The Race is On to Make Better & Cheaper Electric Car Batteries

mit battery lab photo
Making the 'Holy Grail' Battery
Donald Sadoway and his students are working hard at MIT to improve battery technology for electric cars. In the past few years, most of the battery R&D; has been coming from the portable electronics sector, but now automakers and governments have started to put a lot more resources into batteries designed specifically for vehicles.

Read on for more.From the CSM:

The beauty of lithium-ion is there's not one single chemical, but many variants involved. As a result, the race isn't over making a Chevy Volt battery designed to run 40 miles on a single charge that could cost as much as $10,000. Instead engineers hope to create a cell that could last perhaps 80 miles per charge and cost half as much, battery experts say.

"There aren't any showstoppers," Sadoway says. "We're not asking for light to travel 10 times faster than it can go. We're not asking for science fiction. Most remaining problems involve engineering. So I'm optimistic that these problems that remain can be solved."

Remember last week's article about possible lithium shortages? Well, Sadoway's lab is also working on developing other battery chemistries that use more "Earth abundant" materials (and that's if hypercapacitors, made primarily with carbon, don't take over in the next decades -- these can be charged & discharged very fast an unlimited number of times).

Getting Battery Costs Down
Suba Arunkumar, analyst for market researcher Frost & Sullivan, thinks that when mass-production behings in 2010-2011, battery packs like those of the Chevy Volt could go down to about $200 per kilowatt-hour, from around $600 now.

Electric cars have existed for a very long time, but unlike fossil fuel-powered cars, they stayed at the pre-Model T stage (no mass production, no economies of scale, no massive R&D;). The rate of progress that we've seen in the past 30 should not be a good indicator of how fast things can move in the next decades. It wouldn't be too surprising if we saw more progress in the next 10 years than in the past 100.

And since electric cars have much fewer moving parts and components than gas cars, once the battery costs are low enough, the rest should be fairly inexpensive and require less maintenance.

Via CSM, FuturePundit
Photo: CSM
More on Batteries and Electric Cars
Could Lithium Shortages Impede Future Electric Car Deployment?
The Chevy Volt's European Cousin: The Opel Ampera
CARB Delays Decision, Plug-In Hybrid Conversion Startups Dodge a Bullet
Here's What Happens to a Tesla Electric Car Battery at the End of its Life

Tags: Electric Cars | Electric Vehicles | Hybrid Cars | Transportation


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