I was having an argument with a fellow writer yesterday who, among his many arguments against electric vehicles, is the fact that battery technology will never improve. He says that batteries are at the end of their technological development.
It’s a pretty silly argument from an otherwise intelligent person, when there are companies like IBM dumping billions of dollars into battery research. In fact, IBM claims to have developed a lithium-air battery cell that can hold more than 1,000 times the energy of standard lithium-ion batteries.
The lithium-ion batteries work by passing a charge from the negative to positive electrode. The inherent problem with this is that very few atoms can pass through the lithium-ion chemistry at a time, resulting in low energy output, and long charging times. In effect, there is an energy bottleneck. The lithium-air batteries replace metal oxide at the positive electrode with carbon, enabling for a lot more energy storage, enough to drive an average EV for about 500 miles on a single charge. This isn’t the first battery to make claims of improved energy density, nor do I expect it to be the last.
The catch is that recharging these batteries kills them very quickly, making them useless for car applications. So scientists at IBM’s Zurich labrotory started using a supercomputer to come up with an alternative element to use. They’ve found one that is promising, though they won’t reveal exactly what it is, but hope to have a full-scale prototype working in 2013, and production-ready batteries by 2020.
Even if IBM’s battery fails, there are so many companies, researchers, and governments pouring money into battery research that I feel it is pretty much inevitable that someone, somewhere will develop a next-gen battery that makes EV’s economical and feasible. So whether that is going to be IBM’s air battery, Singapores’s membrane battery, or any number of other developing technologies under development, all it takes is one good idea to change the world.
Source: The New Scientist