers.
The team from Marine Biopolymers and The University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry recently received funding from the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre to explore the use of tailored alginates – a naturally-occurring material found in brown seaweed – to help develop batteries using silicon as an alternative to the currently used graphite.
Graphite or carbon electrodes are a core component of standard lithium-ion batteries, but can only store a limited amount of charge and have a restricted overall life-span. Silicon has been suggested as a viable alternative material for the battery anode, and it can increase the charging capacity by up to ten times. However, when used on its own, silicon expands and contracts each time the battery is cycled, eventually cracking and becoming damaged. This prototype combines silicon with the seaweed-derived alginate to improve the electrode’s elasticity and ability to store energy.
So far, a prototype the size of a typical watch battery has been created and tested by the researchers with very encouraging results. They are now keen to develop a larger scale battery to test the technology at scale, proving that the seaweed alginates can be used to significantly boost charging capacity for a range of industrial and consumer products – such as electric vehicles.
Professor Duncan Gregory, chair in Inorganic Materials at the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry, said: “Battery technology is going to play a hugely important role in our transition away from fossil fuels. Electric vehicles, renewable energy production, national grids and other critical elements of a net zero future will depend on having batteries that can store large amounts of energy in the smallest volumes possible and with extended lifetimes.
“As well as this, we need to find more sustainable production methods and ways to use naturally occurring materials as part of battery manufacturing. This project has been in the works for some time now and it is great to see initial positive results, combining the expertise from two key fields.”
The project represents the first time battery scientists have explored the use of this type of tailored alginate for mass commercial applications and researchers have optimised the design and construction of the battery cell to ensure the best possible performance. Estimates suggest the new design will have a life cycle which is two to three times longer than state of the art graphite electrodes.
Marine Biopolymers is an expert in extracting a range of natural polymers from seaweed for different applications such as food and pharmaceuticals. It is also targeting the growing demand for bio-based materials across industrial and manufacturing sectors, including naturally regenerative seaweed which can be harvested sustainably.
Kirsty Neilson, product development manager at Marine Biopolymers Limited, said: “This an exciting first venture into energy storage and we are hoping to be in a position to take a commercial solution to the market in the next three to five years. The new technology could underpin an entirely new supply chain and manufacturing market here in Scotland and we have already had encouraging conversations with potential partners. It would be great to see seaweed species indigenous to Scottish coastal waters being used to power everyday electronics and technology in the future.”
Scotland has a long history of harvesting wild seaweeds for various uses including animal feed, agricultural fertilisers, and alginates. A 2022 report by IBioIC and the Scottish Association for Marine Science estimated that the sector could grow to generate revenues of £71.2 million per year by 2040, using a combination of both wild and cultivated seaweed.
Liz Fletcher, director of business engagement at IBioIC, added: “Electric vehicles powered in part by a seaweed-based product sounds like something from science fiction, but research and technology continue to push the boundaries and show us what’s possible. Seaweed is a valuable raw material with many potential use cases and by supporting companies like Marine Biopolymers with funding, expertise and access to facilities, we can support the development of exciting new bio-based supply chains in Scotland.”
Meanwhile in other news, BMW unveils its fastest, most powerful electric vehicle yet in the i7 M70.
BMW’s i7 electric is getting a performance upgrade from the masterminds at BMW M. The up- to-660-horsepower BMW i7 M70 xDrive is setting new internal records as its fastest, most powerful Electric Vehicle model yet.
Last April, the German luxury automaker released its first fully electric 7 series, the i7, with over 300 miles range and top-of-the-line luxury features, including an impressive 31-inch “theatre screen,” massaging seats, a panoramic sunroof, and more.
After rolling out in Europe and China, BMW’s electric sedan landed at US dealerships in the fourth quarter last year.
After delivering nearly 65,000 fully electric vehicles in the first three months of 2023, the BMW Group (including MINI) doubled Electric Vehicle sales (+112.4%) again while many Electric Vehicle makers have struggled.
The i7 has been a hot seller in China and is expected to be a “main growth driver” alongside its other premium models.
