Lithium-ion batteries may replace lead-acid in the Chinese submarine fleet to increase efficiency, according to reports.
The South China Morning Post reported that researchers at the Naval Submarine Academy in Qingdao, Shandong province, said lithium batteries could double the time a submarine can spend under water, increase acceleration and make more space for weapons.
Their paper was published in peer-reviewed Chinese journal Marine Electric and Electronic Engineering.
The navy had concerns about replacing batteries in the submarine fleet with lithium ones. The worry was that they could catch fire or explode. But the study reported that technical solutions have been found through extensive development and testing in China’s EV market.
“After solving these problems, the replacement of lead-acid batteries with lithium batteries in conventional submarines is just around the corner,” the academy team stated. It is led by Wang Feng, a submarine designer.
China reportedly has the world’s largest conventional submarine fleet, with some 60-70 vessels.
Conventional submarines use diesel engines when travelling on the surface, but batteries when submerged. In battery mode, they make less noise than a nuclear submarine.
The paper said the lead-acid batteries in the submarines have been problematic, with low energy storage capacity, slow charging, weak output, short lifespan and toxic gas leaks.
Accidents involving lithium batteries have led some Chinese battery makers to replace nickel and cobalt with iron and phosphate. Other new and existing technologies, including hard carbon and a ceramic coating for battery cell packaging, would also improve safety.
Other countries have also looked at equipping their submarines with lithium batteries, including Japan, South Korea, Germany and France, according to the paper.