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Japanese tech company announces discovery that could change the future of EVs: 'This proof of concept is a technological breakthrough'

The team plans to have their mix ready for commercialization in 2025.

The team plans to have their mix ready for commercialization in 2025.

Photo Credit: Asahi Kasei

Asahi Kasei's experts have announced a battery innovation that promises improved power output and service time, which are welcome words to any potential electric vehicle owner. 

The breakthrough is a "high-ionic" electrolyte for lithium-ion power packs, according to a press release from the Japan-based team

Electrolyte is the substance that lithium ions travel through in common batteries. The ions move between the anode and cathode as the power pack operates. Asahi isn't new to working with the substance. The tech outfit has been studying high-ionic versions since 2010. 

As part of the research, acetonitrile was identified as a "promising ingredient" for lithium-ion electrolyte. Acetonitrile is a fairly dangerous substance, per the Michigan Department of Community Health. 

But when tucked safely inside battery chemistry with cylindrical cells, it helps power packs to operate at reduced size with strong power release "contributing to higher battery energy density and lower overall pack cost," according to Asahi. 

The battery uses fewer cells and "enhanced electrode thickness" to help achieve its solid performance. 

"This proof of concept is a technological breakthrough," Kazuya Noda, company senior general manager of innovation strategy, said in the statement

The big win could be the wide temperature range at which the prototype tested well. The cells showed high power at minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit and double the cycle life and durability at 140 degrees Fahrenheit before reaching a state of health of 80%. The state of health measurement gauges battery degradation. 

Battery innovations are happening at labs around the world. Experts are pursuing materials for pack chemistry that are cheap, efficient, and reliable. Providing hundreds of miles of range on a minutes-long charge is also a key target for many programs. 

If achieved, the science could lower the cost of EVs. Mainstay brands like Nissan are already planning for cheaper production in the coming years. What's more, data collector Cox Automotive expects 2024 to be the best year on record for U.S. EV sales. 

Buying an EV can already result in about $1,500 a year in gas and maintenance savings while also eliminating 10,000 pounds of planet-warming air pollution if it replaces a gas guzzler. 

The switchover's impact — which can be amplified by simply riding a bike or walking a little more for short trips — can improve the air for everyone. Popular Science reported that vehicle exhaust "is responsible for four million new cases of childhood asthma each year." 

If successful, Asahi's better battery electrolyte could help the cause by providing lower-cost power packs with high performance. 

The team plans to have their mix ready for commercialization in 2025.

"By licensing the electrolyte technology to (battery) manufacturers worldwide, Asahi Kasei aims to contribute to lower cost and more compact battery systems, which are a key driver to achieve a more sustainable society," Noda said in the press release. 

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