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Delivering the 3b generation of LNMO cells for the xEV market of 2025 and beyond

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - 3beLiEVe (Delivering the 3b generation of LNMO cells for the xEV market of 2025 and beyond)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-06-30

The urgent need for rapid and deep decarbonisation of our economies and way of life is becoming ever more evident, with recent extreme weather and related events all over the globe forcefully underscoring this.
Transport accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and road transport accounts for some three-quarters of those transport emissions. A rapid shift from combustion-engine-based vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) can make an important contribution towards lowering transport-related emissions, provided battery and vehicle production, as well as vehicle charging, are based on renewable energies.

At present, battery technology is emerging as the leading energy storage technology for the electrification of road vehicles. Both the commercial availability of battery electric vehicle (BEV) models, as well as the registration statistics for new vehicles show clearly that BEVs and hybrids currently play the leading role in the shift away from the combustion engine, at present clearly ahead of other technologies such as fuel cells or synthetic liquid or gaseous fuels.

To further increase the adoption rate of EVs, these need to become cheaper, acquire better performance (range, lifetime), and be flanked with a build-out of electric charging infrastructure. Since the traction batteries in electric vehicles account for a significant share of the vehicle's total cost, are central to its performance in terms of range, power and acceleration, and their production significantly impacts the sustainability profile of the vehicle, improvements to the battery are key in promoting the adoption of EVs. 3beLiEVe addresses the areas of performance, safety, and sustainability of batteries for automotive applications.

The overall aim of 3beLiEVe is to develop and demonstrate production of the next-generation (3b) of high-energy LNMO cells with sensors suitable for xEV applications and compatible with a circular economy, as well as to demonstrate European manufacturing capability to cover the whole value chain from cell to system level. This overall aim is broken down into five key objectives:

Objective 1: Develop a Cobalt-free Li-Ion battery cell for xEV applications with a high volumetric energy density (>=750Wh/L), fast charging capability (3C+), and long first cycle life (2,000+ cycles) using LNMO cathode, Si-C anode, and LiFSI electrolyte.
Objective 2: Develop a portfolio of sensors for cell and module monitoring that supports smart diagnostics and system management to increase the lifetime and useable energy of the battery.
Objective 3: Develop inline automated quality control equipment for manufacturing (electrode inspection).
Objective 4: Demonstrate the battery technology pack at TRL 6 and MRL 8; demonstrate upscaling of production processes to gigafactory volumes.
Objective 5: Demonstrate the fitness of the 3beLiEVe cell, module and pack technology for a circular economy.
In reporting period 1 (January 2020 to June 2021), the focus has been on activities in support of key objectives 1, 2 and 3.

Requirements covering the full lifecycle (1st life, 2nd life, recycling) of the battery, as well as indicative specifications for the cell and module have been produced. The requirements from the LC-BAT-5-2019 call, those for A- and C-class vehicles, as well as those for a 16-tonne truck have been consolidated. A second-life application was defined: it envisages the integration of all or parts of the battery as a stationary energy storage system supporting a 1MW photovoltaic generator in an island grid. The procedures to test against all these requirements have also been selected or developed.

Following extensive materials characterisation and testing, the best-performing cathode and anode materials have been selected. Cathode: production parameter upscaling from laboratory to pilot scale has been performed. Small pouch cells have been built to test the materials in full-cell configuration against graphite anodes.
On pilot-line scale, prototype cells have been manufactured incorporating the selected anode and cathode materials. The integration of sensors and their associated peripherals inside and on the cell has been investigated.

Module and pack design have also commenced. For the module, two concepts have been developed to take into account the swelling of the cells and improve their contact area with the cooling system. The electric and electronic architecture to allow the three different types of sensors to communicate with the BMS has been developed. BMS software was also updated to this end. On pack level, one pack design with a composite material and the integration of the cooling circuit directly in the casing material has been studied.

Manufacturing: an optical inspection system for electrode coating has been fitted to a research pilot line for electrode coating. Images of electrodes have been acquired, defect classes have been defined, and training of the machine-learning algorithms for automated defect detection and classification has begun. Work on a higher-speed, higher-resolution demonstrator has begun.
2D process modeling of production processes for various parts of cell assembly has been performed.

MAIN RESULTS ACHIEVED SO FAR
Materials and cells:
-Cathode and anode active materials have been selected
-Pouch cell designs for final demonstrators have been made and manufacturing parameters for cathodes have been fixed
-Fibre-optic-based sensors have been successfully sealed in the cell without subsequent leakage.

Sensors and BMS:
-Design of the PCB for conversion of optical to electronic signals for the fibre-optic surface plasmon resonance sensor has been finished and miniaturised
-First prototypes for a sensor capable of multi-parametric measurements have been tested and validated
-The electric and electronic architecture for sensor-to-BMS communication has been defined
-New foxBMS 2 is available

Module/pack
-Thermal management module has been designed and control strategies defined
-Electric/electronic architecture is validated
-Two concepts for module design and one for pack design have been proposed

Manufacturing
-First 2D process models for cell production steps are available
-Defect classes for optical inspection system have been defined and system has acquired image data from multiple electrodes for algorithm training

Dissemination
-Four scientific publications and six public deliverables have been issued in connection with the project.
The battery market today is still dominated by cell chemistries that are either inexpensive but have relatively low energy density, or cells with better energy density but containing critical raw materials such as cobalt. Battery cells with LNMO-based cathodes are still not commercially available.
If successful, 3beLiEVe technology will raise the bar in terms of energy density on cell level by demonstrating the feasibility of cell systems based on LNMO cathodes and silicon/graphite anodes coupled with high-voltage electrolytes. It will also improve the sustainability profile for the complete battery pack system, since the chemistry is inherently cobalt-free, and the module and pack are designed from the outset with a circular economy in mind.

Most importantly, the project builds the capacity of all involved partners to contribute to a competitive European battery value chain, and contributes to the spread of knowledge through its open science practices.
Overview of the major 3beLiEVe project steps
Specific objectives of 3beLiEVe