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Warming atmospheric temperatures have threatened biodiversity, caused sea levels to rise, and altered the weather so dramatically that drastic changes in climate can now be detected on any given day. Environmental scientists and engineers are working to improve energy efficiency, reliability and safety, and renewable energy has become a cornerstone of sustainable development.
The current research on lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells has attracted more and more interest from scientists and the public. By 2025, the global lithium-ion battery market is expected to grow to US$100 billion; at the same time, the global market for hydrogen fuel cells is also expected to exceed US$10 billion.
Research on promising decarbonization solutions focuses on addressing challenges associated with the use of lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells to decarbonize the automotive industry.
With the growing popularity of electric vehicles, the production of lithium-ion batteries is booming. At the same time, hydrogen fuel cells are often used as an energy source for energy storage in transportation, buildings and grid systems.
Operating an electric vehicle is more sustainable than an internal combustion engine, but lithium-ion batteries contain cathode materials — lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel — that go through extraction and manufacturing processes that produce greenhouse gases. They are designed to hold more power in smaller devices, so they also increase the risk of burning if pressurized or ruptured.
Fuel cells are a safer, emission-free alternative energy source. Net-zero devices generate electricity through chemical reactions, with hydrogen as the primary reactant.
Fuel Cells: Improving the Power Efficiency of Lithium Batteries
These two advanced technologies are not mutually exclusive, as fuel cells have the potential to boost the power of lithium-ion batteries. In the case of electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells can improve driving range and solve refueling problems, while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with lithium-ion batteries.
In addition to using hydrogen to generate and store electricity, fuel cells can improve lithium-ion battery powertrains in the following ways:
1. Generate net-zero electricity to start cars and vehicle accessories
2. Store energy for regenerative braking and add electric traction motors to drive wheels
3. Charge backup batteries
Lithium-ion batteries will always be a key component in electric vehicles, no matter how the power source and engine are integrated, but they're not perfect. Electric vehicles powered only by hydrogen fuel cells also face some challenges.
Lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells are inherently incapable of operating long distances under heavy loads, making acceleration and braking increasingly difficult. Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles also have the problem of unstable power output during acceleration.
However, since hydrogen fuel cells can generate and store electricity on their own, there is plenty of room to use their full potential to supplement the energy of lithium batteries.
In times of dramatic climate change, sustainability has never been more important - the transition to net-zero transportation is an ideal area to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The development of hydrogen fuel cells could facilitate the development of lithium-ion batteries, thereby reshaping the green future of automotive energy.