Tesla patent describes hybrid battery pack system for EVs

Sep 23, 2013 by Nancy Owano weblog
Credit: US PTO

(Phys.org) —A Tesla Motors patent application filed earlier this year shows the company's interest in a hybrid battery pack using lithium ion and metal-air batteries. The patent is titled "Electric Vehicle Extended Range Hybrid Battery Pack System." With a publication date of July this year, the patent describes a battery pack that would make use of a standard lithium ion battery along with a metal-air battery pack. Such a system could spur adoption of electric cars, based on the premise that one car, fitted with combined battery types, may ease concerns about how far one can expect to travel on a single charge. The patent application focuses on a hybrid battery pack that could ease those concerns and support Tesla's future success.

The patent applicant, Tesla Motors of Palo Alto, states that this is a "method of extending driving range of an electric vehicle." The invention that Tesla has in mind "provides a power source comprised of a first battery pack (e.g., a non-metal-air battery pack) and a second battery pack (e.g., a metal-air battery pack), wherein the second battery pack is only used as required by the state-of-charge (SOC) of the first battery pack or as a result of the user selecting an extended range mode of operation."

Interpretive reports on the patent this week note that this could be a system that makes use of two different types of batteries to make sure an electric car could provide greater range at a reasonable cost. The would carry performance most of the time while the metal-air pack would serve the car for long-distance trips. The metal-air batteries would be an especially suitable choice for Tesla to deploy for longer-distance driving because of cost. Metal-air batteries would be cheaper to produce and in turn Tesla could afford to keep the car prices down when turning out long-range EVs.

According to the patent filing, "a metal-air cell is a type of battery that utilizes the same principles as a more conventional cell such as a lithium ion, nickel metal hydride, nickel cadmium, or other cell type. Unlike such conventional cells, however, a metal-air cell utilizes oxygen as one of the electrodes, typically passing the oxygen through a porous metal electrode."

The patent filing has most auto industry watchers asking the same question, is Tesla likely to offer this hybrid solution any time soon? Tesla and Panasonic have a relationship for batteries; in 2011, Panasonic and Tesla Motors finalized a supply agreement for automotive-grade lithium-ion battery cells. Under the agreement, Panasonic would deliver lithium-ion battery cells for 80,000 Tesla vehicles over the next four years.

According to a report in Benzinga, Trip Chowdhry, managing director of equity research at Global Equities Research, said he did not think that Panasonic or Samsung could be a leader in the metal-air battery [production]. He told Benzinga he thought "there could be some other players, [but] we don't know who it is."

Explore further: Molten-air battery's storage capacity among the highest of any battery type

More information: Patent application #20130187591

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User comments : 12

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yks
2 / 5 (4) Sep 23, 2013
really?
very innovating... use metal-air and nonmetal-air batteries (invented by others)
can you actually patent that?
this sounds like patenting round corners on iPhone.
I am not sure if this is hilarious or sad.
Eikka
not rated yet Sep 23, 2013
Would the metal-air battery be of a primary or secondary cell type? I.e. rechargeable or not?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2013
I'd guess it would be rechargeable. It would make sense as metal air batteries (currently) can't be recharged as often before losing performance.
This would match driving habits where that the number of long distance trips is much lower than the number of short distance trips.

With most trips being the commute/shopping kind and long trips only on the weekends this could work quite well.
Eikka
not rated yet Sep 23, 2013
It would make sense as metal air batteries (currently) can't be recharged as often before losing performance.


Or it could be single use and have enormously better capacity with already proven and existing technology.

Ten times the capacity, or rechargerable up to ten times? That is the question.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 23, 2013
In that case you'd need stations to swap out batteries. Not even the best batteries will get you ranges that could last a lifetime of, even very occasional, long-distance travel.

Tesla has already demonstrated such swapping stations, some of which will be installed in a few select areas.
But the amount of stations you'd have to put up in order to make a non-rechargeable battery a workable alternative within an entire country (let alone globally) would be enormous. I'm pretty certain Tesla can't finance that.

..Edit:. I could have just clicked the link at the bottom of the article. Says right there in the patent application
...Minimizing use of the second battery pack prevents it from undergoing unnecessary, and potentially lifetime limiting, charge cycles....

