Companies that fabricate lithium-ion battery cells rarely stage elaborate displays at global auto shows. Korean maker Samsung, though, feels its latest advance in electric-car battery tech warranted its booth at this week's 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Samsung SDI, which supplies battery cells to the likes of Audi and BMW, showcased a new and more compact cell design with higher energy capacity, so that battery packs for future electric cars be be made either smaller or longer-range. In a "multifunctional" battery pack it showed off, fitting the maximum number of cell modules could provide future electric cars with 400 miles or more of range.
This was achieved by what Samsung SDI calls the "low-height cell." The cell is using the 21700 standard of cylindrical battery cells, which means it has a 21-millimeter diameter and 70-millimeter height. Samsung SDI's current cell design uses the18650 cell standard, i.e. 18-millimeter diameter and 65-millimeter height.
The big news is that despite its minimal increase in dimensions—5 mm of height and 3 mm of diameter—the new cell has fully 50 percent more capacity. This means fewer cells will be needed for a given energy capacity, so the battery pack can be made smaller, cutting weight and providing more cabin volume.
Samsung SDI battery plant in Xi'an, China
The new cells are housed in what Samsung SDI calls a "multifunctional" battery pack. As usual, the cells are arrayed in standard modules, and different automakers can choose how many modules to use in a specific battery pack. Samsung SDI notes that installing the maximum number of 20 modules, an electric car fitted with its multifunctional battery pack could travel 600 to 700 kilometers (370 to 435 miles).
Such a long-range option would be pricey at the moment, Samsung SDI says, making it suitable for luxury cars only. However, if an automaker chose to fit 10 to 12 of Samsung's modules, range would still be about 300 km (185 miles) but the pack would be affordable enough for mainstream models.
Samsung SDI is banking heavily on automakers' needs for batteries. Along with the new battery technology, it showed in Frankfurt, Germany, it also recently finished construction of its most-recent battery manufacturing facility in Hungary.
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