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Expert weighs in on major changes to EV batteries: 'If you look backwards and think about the year-over-year improvement...'

"We need to dig up millions of tonnes of minerals for clean energy."

"We need to dig up millions of tonnes of minerals for clean energy."

Photo Credit: iStock

One of the biggest steps the world can take toward cleaner air and a lower global temperature is switching from polluting gas-powered cars to cleaner electric vehicles

Better EV batteries speed up that change and make electric cars more attractive to all drivers.

Often, when you hear news about bigger and better electric batteries, researchers have proposed a new technology or material that's still far from being marketable, as MotorTrend pointed out

But smaller, more incremental improvements have been happening in the background — and they add up.

What kind of improvements are we talking about?

EV batteries can't be arranged in one simple list from best to worst. They have multiple criteria used to measure their performance, and improving one area can mean that performance suffers in another. Different materials also tend to have different strengths and weaknesses.

MotorTrend explained that the most important criteria for an EV battery are, essentially:

  1. Its cost of production

  2. The number of times the battery can be charged before its life cycle ends

  3. How much electricity can be stored in the battery (also known as energy density)

  4. Its safety

  5. Its effectiveness at extreme temperatures

  6. Its environmental impact — including how recyclable it is

Why do these factors matter?

Improving battery performance makes EVs more practical for a larger number of people, which means more buyers and more opportunities for the benefits of these cars to come into play. 

EVs are cheaper to fuel, more affordable to maintain, quieter to drive, and don't produce any toxic or heat-trapping fumes — making them healthier for both people and the planet.

Critics will say that EV batteries use rare metals that must be extracted from the Earth through mining, thus polluting the environment.

But as University of Oxford researcher Hannah Ritchie pointed out on X, formerly known as Twitter, "'We need to dig up millions of tonnes of minerals for clean energy.' Sounds big. Except we're digging billions of tonnes of fossil fuels out every year. That's what we're trying to replace."

For all the problems with mining battery materials, electric cars are still far better for the environment than gas-powered ones.

How have EV batteries improved?

Overall, EV batteries have gradually improved as companies refine their designs and manufacturing processes. 

Mujeeb Ijaz, CEO of Our Next Energy (ONE), told MotorTrend, "If you look backwards and think about the year-over-year improvement, it's something like 6% year over year, on average, that batteries have improved and materials have been evolving."

To find the best variations, manufacturer Chemix uses machine learning to simulate millions of combinations and formulas to identify the most promising ones to test, MotorTrend reported.

Innovative use of the existing technology has also led to some surprising inventions. For example, ONE combined lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells in the same pack with anode-free cells to take advantage of the long life cycle of LFP and the high energy density of anode-free batteries. 

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