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San Diego company improving electric car batteries

Posted at 6:07 PM, Mar 09, 2023

SAN DIEGO — San Diego-based company South 8 Technologies is developing batteries to make electric cars safer and better in the cold. The company says it's solving a key problem with these batteries.

"The current materials in batteries today is a liquid-based component that freezes around freezing point, think of it like water," said South 8 Cofounder Jungwoo Lee. "That's why when winter time hits, and snow hits the ground, we're seeing the ranges dropping quite significantly in these vehicles."

That's why the company uses a mix of compressed gases instead, making it much harder for these batteries to freeze.

"We can do all the way from Alaska to Death Valley kind of operation," said Lee.

Workers compare this technology to using propane for a barbecue.

"It's liquefied and stored under pressure inside the tank, and you use it when you barbecue. Essentially, we're doing the same thing," said South 8 Chief Commercial Officer Hamid Sayadi. "Obviously not with propane, but other gaseous materials that happen to work very well in an energy storage device."

Workers mix the ingredients in a large machine, controlling the mechanism with a computer. Then the mixture goes into a storage tank, and eventually individual batteries called 'cells.' Once you put enough of these together, you get a battery pack that can run a car in the cold. But that's not the only benefit.

South 8 says its batteries can fail safely if they get damaged, avoiding fires sometimes caused by traditional batteries.

"We can vent out these cells allowing the gas to escape. Then the cell fails safely," said Lee. "During our third-party testing we put a whole host of test conditions on it. No sparks, no flames, nothing of that nature."

The company says these changes are preparing California for the future, as the state plans to phase out gas-powered cars by 2035. South 8 says it will have working samples of their car batteries in a year.