So we're talking rechargeable.
jdbertron
1 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2013
How about figuring out a system so batteries can be swapped out at 'gas' stations instead. If they spent half the money on that research maybe we would have swappable packs - like we swap barbecue propane tanks - or maybe tiny disc batteries that can be arranged by a coin-sorter type refill system. I don't know. But I know it would remove the whole autonomous-range discussion from blocking the adoption of electric cars.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2013
How about figuring out a system so batteries can be swapped out at 'gas' stations instead.

Google for "Tesla swap station video". It's already done.

The thing is that this would require a complete standardization of battery placement in the industry on a global scale (which is unlikely to happen. After more than a decade of talks even the standardization efforts to get a common plug only resulted in a few less variants of plugs worldwide).

As long as it's not even clear which typesof batteries will make the race such stations are a big gamble (e.g. if ionic liquid batteries/fuel cells win out we could see standard 'filling stations'. With standard batteries we'd need swapping stations).

The problem, as I see it, is that there are _too many_ promising options to chose from at the moment. No manufacturer wants to invest first and get it wrong.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Sep 23, 2013
Speaking of revolutionary energy tech, heres something strange

"The Switzerland-based company ST Microelectronics, one of the largest semiconductor companies in the world, has filed a patent application to the United States Patent Office for a Reactor for energy generation through low energy nuclear reactions (lenr) between hydrogen and transition metals and related method of energy generation. The application was filed in February of this year, and the inventors are listed as Ubaldo Mastromatteo and Federico Giovanni Ziglioli.

"The patent explains that a reaction is achieved by the absorption of hydrogen within an active metallic material (could be a number of metals such as Ni, Pd, Pt, W, Ti, Fe, Co and their alloys), applying heat, triggering the reaction and using a mechanism to control the reaction."

-Pretty strange eh AA? Why would companies this big, and NASA, be applying for patents on something many (you) consider quackery?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Sep 23, 2013
The thing is that this would require a complete standardization of battery placement in the industry on a global scale
Well as you may know battery sizes are already standardized worldwide
http://www.batter...hart.htm

-So why would you think this would be particularly difficult for somewhat bigger batteries? We can expect that even non-removable batteries will be comprised of modular, standardized components. Because most all battery-operated gadgets are.

Standardization will be forced as battery tech offers more power and sectors like drones and robotics explode.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2013
In that case you'd need stations to swap out batteries. Not even the best batteries will get you ranges that could last a lifetime of, even very occasional, long-distance travel.


Indeed.

The thing about metal-air batteries is that the primary cells, or non-rechargeable variations are much simpler and cheaper than the rechargeable ones. Aluminium-air batteries for example produce about 2 kWh (8 kWh theoretical) per kilogram which beats the recent rechargeable vanadium boride molten metal air battery with the fact that it works at room temperature and not 800 C.

Replacing a bunch of aluminium plates, or a container of aluminium slurry is much more convenient on the road than a high power electric charger, because the power transfer rates are much faster and the materials can be stockpiled. It may not make sense as the primary energy source of the car, and it costs more money, but that's why it's a hybrid system. You only ever need it on the long trips.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 24, 2013
Aluminium-air batteries for example produce about 2 kWh (8 kWh theoretical) per kilogram which beats the recent rechargeable vanadium boride molten metal air

Sure. The fact that they're not rechargeable, however, means that you'd have to recycle them which is rather a LOT more energy intensive than using rechargeables. The transport to/from the recycling plant alone would probably eat up any benefits. That only makes sense if you have really vast energy surplus production capacities.

Alternatively one could throw the battery away after use. But somehow I don't see that as particularly sustainable.
Eikka
not rated yet Sep 28, 2013
Sure. The fact that they're not rechargeable, however, means that you'd have to recycle them which is rather a LOT more energy intensive than using rechargeables.


But on the other hand, you only need it for a small minority of the total miles you drive, so the total energy consumption remains low. Most people would drive 90% of their miles with the smaller rechargeable battery, so even if it took three times as much energy to recycle them, it would only represent a modest 20% rise in energy consumption.

Incidentally, similiar amounts of energy is lost in quick recharging infrastructures because of the chargers themselves aren't 100% efficient and due to the high power levels will need some sort of intermediate storage between the cars and the grid, with its associated losses.