Tetris-Inspired Batteries: The Solution to Improved Cooling, According to GM

GM Shakes Up Battery Cell Design: No More Rectangles or Cylinders

General Motors is currently in the process of establishing four battery factories, one of which is already operational in Lordstown, Ohio and producing cells. By having the capability to produce its own batteries, the company is presented with the opportunity to develop customized configurations and shapes, a concept that they are entertaining to an extensive degree. A new patent filed by GM showcases unconventional battery designs, moving away from traditional rectangular and cylindrical shapes, and instead incorporating Tetris-inspired blocks to allow for enhanced cooling channels.

The publication, although initially appearing as an application, was recently released at the end of February with a recent date attached. This suggests that it may be a novel concept from the automaker that they wanted to safeguard quickly. It outlines the current manner in which battery cells are cooled, specifically referencing GM’s practices. For instance, in vehicles like the Hummer EV, cooling is achieved by individual modules through a plate located beneath the cells. However, according to this patent, such a method can result in uneven cooling and consequently, damage to the battery before its expected lifespan. It is worth noting that other companies have implemented alternative cooling techniques to combat this issue.

According to GM, the proposed solution is to create cells in a jagged “L” or “C” form. This formation would allow for two cells to be joined together, leaving behind one or more openings between them. These spaces can then accommodate cooling channels, as desired. In fact, GM has even incorporated some unconventional diagonal shapes into their plan.

I am not familiar with any other type of battery cell used in the automotive industry that has a similar shape to this one. In my experience, I have only come across rectangular prisms or cylinders being used. The production of these unique cells may pose significant obstacles; however, it is difficult to determine solely based on this specific usage.

In order to achieve this goal, the corporation proposes alternative arrangements involving rectangular prismatic cells that would yield comparable results. The suggested design consists of two shorter and wider cells paired with two longer and thinner cells, allowing for a cooling channel in either a rectangular or H shape. These elongated and slender cells are not as readily available, however there is a Chinese company called Topband that produces somewhat similar lithium iron-phosphate cells with slim profiles.

Regardless, the idea proposed by GM is an unconventional one that may hold some value. However, there is uncertainty around the effectiveness of creating a brand new cell structure with the sole purpose of cooling in order to enhance the performance of electric vehicles. Should the company proceed with patenting this innovation, it would be wise to consider it as a concept worth exploring.

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