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Electric cars for everyday use

12.12.2008
Scientists at the University of Münster are involved in a new nationwide project in Germany to develop innovative electric cars. Münster is the biggest university taking part in this "Electromobility Fleet Test", the aim of which is to further develop plug-in hybrid technology.

The project was initiated by the German government and Volkswagen and is being carried out jointly with partners from industry and universities. It is being funded to the tune of 32.5 million euros over four years. Scientists from the Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy at Münster University are getting project funding amounting to 3.3 million, making them the biggest university partner in the electromobility project.

The aim is to further develop plug-in hybrid technology. Vehicles equipped with this technology have not only a conventional combustion engine but also a battery which can be recharged from a socket. The function of the battery is on the one hand to support the combustion engine during acceleration - which enhances driving comfort - and on the other hand to reclaim braking energy, which makes it more energy- and climate-friendly. Overall, the objective is to significantly reduce fuel consumption. The plug-in hybrid technology also allows purely electric driving - especially on short stretches, such as in towns and cities.

Developing batteries meant for hybrid vehicles with combustion engine and electromotor to make them suitable for purely electric vehicles is difficult. The range attainable by conventional batteries is too short and they are too expensive. However, in the long-term a purely electric vehicle which could do without gasoline or diesel would be highly attractive from the point of view of energy and climate - thus making it desirable for researchers, too. "We want to develop lithium-ion batteries for use in cars," says Prof. Winter from the Institute of Physical Chemistry at Münster University. "These batteries have three times as much energy potential as conventional car batteries. That would be sufficient, at least for commuters - especially if the car can be recharged from a socket while it is parked."

Also involved in the project at Münster University are Prof. Hellmut Eckert from the Institute of Physical Chemistry as well as Prof. Uwe Karst, Prof. Rainer Pöttgen and Prof. Hans-Dieter Wiemhöfer from the Institute of Anorganic and Analytical Chemistry. They are all testing the range and resilience of individual cells of lithium-ion batteries. In a Large Cell Test Facility researchers are simulating the effects of drives on the battery components. After such "drives" the components are examined for ageing effects. "We may then be able to propose measures which can counteract premature battery ageing and thereby increase service life - which would mean savings for all of us," says Prof. Winter.

Prof. Winter is an expert on lithium-ion technology at Münster University and has had an endowed professorship for Applied Material Sciences for Energy Storage and Energy Conversion since January 2008, provided by Chemetall, Evonik Industries and Volkswagen. The professorship has been created for a five-year period with funding amounting to a total of 2.5 million euros.

Dr. Christina Heimken | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-muenster.de/Chemie.pc/winter/

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