Hybrid Lithium-Metal Batteries for Low-Cost and Long-Range Electric Vehicles

This purpose of this project is to accelerate commercialization of low-cost and energy-dense EV batteries by advancing the development of a novel safe “anode-free” hybrid lithium-metal cells.

Project Update

In 2021, the BRIDGE team at Sepion began a closed-loop machine-learning enhanced electrolyte optimization program with the assistance of sub-awardees Aionics, Inc., resulting in an over 100% improvement in cell performance over 12 weeks. After the initial iterative electrolyte optimization phase, Sepion initiated testing in its 2nd generation lean lithium metal battery cell prototype with energy densities of >350 Wh/kg and >800 Wh/L, improving that system to yield another 116% improvement in cell performance in the second half of 2021. These demonstrations provided support to close Sepion’s oversubscribed $16M Series A funding round. In 2022, the team expects to leverage its models to further improve cell performance by another 100-300% by combining electrolyte enhancements with Sepion’s platform membrane and innovative current collector designs, to further validate fast-charge optimized cycle life enhancements in C/3 symmetric testing, and to complete the build-out and move-in to its new prototyping facility.

The Issue

California has made a clear commitment to tackle the multipronged challenge of decarbonizing while continuing to meet the practical power needs of the public with the Senate Bill 100 and Executive Order N-79-20. Accelerating deployment of low-cost and long-range electric vehicles is an appealing solution to meet both ambitious goals where electric vehicles, charged with renewable energy, will deliver zero-emission transportation and support decarbonization of the grid through the implementation of vehicle-to-grid charging infrastructure. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are reaching a performance and cost plateaus fundamentally constrained by the materials used to store energy in the anode.

Project Innovation

The purpose of this project is to advance the development of safe “anode-free” hybrid lithium-metal cells from a lab-scale validation to a pre-prototype. This project will marry an extensive lithium-metal battery membrane portfolio with a design of experiments and data-driven approaches to enhance two key components, the electrolyte, and an anode-free current collector, for a disruptive lithium-metal cell solution. The optimized components will maximize cycle life, fast-charging capability and safety of the cell, while the unique hybrid lithium-metal cell design will eliminate a layer of complexity in the commercialization process to enable an imminent competitive price point.

Project Benefits

The unique lithium-ion cell design will eliminate the need for a graphite anode or alternative anodes within the lithium-ion cell by replacing it with a unique anode-free current collector component that uses a metal plus plastic combination that will melt upon thermal runaway; cutting off the reaction prior to a fire taking place for safety. The project will also use a combination of an uncommonly comprehensive evaluation plan for electrolyte chemistry and an applied machine learning algorithm to iterate and optimize other cell components that will maximize cycle life, fast-charging capability, and safety of the whole cell. By eliminating the constraints from the cell components while remaining an easy “drop-in” solution in battery manufacturing, the technology will reduce range anxiety and reduce the up-front cost of 100% electric plug-in electric vehicles.


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