Project COBRA to develop cobalt-free EV batteries in Europe

Project COBRA to develop cobalt-free EV batteries in Europe
Project COBRA

Project COBRA aims to develop cobalt-free batteries for use in electric vehicles and is backed by the European Union. It comes as an European response to China’s dominance in this field.

 

What is COBRA?

COBRA (CObalt-free Batteries for FutuRe Automotive Applications) is a collaborative research and innovation project on next-generation batteries, co-funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. The project launched in January 2020 and will run until January 2024. COBRA aims to develop a novel Cobalt-free Lithium-ion battery technology that overcomes many of the current shortcomings faced by Electrical Vehicle (EV) batteries via the enhancement of each component in the battery system in a holistic manner. The project will result in a unique battery system that merges several sought after features, including superior energy density, low cost, increased cycles and reduced critical materials. The proposed Li-ion battery technology will be demonstrated at TRL6 (battery pack) and validated on an automotive EV testbed. The involvement of several leading organisations for battery manufacturing ensures easy adaptation to production lines and scale-up to contribute to a higher market adoption while helping to strengthen Europe’s position in the field.

 

Mission

To create the next generation of high-performing, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable batteries for electromobility by enhancing each component of the battery system in a holistic way; including improvements on a BMS and battery pack level, as well as in the production and testing process.

 

Vision

To strengthen the global competitiveness of the European battery value chain considering performance, cost, environment and social perspectives throughout the development of the technologies.

 

Technical goals

  • Volumetric energy density over 750 Wh/L
  • Battery pack weight halved (probably with the help of CTP technology)
  • Useful cycle life over 2.000 cycles (one-million km battery)
  • Cell’s operating voltage over 4,5 V
  • Fast charging at 3 C-rate (80 % in less than 20 minutes)
  • Cost below 90 euros per kWh at the battery pack level
  • Recyclability superior to 95 %

 

Looking at its technical goals, it seems that this project is aiming to develop LNMO battery cells, just like SVOLT.

Now I’m curious to know which cobalt-free battery technology will prevail in the next two years. Will it be LFP, LFMP or LNMO?

Chinese companies are backed by the Chinese government and have vast resources that allow them to bet in all fronts (LFP, LFMP and LNMO). Europeans seem to be aiming for the most promising chemistry (LNMO) to regain lost time and Koreans are waiting on the side lines before committing to a cobalt-free battery technology.

 

Cathodes overview by Nano One

 

Cobalt-free batteries allow electric cars to compete with ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars on price and availability without the need of subsidies. Without this kind of batteries, the production of electric cars will always remain low and prices high.

Last year, the Toyota Corolla was the best-selling car in the world with over one million units sold (1.236.380). When will we see an electric car reach that level?

 

 

More info:

https://projectcobra.eu/

https://www.greencarcongress.com/2020/06/20200624-cobra.html

Pedro Lima
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Maximilian Holland
16 days ago

Good thoughts. I’d like to see a two or three chemistry strategy from the majors, as CATL is doing NCM and LFP). Mineral volatility (especially for Co, some for Ni, perhaps Li too) will be around for a few years and substitutability and flexibility is anyway healthy to keep the research & industry dynamic.
Even if one chemistry dominates (for a period of time), it’s worth continuing research and some amount of manufacturing capacity for alternative chemistries. It may be that EU and China recognize this and financially support diversity of chemistry research and some diversity of chemistry in production.

Marum
16 days ago

What about super-capacitors such as the C-ion battery. Have the developments in Carbon production (Graphene Synthetic Graphite) made the C-ion batteries more feasible? The advantage of super-capacitors would be charge times. ie minutes instead of hours.

Regards….Marum. (Die elecktronishe Katze)

15 days ago
Reply to  Marum

The top battery cell makers are allocating most of their resources to develop cheaper batteries, reducing charging times isn’t a priority right now.

The use of supercapacitors in mainstream electric cars is still far away.

Nonetheless, on the mid-term we might get hybrid systems with supercapacitors and batteries in electric hypercars for the super rich, where supercapacitors are used for strong regenerative braking and deliver immediate power for faster acceleration.

Last edited 15 days ago by Pedro Lima
Marum
15 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

Thank you for your answer Pedro. Gracias hombre.
Yes, I can see supercapacitors used in EV. racing very soon, for the reasons you stated. Cost being little object, in the search for fractions of a second.

Purrr purr….Marum.(el Gato)

Sean Browne
16 days ago

Great articles Pedro, your coverage of LFP/LFMP CTP cells is ahead of everyone, don’t see anyone else covering the topic.After years of doubting EV’s would ever take off and reach affordable levels, i’m now getting pretty condfident that battery tech like LFP/LFMP will make that possible very soon, in 2021/2022 finally see it.

