20 | 12 | 2023

The COBRA project develops the first cobalt-free high-voltage lithium battery for automotive use in Europe

Energy Storage

CIDETEC Energy Storage, in collaboration with the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC) and seventeen European partners, have developed through the COBRA project coordinated by IREC the first prototype of a large-format, high-voltage, cobalt-free, lithium-ion battery in Spain for electric mobility, which is in the pre-commercial phase.

The initiative, co-funded with nearly twelve million euros by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, which runs from January 2020 to July 2024, is manufacturing two hundred cells for the assembly of a complete battery, which will be scalable in the medium term to manufacturers for commercialisation.

The new prototype is currently in the testing phase, although its main achievement lies in having eliminated cobalt from the manufacturing process, an element that is expensive, toxic and often extracted under abusive conditions.

The head of the advanced Li-ion team at CIDETEC Energy Storage, Iratxe de Meatza, has pointed out that thanks to the project they have taken “from the laboratory this cobalt-free cathode material, a high energy density lamellar oxide enriched in lithium and manganese, to industrial-sized cells to analyse the performance in more real conditions” in order to improve the prototype’s “recharging power and cyclability”.

Faced with the challenge of optimising each component that makes up the “complex system” of the battery, the work carried out by the San Sebastian-based research centre has led to the discovery of new electrode formulations that also use “recycled silicon from photovoltaic panels” in the anode, which brings this technology into line with the levels required by Europe in terms of “recycling and sustainability”.

The project coordinator, Jordi Jacas, a senior researcher at IREC, explained that they are already recycling “between 90 and 95% of the elements that make up the cell” while increasing the safety levels of the entire value chain “from the components, the electrochemical cells, the control system with the sensors and the final battery pack”.

The innovative design of the complete battery that will be assembled as a final demonstrator will integrate a new control system that includes wireless communications, sensors and algorithms to increase the safety of the batteries, capable of detecting temperature changes or gas leakage from the batteries, and will improve battery efficiency.

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