To be able to get in the car in San Sebastian and drive to Barcelona (550-600 km) without needing to charge the vehicle, and re-charge it in just 18 minutes are some of the challenges that the European LIBERTY project, LIghtweight Battery System for Extended Range at Improved SafeTY, led by the Basque technology centre Ikerlan, S. Coop., Arrasate, Gipuzkoa, Spain, will address. Mercedes-Benz, one of the partners of this strategic project for sustainable mobility, will be the first to incorporate the batteries developed by LIBERTY in one of its electric vehicles which will serve as a demonstrator in the project.
LIBERTY has a budget of around eleven million euros over three and a half years, funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme that funds research and innovation projects in various strategic thematic areas.
The project aims to develop batteries that will have a similar useful life as those of current combustion engines, i.e. up to 20 years or 300 000 km. At present, the lifetime of an electric battery is typically lower, with guarantees of up to 10 years and around 150 000 km, while being an element that can represent around 50% of the cost of the vehicle.
The batteries to be developed in LIBERTY will also increase their range by around 25%, allowing them to drive up to 500 km without needing to be recharged and, when they need to be charged, it can be done in just 18 minutes, less than half the time it currently takes to recharge a battery with a similar capacity.
Battery safety and sustainability will be other factors addressed by the study. At the end of their life cycle in an electric vehicle, the batteries to be developed by this project will have a second life, for example, in the field of renewable energies: they could be reused to support a photovoltaic park or to store the energy generated in the solar panels of an urban building.
Egoitz Martínez-Laserna, researcher in the energy storage area at IKERLAN and coordinator of the LIBERTY project, explains that, in line with IKERLAN’s technological projects, this research “will address many of the main barriers currently hindering the wider adoption of electric vehicles, as we will work to address key consumer concerns such as the range of the vehicle, charging times, battery life and even the cost of the batteries”.
To develop the numerous and challenging LIBERTY innovations, the project led by IKERLAN joins forces of sixteen renowned members from seven EU countries from the fields of research, academia and industry, including, in addition to Mercedes-Benz, Diehl Controls, Hutchinson, Infineon, NXP, Valeo, Accurec, Virtual Vehicle Research, Flanders Make, Fraunhofer-IISB, Mondragon Unibertsitatea, BRING and CLEPA.
Energy and power electronics is one of IKERLAN’s areas of technological specialisation. The centre has a team of more than 60 specialised researchers in this unit, in which, in addition to LIBERTY, it has reference projects at an international level such as SEABAT, SENSIBAT and GHOST, all of them within the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme, as well as other industrial transfer projects with leading national companies.
Its experience in this field will allow the Basque centre to reinforce its commitment to energy storage systems and electromobility, actively participating in the development of electronic systems (BMS) for the batteries that will be developed in LIBERTY, as well as in algorithms based on artificial intelligence for their internal state estimation.