If you want to see the future of the electric car, you have to go back a hundred years. In 1900, over a quarter of all new automobiles ran on battery. City cars? Around a third of the buggies of Chicago, Boston, and New York City were electric. They were decimated by cars running on smelly and flammable gasoline, because people wanted to drive fast and long distances. Hundred years later, little has changed. Ten to 20 years from now, something might change.
“Electric cars today typically can travel only about 100 miles on current battery technology, called lithium-ion (LIB). LIB technology stands little chance of being light enough to travel 500 miles on a single charge and cheap enough to be practical for a typical family car. This problem is creating a significant barrier to electric vehicle adoption.”
This is a quote from a group of researchers at IBM, and it is putting the problem mildly. In an electric car, the devils called cost, range, and weight are fighting each other, and nobody is winning. The IBM researchers think they know the way out. They are working on a battery that has the same energy density as gasoline.
In other words: A battery the size of a current gas tank will get us as far as a current tank of gas.
IBM’s lithium-air battery literally pulls energy out of thin air. It borrows oxygen from the air. Combined with lithium, electrical energy is created. When the battery is recharged, the borrowed oxygen is being paid back to the atmosphere. The battery can be much lighter, because it uses air as its most important component.
IBM’s research group is called “Battery 500”. The goal is a battery that can power a car for 500 miles. The researchers hope their battery will be ready “some time between 2020 and 2030.”
(Hat tip to Rick.)