Breakthrough battery concept set to provide electric vehicles with 1,000km range

A new battery concept could enable electric vehicles to reach ranges of up to 1,000km. Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden, Germany, the EMBATT system transfers bipolar principles used in fuel cells to lithium batteries.

“We use our expertise in ceramic technologies to design the electrodes in such a way that they need as little space as possible, save a lot of energy, are easy to manufacture and have a long life,” explained Dr Mareike Wolter, project manager at Fraunhofer IKTS.

The concept is designed to address a few key problems that traditional battery systems face. Depending on the model, electric cars are equipped with hundreds to thousands of separate battery cells. Each of these cells is surrounded by a housing, which connects to the car with terminals and cables, and monitored by sensors.

The issue stems from the fact that the housing and contacting take up more than 50% of the space, meaning that the ideal of densely packed cells is unachievable. Additionally, electrical resistance, which reduces the power, is generated at the connections of the small-scale cells. However, the EMBATT system significantly reduces or eliminates these problems by a seemingly simple method.

A pilot version of the bipolar electrode, which is central to the revolutionary design. Image courtesy of Fraunhofer IKTS

Using the bipolar principle applied to fuel cells, individual battery cells are not strung separately side-by-side in small sections; instead, they are stacked directly one above the other across a large area. Doing so entirely removes the structure for housing and contacting, allowing far more batteries to fit into the car.

Furthermore, the direct connection of the stacked batteries allows current to flow over the entire surface of the battery. Doing so considerably reduces any electrical resistance and is largely helped by the batteries’ electrodes, which are designed to release and absorb energy very quickly.

The principle component of the battery is the bipolar electrode – a metallic tape that is coated on both sides with ceramic storage materials. One side of the tape operates as the cathode, the other as the anode. It is this electrode that functions as the heart of the battery to store energy.

The Tesla Model S 100D is thought to have one of the best ranges of current commercially available electric vehicles, at up to 683km (424 miles). Image courtesy of Tesla

The electrode is in no small part the result of the researcher’s expertise in ceramics, using ceramic materials as powders that are then mixed with polymers and electrically conductive materials to form a suspension. This suspension is then applied to the tape in a roll-to-roll process.

“This formulation has to be specially developed – adapted for the front and back of the tape, respectively,” Wolter explained. “One of the core competencies of our institute is to adapt ceramic materials from the laboratory to a pilot scale and to reproduce them reliably”.

Going forward, the researchers plan to develop even larger battery cells and work on installing them into electric vehicles. They and their partners are aiming for initial vehicle tests in 2020.

Cyber security company reveals vulnerability that lets hackers take control of a car’s engine

Israeli cyber security company Argus has revealed vulnerabilities in Bosch Drivelog Connect USB sticks that allow hackers to bypass authentication and issue commands to cars, including stopping cars’ engines.

In September 2016, Bosch announced its new Drivelog Connect, essentially a USB stick that can be used by drivers to send details about the condition of their vehicle to an accompanying app.

However, Argus has found vulnerabilities in Bosch’s technology, which include an information leak between the Drivelog Connect USB and the Drivelog Connect smart phone app.

The information leak allowed Argus to quickly brute-force the Drivelog Connect’s secret PIN and connect to the USB via Bluetooth. Once connected to the USB, Argus said it could “inject malicious messages” between the various devices, as well as control things like the car’s engine.

Images courtesy of Drivelog/Youtube

“In our research, we were able to turn off the engine of a moving car while within Bluetooth range,” said Argus in a blog post.

“If an attacker were to implement this attack method in the wild, we estimate that he could cause physical effects on most vehicles on the road today.”

In the case of Argus’ attack on Bosch’s Drivelog Connect, hackers need to be in close proximity to the targeted vehicle, but as Kyle Wilhoit, senior security researcher at DomainTools explains, this isn’t always the case.

“Cars are becoming more virtual every day. From anti-lock braking systems to navigation control, the reliance on complex computing across a vehicle is surprising,” said Wilhoit.

“One of the only saving graces to this technology is the attack surface. Typically to attack a vehicle’s onboard systems, the attacker would need to be within physical proximity of the vehicle. This is not always the case, and there are some remote exploit opportunities available, but those are a harder attack surface to compromise.”

Having found that it could gain access to Bosch’s Drivelog Connect, Argus informed Bosch and the company says its Product Security Incident Response Team took “decisive and immediate action to address the vulnerabilities”.

Details of how Argus carried out the attack are available here.