Although BMW’s CEO has confirmed there will be lower-priced electric models in the automaker’s lineup, the i70 M70 performance Electric Vehicle will not be one of them, being the automaker’s most powerful electric vehicle with up to 660 hp.
It’s official. The BMW i7 is getting an M performance upgrade. The i7 M70 xDrive will be the third and most powerful Electric Vehicle from BMW M.
With a dual electric motor, all-wheel-drive system delivering up to 811 lb-ft (1,100 Nm) of torque and 660 horsepower, the BMW i7 M70 is the fastest, most powerful Electric Vehicle ever produced.
The big-body BMW can pick up quickly, with 0 to 62 mph (0 to 100km/h) capabilities in as little as 3.7 seconds when M launch mode or M sport boost function is enabled.
M sport mode enables performance-specific graphics and BMW Iconic Sounds Electric, an “M Performance specific note.” Sport mode further intensifies the experience with additional sounds.
Powered by two e-motors and the automaker’s fifth-generation eDrive technology, the BMW i7 M70 is a force. The rear axle motor, in particular, has a power density rating of 2.41 kW/kg, making it the most dynamic electric motor in BMW’s portfolio.
With 101.7 kWh of usable energy from the battery, the i7 M70 electric sedan has long-range capabilities of between 303 to 348 WLTP miles (488 to 560 km).
The performance i7 comes with a max range mode, increasing range by roughly 15% to 25%. However, the EVs top speed is limited to 56 mph (90km/h), and climate control will be deactivated.
For the first time, the BMW i7 M70 will come with a unique illuminated kidney iconic glow around the grille. The Electric Vehicle will also include M-specific design features along the flanks, at the rear, and in the interior.
The i7 M70 will be among the brand’s first models to include the updated BMW operating system 8.5 offering a newly designed home screen and quick select functions.
For BMW performance fans, the automaker has confirmed it will include a fully electric performance series 5 sedan. The i5 is set to launch in October, followed by the M performance version.
And in our final story, Electric used vehicles ‘taking longer to sell’ than petrol and diesel.
Electric vehicles being defleeted are taking more than twice as long to sell as internal combustion engine models, new research from Epyx suggests.
Analysis of data from its 1link Disposal Network platform show that petrol cars and vans are taking an average of 10 days to sell, and diesel 11. However, it also reveals that ex-fleet EVs are taking, on average, 25 days to sell.
The trend remains the same when that data is split down into online and physical auction sales. When sold online, petrol takes five days, diesel six days and EVs 11 days; at auction, petrol and diesel both take 15 days and EVs 33 days, on average.
Tim Meadows, chief operating officer at Epyx, believes that these figures are reflective of what is happening across the industry as a whole.
“It’s no secret that the market for EVs has been pretty volatile in recent months and this is almost certainly having an effect on dealer’s propensity to take on this stock,” he said.
“However, against that development should be balanced the fact that now, something like one in six vehicles for sale on 1link Disposal Network at any time are EVs. This represents huge volume growth in this sector over a relatively short period of time.
“Our view is that Electric Vehicle sales might appear sluggish compared to ICE but it must be remembered that this is still a type of used vehicle that is relatively new to the market.
“Dealers and end users remain often unfamiliar with the technology and there is much misinformation around.
“Ultimately, the speed at which they are selling could conceivably be viewed as a positive and there is every chance that excessive supply and demand for EVs will switch places several times before the market reaches a point of relative stabilisation. Today’s situation could change quite quickly.”
An already volatile used Electric Vehicle market has had to deal with Tesla’s January price cut, which pricing experts said could not have come at a worse time.
The used value for a one-year-old Tesla Model 3 long range with 20,000 miles on the clock has fallen by £11,600, or more than 25%, since the middle of September.
The used battery electric vehicle market, while recording its best-ever annual performance last year with a record 71,071 units sold, a rise of 37.5%, still represents a small proportion of overall used sales.
Used BEV transactions equated to just 1% of the used market in 2022, up from 0.7% in 2021. Sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) rose 8.6% and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEVs) transactions were up 3.6%.
Combined, they represented 4.1% of the market (up from 3.3% in 2021).
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