UL team lead €8m electric car charge

A team at the University of Limerick (UL) is to lead a €8m EU-funded research project to help improve the performance of electric cars.

Researchers at UL’s Bernal Institute will head up the Si-Drive project and will focus on how to get more out of lithium batteries to improve driving range, cost and recharge times.

Leader of the project, Professor Kevin Ryan said: “This project will tackle the major barriers to EV uptake, which relate to driving range, cost and recharge times by completely re-imagining the lithium ion battery using innovative anode, cathode and electrolyte materials.” There has been a huge continent-wide push towards electric vehicles in recent years, amplified by the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.

However, despite incentives made by various governments to encourage take-up, as well as the promise of a crackdown on diesel emissions in leading European city centres, the uptake has been slower than anticipated. Just 2% of European vehicles are currently electric, despite an EU target of 40% by 2030. Irish car owners have consistently voiced their concerns over expense, range and charging points. There are around 6,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads at present.

The UL project will focus heavily on the sustainability of the system, with rare and expensive materials such as cobalt targeted for removal, researchers said. It will also focus on the development of the high-performance silicon-based anodes materials, with reducing the overall weight of the final batteries a key target.

The Bernal Institute team will lead 16 academic and industrial partners from seven European countries. Researcher Dr Hugh Geaney said: “The Si-DRIVE project will bring together leading experts from across Europe to deliver the sustainable and cost-effective battery technology required for environmentally friendly EVs of the future.”

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) annual Energy in Ireland report released earlier this week said there was a 0.5% increase in energy demand as the economy grew. It said the Republic continues to face a challenge in reducing reliance on fossil fuels for transport, heating and electricity production, with over 90% of all energy used in 2017 from fossil fuels.

The report said: “Transport represents the single largest sector of energy use, half of which is private cars. We need a rapid transition from diesel and petrol to electric vehicles.

The country’s geography makes it well suited to electric cars and should form the majority of new car purchases from now on, the SEAI said.

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