New battery has the potential to cut the cost and extend the range of electric cars

A Palo Alto company has come up with a potential battery breakthrough – they’ve developed a new lithium-ion battery that packs twice as much energy as today’s batteries, which could lead to greatly extended range and reduced costs for electric and hybrid cars.

Envia Systems, using a $4m million grant frm the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), developed new cathodes and anodes for their lithium-ion battery and has achieved an energy density levels of 400 watt-hours per kilogram.   This achievement has been validated by independent tests performed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC).

Higher energy batteries get you several things.    You can make them thinner, which helps remove heat.  Heat has been a problem for lithium-ion batteries before – witness the problems that the Chevy Volt had with damaged batteries bursting into flame under controlled conditions.   You can use less of them in a car, which greatly reduces costs (right now the cost of the batteries is about 65% of the cost of an electric car).   And the increased power and decreased weight means you could also greatly boost the range of an electric car – enabling it to go much further between charges.

Envia developed their new batteries when they found that adding manganese to the materials used in the cathode greatly increased the energy density.    They then further increased performance by blending silicon in with the graphite normally used in the anode.  Their batteries are also cheaper on a kilowatt/hour basis, compared to current lithium-ion batteries.

Envia Systems is currently working with a number of automobile manufacturers worldwide.    There’s a long way to go before you’ll see these batteries in a car, since they’re going to need more independent testing and several years of testing under real-world conditions. Assuming that all goes well with testing and development, the benefits could be enormous.  According to  Sujeet Kumar, Envia co-founder and chief technology officer,   “We expect Envia’s next generation lithium-ion battery will revolutionize the [electric vehicle] industry by eliminating the three remaining barriers to mass adoption: cost, range and safety.   The ability to drive up to 300 miles on a single charge will eliminate ‘range anxiety.'”

via: Scientific American

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