Researchers from the UK’s University of Birmingham have revealed they are working on a novel energy storage system to boost EV driving range during hot or cold weather.

According to their findings, using a vehicle’s climate control system can consume a significant amount of electric power, and reducing the driving range by as much as 40%.

The method, invented by Birmingham energy expert Professor Yongliang Li couples a chemical heat pump with microwave energy, and produces heating or cooling on demand, with much higher energy density than battery packs. 

Called e-Thermal bank, the system is a secondary energy source for electric vehicles. University of Birmingham Enterprise has filed a patent application covering the e-Thermal bank system and method for storing energy and is seeking commercial partners for licensing collaboration or co-development.

It is ‘charged’ at the EV charging station by using microwave energy to dissociate a solid-vapour working pair and also condense the vapour into liquid.  This charging process stores the microwave energy inside the car in the e-Thermal bank.

During discharging, the process is reversed by feeding the vapour into a reactor to generate heat through an exothermic reaction, while a liquid-gas phase change process in an evaporator generates cooling simultaneously.  

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Professor Yongliang Li is Chair in Thermal Energy Engineering in Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering, said: “Heating and cooling the EV cabin requires considerable energy and is the most significant contributor to EV range reduction.  We aimed to offload these thermal management tasks to a microwave driven process.”

Microwave is a fast-heating method, because microwaves penetrate uniformly through materials and so deliver energy evenly into the body of the material.

The energy cost can be minimised by coupling with a smart meter to charge the system when energy is cheap, and the stored energy can then be used at any time.

He continued: “We predict that by replacing conventional HVAC and possibly a small portion of the battery pack, e-Thermal banks would provide efficient cabin temperature control and a range extension of up to 70%, at a lower cost than increasing battery capacity.”