Automotive

IBM looking to put lithium-air batteries on the road

IBM looking to put lithium-air...
IBM's lithium-air battery uses oxygen from the air to react with lithium ions and generate electricity
IBM's lithium-air battery uses oxygen from the air to react with lithium ions and generate electricity
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IBM's lithium-air battery uses oxygen from the air to react with lithium ions and generate electricity
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IBM's lithium-air battery uses oxygen from the air to react with lithium ions and generate electricity
IBM's lithium-air battery uses oxygen from the air to react with lithium ions and generate electricity
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IBM's lithium-air battery uses oxygen from the air to react with lithium ions and generate electricity

One of the main challenges faced by the Electric Vehicle (EV) industry is so-called “range anxiety.” Current lithium-ion batteries will provide a range of about 100 miles (161 km), limiting the commercial adoption of EVs in a market accustomed to the range and supporting infrastructure of gasoline-powered vehicles. If existing lithium-ion batteries were scaled up to match the range capacity of gas-powered vehicles, they would be unfeasibly large and heavy. Lithium-air batteries, which have the potential to provide energy densities that rivals traditional gasoline-powered engines, are seen as a possible solution. IBM has been researching such batteries and recently announced that it's bringing two companies with experience in electric vehicle materials onboard to aid in their development.

Unlike their lithium-ion counterparts, which use heavy metal-oxide cathodes and are self contained with an oxidizer stored internally, IBM’s lithium-air batteries provide a higher energy density through the use of lighter cathodes and using oxygen drawn from the air. The oxygen reacts with lithium ions during discharge to form lithium peroxide on a carbon matrix. When it recharges, the oxygen goes back to the atmosphere and the lithium goes back to the anode.

Like efforts at places such as MIT, IBM has been working on lithium-ion battery technology for some time, creating the Battery 500 Project in 2009 with the aim of developing a lithium-air battery technology that could power an average vehicle for about 500 miles (805 km) on a single charge. Having successfully demonstrated the fundamental chemistry of the charge-and-recharge process for lithium-air batteries, the company has recently enlisted the help of two Japanese companies to help put the technology on the road.

IBM has teamed up with Asahi Kasei and Central Glass, two companies with a history of electric vehicle materials development. Chemical manufacturer Asahi Kasei brings in its expertise in membrane technology, while electrolyte manufacturer Central Glass’s mission is to improve the performance of lithium-air batteries with a new class of electrolytes and additives.

However, you’ll have to be patient if you want to get your hands on a long-range EV powered with lithium-air batteries. IBM says we won’t see these being sold in a showroom this decade, but if the science and engineering hurdles are cleared, they could be on the streets between 2020 and 2030.

IBM takes us through the technology in the video below.

Source: IBM

IBM Battery 500: A look inside a lithium-air battery

20 comments
livin_the_dream
I can't wait 10 years. Get more government money in this. In 10 years Diesel will cost £15 a litre and I'll have left my job to join the unemployed as it won't be worth working.
Slowburn
I'll bet they start loosing capacity faster as dirt clogs the air channels.
Alien
Recharging these batteries could bring dangers. Any significant increased concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere (e.g. in the vicinity of a charging battery) can create a local inflammability issue where spontaneous combustion can occur. Hence one of the major challenges in this research is likely to be finding a safe way to recharge the batteries.
Ross Jenkins
Ah you gotta give it to them, that pure class. I can wait 10 years for this, easy. For a company with a shady history like IBM's they sure are coming through for us with this one!
jaqen
one has to love these time estimates. A lot can happen in 10 years. XKCD seems to nail it fine here: http://xkcd.com/678/
watersworm
And why not super eficiented Volt/Ampera-like cars, lighter and more aerodynamics ? Except if on that time (2030 ?) the lithium oxygen batteries are very very much cheap light robust safe sustainable etc...
Dave Andrews
Why is it that Tesla has two vehicles (a 2 door roadster and a 4 door luxury vehicle) with an SUV on the way which ALL get over 200 miles on a charge and everyone else has a hard time breaking 100??? What is it that they're doing right and no one else is copying? 500 miles would be great, but 200 to 250 is already feasible and being actively used. Why isn't everyone doing it?
Michael Slattery
Cold Fusion will displace most if not all of these technologies in the next 18 to 36 months. http://seekingalpha.com/article/406981-cold-fusion-a-cure-for-high-gas-prices and http://ecat.com/news/ecat-news-update-in-april
wolfdoctor
I'll be an old man (or dead) by the time I see one in a car.
Pat Kelley
The one challenge not being met with any EV is a practical recharge time. I can "recharge" my gasoline vehicle in five minutes and get back on the road for a long trip. A 500 mile range means I have to stop overnight (assuming I'm allowed to recharge my EV where I stop), or for at least 2-4 hours, before resuming my trip. I'd bet you can forget the economy of electric once establishments install rapid recharge systems and hit you with the recharge fee. A good serial hybrid will be much more practical, allowing recharge as you travel, and high mileage. Maybe in the distant future we'll see electric highways, with power supplied by induction, so the vehicle batteries will only need to be used for short distances, but we're a long way from that.