1million km battery, 3c charge rate 20 mins to full, 60kWh packs for €5000 should make that possible

That’s just batteries though

How expensive are all the other bit’s in an EV? Is a 150bhp electric motor, inverter, controller, charge port etc more expensive than a 1.8l 150bhp petrol engine, gearbox, fuel tank, exhaust system and all those bit’s?

Will it always be add the price of battery ontop if those other parst are similar cost

Would like to see an article on the BOM of equivalent EV vs ICE, say a 208e vs 208 petrol engine

15 days ago
Reply to  Sean Browne

Thanks Sean.

Yes, I would also like to see the bill of materials of an electric car and its most direct ICE counterpart.

Anyway, automakers always say that the only reason why electric cars are more expensive than their ICE counterparts is the battery.

I assume that if we exclude the battery from an electric powertrain it’s considerably cheaper than an ICE equivalent.

Volkswagen already admitted that assembling a simple electric powertrain is cheaper than assembling a much more complex ICE powertrain.

An ICE powertrain has a lot more parts, it requires more time, space, energy, workers and expensive machinery at the production lines.

Last edited 15 days ago by Pedro Lima
Leo B
14 days ago
Reply to  Sean Browne

I have a copy of a GM document from about 15 years ago that says the average production cost of an internal combustion is €400 + €11-15/kW. I think it was without auxiliaries like exhaust.

A document from the same era says the production cost of an induction motor is about €8-12/kW. PM motors might be a bit more expensive.

Marcel
14 days ago
Reply to  Leo B

So a standard Camry engine is 151kw, so it would be ~2200 Euros. If we assume that doesn’t include the expensive transmission, and other auxiliaries, and if we assume the cost of electric motors has gone down, so we estimate on the low end, a 150kw electric motor would be ~1200 Euros, which is quite a difference.

Then the question becomes how much are inverters and chargers compared to the transmissions and other auxiliaries? If we assume they’re about the same cost, and if EVs cost ~1000 less to assemble due to simplicity, then before the battery, EVs have ~2000 Euro advantage. If a 50kwh pack costs ~5000 Euro, then the overall cost increase for a comparable EV is only ~3000, which brings EVs within striking range of cost parity.

However, I suspect that most manufacturers are still getting cells on contracts that are over $100/kwh, so if at the pack level it costs ~7500 Euros for 50kwh, then that’s a much bigger difference to make up. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out.

Barry
14 days ago

Sounds like a good initiative. I have read that a battery pack system level optimization approach is missing from many BEV applications, with cell manufacturers pursing high density and leaving battery pack makers to cope with less than optimal cell designs. I hope this initiative can leverage all aspects of cell, BMS, TMS and pack design to not only reduce mass and volume, increase energy density, and increase cell longevity.

14 days ago
Reply to  Barry

That’s true. CTP (cell-to-pack) technology already showed us that the energy density of battery packs can easily be improved just by adopting a module-less approach.

Barry
14 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

I agree CTP design addresses energy density, but what about thermal (and high temp influence on longevity) gradient control of cells that can not be properly cooled? Work at Imperial College, London has shown tab cooling is best but if prismatic cells enable CTP, then likely large thermal gradients within each cell will lead to enhanced degradation. Or is LFP (with more robust high temp performance) the only chemistry currently suited for CTP? Thoughts?

14 days ago
Reply to  Barry

I can’t find it now, but I saw a simple and efficient battery cooling scheme that just had 2 large cooling plates, one on the top and other on the bottom. I think it was for the BYD Blade Battery, but I’m not sure.

A simple TMS can be very efficient in controlling the temperature of a flat module-less battery made with prismatic battery cells.

Prismatic cells with metal surfaces are great to conduct heat, they don’t need cooling plates between them like pouch cells do. We just need 2 large cooling plates for the whole battery, one on the top and other on the bottom. Then we can use the HVAC unit of the car to cool or heat the battery, like the Renault ZOE does. Super simple, cheap and efficient TMS.

Last edited 14 days ago by Pedro Lima
Barry
14 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

I agree surface cooling is simple, but is it inferior to tab cooling. Please read this paper:

https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/bitstream/10044/1/63626/6/J.%20Electrochem.%20Soc.-2018-Zhao-A3169-78.pdf

Surface cooling leads to extensive thermal gradients which then lead to accelerated cell degradation. Based on the results of this paper, prismatic is probably the worst cell format for minimizing thermal gradients, especially if they are surface cooled.

Ganesh
14 days ago

Good Info. Do you see an opportunity for standardized battery packs helps in addressing swapping and range anxiety ? Since you mentioned about improved volumetric density, standardized battery pack geometry is something the OEMs/ Battery Manufactures can think of..

14 days ago
Reply to  Ganesh

Hi Ganesh.

I think that the standardization of high-voltage EV batteries might eventually happen, but we’re still many years away from it.

