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January 15, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Looking to extend your EV’s range?

ORNL researcher finds solution in the current collector, a component that often adds 10 percent to the weight of a battery cell without contributing energy.

Looking for more distance from your electric vehicle? Well, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) may have at least part of the answer.

Electric vehicles can drive longer distances if their lithium-ion batteries deliver more energy in a lighter package. A prime weight-loss candidate is the current collector, a component that often adds 10 percent to the weight of a battery cell without contributing energy. ORNL scientists have developed a lighter, metal-free current collector made of a polymer-based composite with carbon fibers. The aligned fibers work together with a thin film of carbon nanotubes to enhance directional and uniform current flow.

Lab tests conducted at medium-fast battery charging rates showed the novel current collector performed as well as or better than the standard copper foil. ORNL’s carbon polymer material is less prone to corrosion and can stretch more easily for roll-to-roll manufacturing of electrodes.

“We are reducing 80 percent to 90 percent of the weight of the current collector,” said ORNL’s Jaswinder Sharma. “This will help a lot in increasing the energy density of battery packs.”

The results were published in the February 202 edition of the Journal of Energy Storage.


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