Shell is working on new formulations of battery fluids as a key component in an important next step in battery development for lighter, longer-range and more affordable electric cars.
The world’s biggest supplier of automotive lubricants (see below) is using Formula E racing as a test bed for its new E-Thermal Fluids and E-Transmission Fluids, including developments in direct, cell-cooling systems tipped to leapfrog the established water-glycol indirect cooling systems, in a bid to become the industry standard.
“With direct cell-cooling, the OEM can design a more compact battery with a higher power density and the overall benefit of power-to-weight is better,” said Chris Dobrowolski, Shell’s associate technology manager for E-Fluids.
In direct cell cooling (also known as immersion cooling), individual lithium ion cells inside the battery pack, and the busbars and connectors that link the cells together, are immersed in dielectric (insulating) fluid to control heat build-up during charging and discharging.
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Because the fluid is an insulator, it can also suppress cell-to-cell thermal runaway – better known as a fire.
Currently, direct-cell cooling is a cutting-edge battery technology and limited to a handful of low-volume, exotic supercars, like the McLaren Speedtail and Koenigsegg Regera, with its battery designed by Rimac.
But Shell’s understanding is that many manufacturers are looking at direct-cell cooling as a breakthrough for more affordable, volume-production models.
“Most leading OEMs are assessing this option or are already in development of such a technology,” said Dobrowolski.