“Its sheer volume and mass makes the traction battery a dominant system component in vehicles. Standardizing the external geometry of the battery would lead to considerable restriction of freedom in vehicle design as well as in optimization of mass, functionality and user-friendliness. Apart from this, the wide variety of vehicle types (city car, small car, family car, sports car, SUV etc.) counteracts the effects of standardizing battery geometry, as this would only necessitate increased efforts in vehicle design which cannot be compensated by the advantages in battery design. However, standardizing the dimensions and contact locations of battery cells for use in automotive applications would support effective system development.”

https://www.vda.de/dam/vda/publications/The%20German%20Standardization%20Road (page 37)

Even current 12 V automotive batteries have many different sizes.

https://shop.advanceautoparts.com/r/advice/car-maintenance/car-battery-size-chart

Famlin
13 days ago
Reply to  Ganesh

Ideally there should be a fixed battery for 200 km range for most of the daily commutes and some weekend travels.
Then there should be a slot for removable battery that adds another 300 – 400 km for occasional long distance drives. Just rent and fix it before the trip and then unload and return it after the trip.

Ganesh
13 days ago
Reply to  Famlin

@ Famlin & Pedro,
Thanks for your comments. My thought is with EV dedicated platforms coming up, standard pack is essential to address swapping, especially countries like India. Within the given size, Battery Mfrs have choice to choose chemistry and kWh pack. This way for city traffic/Fleet segment, charging time is no longer a constraint. There are not many fast chargers anyway…Your views are welcome,,:)

Lars
12 days ago

One thing is the price of a battery, the other thing is how much the manufacturer (car and battery) is charging for it. The car manufacturers control the number of cars sold by increasing or decreasing the price. Now in the EU the manufacturers try to sell as many BEV as they need and not more. If you want to slow down the sales rate you either lower the production or you increase the price.

Stephane Cnockaert
4 days ago

Why don’t they mention the Na-ion chemistry from Tiamat (France) ? In 2015, the cylindrical “type 18650” Tiamat Na-ion cell operating at 25 degree Celsius was storing 90 Wh per kg. Now there can be large format Na-ion cells storing 120 Wh per kg, featuring the same gravimetric energy density at the cell level, than the ubiquitous 80 Ah Li-FePO4 cells that car makers can purchase for $70 per stored kWh. By adding a small percentage of inexpensive unobtainium, a new generation Na-ion chemistry got conceived, storing 160 Wh per kg, good for 4,000 “4.0 C” charges and 4,000 “4.0 C” discharges, that one can produce in vast quantities and sell at profit for $50 per kWh to a car manufacturer like GM (General Motors) that already developed the required EMS (Energy Management System) and BPA (Battery Pack Architecture), that’s cutting the wiring cost, cooling cost and packaging cost by a factor 10. Oh, by the way, such chemistry can be recharged using a “10.0 C” rate (6 minutes) without overheating, this time not 4,000 times, but “only” 400 times.
There can thus be “petrol + electricity” pumps on the same tarmac. Gone are the days, when electric car manufacturers like Tesla obliged their cars to get recharged far away the eyes of non-electric drivers, for hiding the fact that recharging using a 150 kW power, remains desperately inefficient, like recharging 50 kW (20 minutes required) for gaining a 300 km range. The time has come for generalizing 800 Volt recharging stations delivering 800 Amp (this is a 640 kW power) allowing to dump a 50 kWh energy into a 800 Volt battery, in no more than 4 minutes. This way one can limit the tarmac occupation to 5 minutes. This way electric cars and petrol cars can mix at the refueling points. A refueling point consists of a 25 square meter tarmac area, featuring three refueling nozzles : diesel, gasoline, and electricity. The electricity nozzle consists in a motorized arm that’s deploying, and that’s taking control of the car that’s declaring as needing electricity. The refueling point embeds cameras, helping positioning the car for connecting on the arm. The driver can stay in his car, the 5 minutes the recharge is taking. In case your car is a 360 Volt car, the 800 Amp limitation of the refueling arm limits the recharging power to 288 kW. You only will be allowed to stay recharging more than 5 minutes, at the condition that there is nobody waiting in the queue, or at the condition that you pre-pay a dissuasive over-occupancy fee costing $0.15 a second. Yes, this is $9.00 a minute, past the first 5 minutes. I wish I am the smart guy that’s collecting such money, and redistributing 80% of it to the people forming the queue. In case you can afford driving a powerful electric vehicle or powerful petrol vehicle that’s consuming a lot of energy, that’s taking a lot of time to refuel, you should afford paying the $0.15 a second over-occupancy fee. Do not expect paying 0.25 euro per kWh for the “fast recharging” electricity, like Tesla is currently billing in Europe. The “fast recharging” electricity will be billed 0.75 euro per kWh because the electric grid reinforcement, the roads maintenance, and the new-gen refueling points must get financed someway.