Research platform refines EV battery production processes

September 29, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The research centre ZSW has put into operation a new lab capable of perfecting lithium-ion traction batteries and associated production technology. The purpose of the lab, located in Ulm (Germany), is creating the blueprint for batteries and battery manufacturing equipment at an industrial scale for future generations of electric vehicles.

The new lab, an extension to the existing eLab battery research centre, is run by research institute ZSW and offers industrial partners the possibility to develop, test and optimise battery materials and formulations as well as manufacturing processes and equipment. Currently, first equipment tests are conducted in the lab which offers a space of 3.600 square meters (39.000 square feet) of floor space. According to the current schedule, companies like BASF, BMW, Bosch, Daimler, Elring Klinger, Manz, Rockwood Lithium, and Siemens will launch their trials and developments in January 2015. By end of 2015, the entire manufacturing process from slurry preparation to cell formation will be up and running.

"The number of electric and hybrid vehicles is growing rapidly at the global scale, driving the demand of manufacturing capacity, and the race for the best batteries is on", said ZSW board member Werner Tillmetz who oversees ZSW's Electrochemical Energy Technologies division. He added that the eLab offers world-class conditions for battery research, enabling the industry to develop tomorrow's products.

The equipment in the eLab is designed to produce several hundred battery cells per day at high, reproducible quality. Due to the modular concept of the installation, commercial enterprises and research institutions can assess manufacturing processes and equipment components across the entire value chain in a reliable environment. Materials manufacturers can demonstrate novel cell chemistries, equipment engineering companies can optimise their production technologies in a linked manufacturing process environment.

The research platform comprises all components needed for near-series production of automotive-grade battery cells, like a temperature-controlled mixing station for the production of electrode slurries in 60 litre batches, a machine that applies electrode coatings to both sides of a copper or aluminium carrier foil, and a high-precision calendaring for the compaction of electrodes. Other process elements implemented include assembly, drying, filling and activation, with most of the process steps being highly automatized.

The lab plays an important role for Germany's EV