Cutting Edge Battery Tech Giving the Gift of Longer Life

How are current automotive batteries holding out?
Battery life in North America is on the decline, and a large part of that is due to the new anti-idle and start-stop vehicle systems. Turning the engine on and off like that places an increased load on batteries, reducing their lifespan. Batteries aren't lasting as long now as they were in 2010; we've seen the average life of a battery decline over the years by four months in regular environments and somewhere in the neighborhood of eight months in hotter climates.

How is the energy storage industry responding?
In general, what the industry has done is come out with a technology called AGM (absorbent glass mat) batteries which require no maintenance and are designed to cycle a little bit better than a traditional starting battery. 

Even still, AGM batteries aren't a 100 per cent solution. What Discover Energy has come up with, then, for the automotive industry is the MIXTECH battery, which is manufactured with a patented 360 acid mixing technology that uses the natural motion of the vehicle to mix the electrolyte solution inside the battery. 

What does this accomplish?
It solves a number of issues. Acid stratification, for example, occurs because the acid solution in a battery is heavier than water, so it settles down to the bottom of the battery and corrodes the plates over time. Having that solution settling at the bottom also creates an imbalance that contributes to premature battery failure. Therefore, it helps when you have a component that disperses that active material equally throughout the battery. 

It also solves some of the common heat issues that occur with larger vehicles. Highway driving can already drive up engine temperatures, but because many of today's transport vehicles are more aerodynamically designed, their batteries are getting less and less airflow. That means those batteries are getting extremely hot over time. In the case of a technology like MIXTECH, the electrolyte is being continuously pumped, so that's dissipating some of that heat around the battery. 

Are AGM and MIXTECH batteries becoming common on the road?
AGM is, and MIXTECH is out there. For now, Discover is focused on bringing MIXTECH to vehicles that operate under tougher conditions like transit buses, highway transport trucks and the like. Then, the strategy is to have the technology available for large fleet operations, where battery problems are also more common. 

Do you see these technologies being adopted by everyday consumers?
Over time, yes. The focus right now is on commercial markets, but I believe you'll see major car manufacturers begin to incorporate MIXTECH in their consumer vehicles in the future –  especially models with anti idle and start stop technology.