One nagging issue with electric vehicles is range. While today’s lithium-ion batteries are much better than yesterday’s nickel-metal hydride batteries, they still don’t offer enough energy storage to take an EV much further than 100 miles without a lengthy recharge. Even if the Li-ion batteries were up to the challenge, there is still the awkward problem of where to pack 1,000 pounds (or more) of bulky storage cells into a vehicle’s chassis.
IBM thinks it has a solution with a promising new lithium-air battery. According to the technology giant, a typical Li-air battery cell has a theoretical energy density more than 1,000 times greater than today’s industry-standard Li-ion battery cell. Even better, Li-air batteries are one-fifth the size and they offer a lifespan at least five times as long.
So, what has been holding IBM back? It appears that there was a problem with the the original Li-air automotive application, as frequent recharging cycles compromised battery life. However, the engineers have recently found alternative electrolyte compounds that look very promising. The team’s goal is to have a full-scale prototype ready by 2013, with commercial batteries on sale by the end of the decade.
Bravo! I’m afraid we’ll have to replace my wife’s decades-old Volvo before an affordable EV is actually available on the car lots of New Mexico. But – I keep watch on projects like this, anyway. Maybe, we’ll get the opportunity to buy one, yet.