Lithium-Air Batteries Could Change the Future of Electronics and Electric Vehicles

by on March 7th, 2015
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Range anxiety. It’s a term used to describe the way today’s electric vehicle naysayers feel about today’s electric vehicles. And it’s hard to blame them, being that today’s commercially available models, which run on lithium-ion batteries for power, typically only provide anywhere from 35-90 miles between charges. Vehicles like the Nissan Leaf aren’t exactly those that you pile the family into for a five-hour road trip.

But this could be changing, thanks to a new type of electric battery: Lithium-air. Also known as lithium-oxygen, lithium-air batteries are similar to lithium-ion batteries, except that they’re composed of more lightweight electrodes. These electrodes store energy by capturing oxygen from the air flowing through the battery. Discovered by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, these batteries have the potential to store up to three times the energy capacity of today’s lithium-ion batteries. Now, today’s electric vehicles become more feasible for more lifestyles.

While electric cars have perhaps the most to benefit from this discovery, consumer electronics also hold potential. Just imagine an iPhone that you can play on, stream video, listen to music, etc, for days and days in between charges. With this technology, cell phones, audio players and cameras could run for possibly an entire week before recharging is necessary.

While lithium-air batteries hold massive potential, it’s important to consider the fact that this type of battery is still a fairly new discovery, so there’s going to be a fair share of prototyping, experimenting and testing involved before these batteries become mass produced and find their way into our vehicles and electronics. For example, researchers and scientists need to get a batter understanding of the electrodes used in these batteries and what works best before they can start to be produced on a mass scale.

However, it was recently announced that IBM plans to release a lithium-air battery prototype in 2013 and then go into production with it in 2020. They say that this battery will be able to power an electric vehicle for some 500 miles. Now, obviously IBM is working on a pretty slow pace in terms of product development and bringing this technology to market. But if it gets it right, this technology not only has the potential to be cheaper than non-green ways, but range anxiety could very well become a thing of the past. Just think: Electric vehicles could soon become just as common as the internal combustion vehicles that dominate the industry today.

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