The GMG graphene Aluminium-ion battery is faster to charge, 3x more efficient, safer and also compatible with lithium-ion battery housings.
The Graphene Manufacturing Group which is based in Brisbane, Australia has come up with a massive breakthrough that has the potential to shake up the electric car market, and generally increase the use of renewable sources of energy. GMG has been developing an Aluminium-ion battery that can provide up to three times the range on EVs and charge 60 times faster. This means an 8-hour charging cycle could be reduced to 8 minutes when compared to the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.
GMG has tackled this issue with a new breed of batteries that have been developed by nanotech. Interestingly, these batteries are also safer as there is no upper ampere limit to cause spontaneous combustion. This also makes it more sustainable, easier to recycle.
Unlike solid-state batteries which are being developed by numerous vendors like QuantumScape, these batteries are much further along in their development. QuantumScape which has received funding from Bill Gates and Volkswagen is expected to commercialise its technology by 2025.
GMG plans on bringing its graphene aluminium-ion coin cells late this year, or perhaps next year. The automotive pouch cell versions are expected to roll out by 2024.
A lot of this technology is based on nanotech from the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and nanotechnology at the University of Queensland. The battery cells use nanotechnology to insert aluminium atoms inside tiny perforations in graphene planes.
The charging speeds are so fast that an iPhone sized coin cell can be fully charged in less than 10 seconds.
“It charges so fast it’s basically a supercapacitor. It charges an iPhone coin cell in less than 10 seconds,” GMG MD, Craig Nicol claimed.
“So far there are no temperature problems. Twenty per cent of a lithium-ion battery pack (in a vehicle) is to do with cooling them. There is a very high chance that we won’t need that cooling or heating at all. It does not overheat and it nicely operates below zero so far in testing,” he added.
He also said added that these batteries will be lighter as well as they don’t need extreme cooling mechanisms. “They don’t need circuits for cooling or heating, which currently accounts for about 80kg in a 100kWh pack,” said Nicol.
Nicol also said this battery tech could be reverse engineered to work with existing lithium-ion battery housings. This means the batteries can easily fit on current generation EV platforms like MEB by the Volkswagen group.
“Ours will be the same shape and voltage as the current lithium-ion cells, or we can move to whatever shape is necessary,” Nicol confirmed.
“It’s a direct replacement that charges so fast it’s basically a supercapacitor. Lithium-ion cells can’t do more than 1.5-2 amps or you can blow up the battery, but our technology has no theoretical limit,” he explains.
Aluminium batteries are getting traction, even though they have not got the press solid-state batteries have got. There are projects ongoing like the one between Dalian University of technology and the University of Nebraska. Cornell University is also working on this technology as is Stanford University in Silicon Valley. Other players – Clemson University, the University of Maryland and even the Zhejiang university and the European Alion industrial consortium.
The graphene cells are made from a custom plasma process. They don’t source graphite in a standard way hence GMG is able to extract three times the energy density, from the next best cell which has been developed by Stanford University. Stanford’s solution delivered 68.7 kWh and 41.2 watts per kilogram while its graphite foam bumps it up to 3,000 watts per kilogram. The GMG UQ battery in comparison gives 160 kWh and 150 watts per kilogram while a foam avatar bumps things up to 7000 watts per kilogram.
“They (UQ) found a way to make holes in graphene and a way to store Aluminium atoms closer together in the holes. If we drill holes the atoms stick inside the graphene and it becomes a whole lot more dense, like a bowling ball on a mattress,” added Nicol.