Battery Degradation

At a Glance

In this blog post, we delve into the intricacies of battery degradation, a fundamental challenge that leads to the gradual reduction in a battery's capacity to retain and deliver energy. Through an understanding of the chemistry and internal workings of batteries, we shine a light on the steps taken by industries and consumers to minimize degradation. Importantly, we discuss Exro's contributions to this endeavor, highlighting our proprietary Battery Control System™ and Cell Driver™ technology designed to optimize battery performance and lifespan. While degradation can't be eliminated entirely, we present a hopeful future for battery longevity through continuous innovation and optimization.

In the era of technological advancements, batteries play a crucial role as the powerhouse for an array of applications, most notably in the rapidly growing sectors of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS). However, one common challenge that persists across these applications is battery degradation. Battery degradation refers to the gradual decline in the ability of a battery to store and deliver energy. This inevitable process can result in reduced energy capacity, range, power, and overall efficiency of your device or vehicle.

The battery pack in an all-electric vehicle is designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle. Nevertheless, battery degradation sets in, and EV batteries will gradually lose their energy storage capacity over time. It's important to note that this doesn't occur uniformly across all batteries; it varies based on the make of the battery, how the vehicle is driven, how it's charged, and its maintenance routine.

Understanding battery degradation, its causes, its impacts, and the strategies to minimize it are critical, particularly with the rise of electrification. This blog will delve into these facets, providing insights into this key aspect of battery technology.

Understanding Batteries

Batteries are the cornerstone of a wide array of technologies, with a significant presence in portable electronics and electric vehicles. Their operation relies on intricate electrochemical processes, but understanding their fundamental workings can be relatively simple.

A battery produces electricity through an intricate movement of electrons within its core components. This process begins with two different metals submerged in an electrolyte, a chemical substance that acts as a medium for the flow of electric charge. One metal liberates more electrons than the other due to a chemical reaction with the electrolyte, leading to a positive charge. In contrast, the other metal develops a negative charge. When an electrical conductor, like a wire, connects the two ends of the battery, electrons flow through it, striving to balance the electrical charge. When an electrical load, such as a light bulb, is added to this wire, the flowing electricity does work and powers up the bulb.

Among various types of batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries have emerged as the primary choice for most portable consumer electronics and electric vehicles due to their high energy per unit mass. They have an impressive power-to-weight ratio, exhibit high energy efficiency, perform well at high temperatures, and have a low self-discharge rate. Moreover, the majority of Lithium-Ion battery components are recyclable, although cost-effective material recovery remains a challenge.

A subtype of Lithium-Ion batteries that's gaining popularity in the electric vehicle and energy storage sector is Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries. These batteries offer robust safety features, long cycle life, and stability but trade-off in terms of energy density.

Batteries, regardless of their type, comprise three basic components: an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte. The anode is the site from which electrons flow out when connected to a circuit, whereas the cathode is where electrons flow in. These components are usually separated by a separator to prevent direct contact between the anode and cathode. All these components are stored within a casing that gives the battery cell its recognizable form.

Understanding these fundamental aspects of batteries and their types forms the foundation for comprehending the concept of battery degradation. As we delve deeper into the topic, these basics will play a crucial role in illustrating why and how battery degradation occurs.

Battery Degradation: A Deep Dive

The term battery degradation refers to the progressive loss of battery capacity over time, which inevitably affects the battery's ability to store and deliver power efficiently. This process doesn't occur uniformly across all batteries or even within the same battery type. Various factors influence the rate and extent of degradation, making it a complex and multi-dimensional problem.

Battery degradation in electric vehicles, for instance, results in reduced energy capacity, which in turn diminishes the range of the vehicle. This means that over time, a fully charged battery won't take you as far as it initially did. Similarly, in battery energy storage systems (BESS), battery degradation can limit the amount of energy that can be stored and delivered, impacting the overall efficiency of the system.

It's important to note that while the term battery degradation often conjures up images of a faulty or defective battery, it is, in fact, a natural and expected phenomenon. Just like the components in a traditional car engine wear out over time, so do the components within a battery. But unlike an engine that might exhibit obvious signs of wear and tear, the symptoms of battery degradation can be subtle, gradually emerging over extended periods of use.

Signs of battery degradation often start with reduced energy capacity, power, and overall efficiency. In the case of electric vehicles, you might begin to notice a decrease in the range of your vehicle on a full charge.

A key point to remember is that degradation is a slow process - it doesn't happen all at once. On average, depending on the use and the specific conditions it's subjected to, electric car batteries lose only about one to three percent of their range per year.

Understanding the various facets of battery degradation is crucial. Not only does it affect the performance of our electric vehicles and energy storage systems, but it also has economic and environmental implications. The next section will explore the common causes of battery degradation.

Causes of Battery Degradation

Causes of battery degradation include operational causes, environmental factors, and time.

Battery degradation is influenced by a multitude of factors, and understanding them helps inform how we can better manage and potentially slow this process. The principal causes of battery degradation can be classified into three categories: operational causes, environmental factors, and time.

  1. Operational Causes: These are factors related to how the battery is used and maintained. For instance, charging habits significantly impact battery health. Regularly charging your battery to 100% or depleting it completely before charging can accelerate degradation. Fast charging, while convenient, can also contribute to degradation due to the increased heat generated. Similarly, high discharge rates, such as those experienced in high-performance driving or grid energy discharge scenarios, can accelerate battery degradation.
  2. Environmental Factors: The environment in which a battery operates can significantly influence its rate of degradation. Temperature extremes, both hot and cold, can be particularly damaging. At extreme low temperatures, the battery may seize to function temporarily. Similarly, operating or charging a battery at high temperatures can also lead to malfunction and faster battery degradation. Similarly, if an electric vehicle is parked in an area with high ambient temperatures for extended periods, the battery could experience increased degradation.
  3. Time: Batteries naturally degrade over time, even when they are not in use. This type of degradation is often referred to as calendar degradation. It is influenced by the state of charge at which the battery is kept, with high states of charge generally leading to faster battery degradation.

While these are some of the major factors contributing to battery degradation, it's essential to remember that real-world conditions often present a combination of these factors. This makes predicting the exact rate of degradation challenging. However, by understanding these causes, we can adopt strategies to minimize degradation and maximize battery life.

Control Your Battery Energy Storage System at the Cell Level.
Control Your Battery Energy Storage System at the Cell Level.

Mitigating Battery Degradation: Best Practices and Strategies

Strategies for mitigating battery degradation include smart charging, temperature management, optimized usage, and battery maintenance.

Recognizing the causes of battery degradation equips us with the knowledge needed to slow down this process. Here are some practical strategies and best practices that can be adopted to minimize battery degradation:

  1. Smart Charging Practices: Charging habits significantly influence battery health. For instance, constantly charging the battery to 100% or letting it run down completely before recharging can accelerate degradation. Instead, aim to keep the battery’s state of charge between 20% and 80%. It's also a good practice to avoid frequent fast charging, as the excess heat generated can contribute to degradation.
  2. Temperature Management: Since temperature extremes can exacerbate battery degradation, it's beneficial to store and charge your batteries in temperature-controlled environments whenever possible. When using your electric vehicle in extremely cold weather, consider preheating the battery while the car is still plugged in, which can help maintain its range and lifespan.
  3. Optimized Use: High-stress use, like high-speed driving in EVs or heavy load discharging in BESS, can speed up battery degradation. Adopting a more moderate driving style and managing energy discharge can prolong battery health.
  4. Battery Maintenance: Regular battery health checks can go a long way in managing battery degradation. Many modern EVs and BESS have built-in battery management systems that monitor battery health and provide feedback. Regular servicing and timely intervention based on these inputs can prevent accelerated degradation.

The strategies above do not eliminate battery degradation entirely, but they can significantly slow the rate of capacity loss. With these practices, we can enhance battery longevity, efficiency, and reliability, benefiting both the users and the environment by reducing the demand for new batteries and minimizing electronic waste.

Tech Innovations and Future Directions in Tackling Battery Degradation

While individual users can adopt strategies to mitigate battery degradation, the real game-changers lie in technological advancements. Leading tech companies in the EV and BESS industry are investing heavily in research and development to combat this problem, with promising developments on the horizon.

  1. Improved Battery Management Systems (BMS): A robust BMS can significantly enhance battery longevity by effectively managing charging and discharging cycles, optimizing energy usage, and maintaining optimal operating conditions.
  2. Thermal Management Systems: To combat the impact of temperature extremes on battery health, companies are developing more efficient thermal management systems. These systems can maintain an optimal temperature range for battery operation, improving performance and slowing down degradation.
  3. Battery Second-Life Applications: When EV batteries reach the end of their first life, they often retain significant capacity. Businesses are exploring opportunities to repurpose these 'second-life' batteries for less demanding applications like stationary energy storage, extending their overall life and reducing environmental impact.
  4. Recycling and Material Recovery: Companies and researchers are also focusing on efficient recycling techniques to recover valuable materials from spent batteries, reducing the need for raw materials and minimizing environmental impact.

The battle against battery degradation is a collective effort, requiring contributions from individual users, tech companies, and policymakers alike. Through a combination of smarter usage habits, technological innovations, and supportive policies, we can significantly mitigate the impacts of battery degradation, improving the longevity and performance of our batteries and paving the way toward a more sustainable future. In our final section, we'll delve into what this future might look like.

The Future of Battery Longevity: Emerging Innovations and Our Contributions at Exro

Exro Cell Driver™ energy storage system for commercial and industrial applications.

The future of battery technology is exciting and holds immense promise. As the world increases its focus on extending battery life and reducing degradation, we at Exro are committed to delivering pioneering solutions that push the limits of what's currently possible.

Our proprietary Battery Control System™ (BCS) is a testament to this commitment. It's an innovative solution with a multitude of benefits in addition to combating battery degradation. The BCS actively manages each cell within a battery pack based on its state of charge (SoC) and state of health (SoH), catering to the unique characteristics of each cell to ensure optimal performance and extend battery life.

Further enhancing the safety and longevity of batteries, our BCS features micro-protection mechanisms for temperature, voltage, and current. This close monitoring of cells enables the system to rest cells as necessary, effectively mitigating degradation and enhancing battery life, a feat not achieved by conventional battery management systems.

The innovative Cell Driver™ product, equipped with Exro’s proprietary BCS, sets a new benchmark in cell balancing within an energy storage system. Its unique active cell balancing technique improves cell capacity, safety, and lifespan, making significant strides in addressing battery degradation.

These technological breakthroughs aren't limited to energy storage systems but represent a new direction in the broader tech industry's battle against battery degradation. At Exro, we believe in transforming challenges into opportunities, and our approach to mitigating battery degradation reflects this ethos.

In conclusion, it's essential to acknowledge that battery degradation is an inherent challenge with our current usage of batteries and is something that cannot be entirely eliminated. However, this doesn't mean we are without tools to optimize and extend battery life. Our ground-breaking solutions at Exro, in conjunction with the continual research and development in the industry and mindful usage practices adopted by consumers, help paint a promising picture for battery longevity.

Through constant innovation and adaptation, we strive to ensure that battery technology remains a dependable pillar of the global energy transition, with an ever-diminishing focus on degradation. While we might not be able to eradicate battery degradation, we're certainly in a position to manage it better than ever before.

Learn more about the Exro Cell Driver™

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