Friday, September 26, 2008

Research on Batteries for Transportation

The main impediment to electric vehicle adoption is battery technology. Here is a look at some research currently going on.

GM:

GM, said Dr. Abbas, is looking for about a three-fold increase in anode and cathode capacity over that provided by the conventional combination of carbonaceous anodes and layered oxide cathodes.

Two promising approaches GM Research is exploring on the anode side to reach this target are the use of silicon-coated carbon nanofiber; and the use of metal hydrides. On the cathode side, Abbas said that GM had developed a material with capacity close to the 3X target, but that he could not discuss that yet.
Toyota:
Watanabe was referring to what’s known as a metal-air battery, according to Toyota Executive Vice-President Masatami Takimoto. In this type of battery, electricity is generated by a reaction between oxygen in the air and a metal like zinc at the negative electrode. The battery does not require the use of a combustible liquid electrolyte, so there is no danger of ignition as is the case with lithium-ion batteries. Moreover, an air battery has over fives times the energy-storage capacity of a similarly-sized lithium-ion battery...It may take some time before air batteries reach the practical stage, but Toyota believes that they will ultimately become the next-generation battery technology of choice.
I don't know much about Metal-Air batteries, but this source says that they are cheap and have high energy storage, but are difficult to recharge. The idea might then be that you don't recharge your battery at home, but rather swap it for a new one at your local gasoline station.

China:
Dr. Jiqiang Wang of the Tianjin Institute of Power Sources (TIPS) provided an overview of the government-supported R&D projects for lithium-ion batteries for transportation, which are now focusing on two primary cathode materials: manganese spinel (LiMn2O4) and iron phosphate (LiFePO4).

Looking ahead for the next two or three years, said Dr. Wang, the government-supported 863 project will continue to support R&D on LiMn2O4, but will also start to support R&D on LiFePO4.
I have no idea which technique will end up being the best, but the more research being done by corporations and countries on batteries the quicker the day comes when electric vehicles overtake internal combustion engine vehicles.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

no mention of EEstor? :( That would be the frontrunner if it exists as advertised.

Fat Knowledge said...

Anon,

I have written about EEStor a couple of times. The key is like you say "if it exists as advertised". While I hope that is true, my gut says it is more likely that it doesn't.

Also, technically EEStor is not working on a battery, they are working on a ultracapacitor. But, you are right that if it works as advertised it would replace the need for batteries.

cars said...

Running car using electricity and battery would not be really useful to some. Some like me who travels far places and isolated areas. I wouldn't want to run out of power in the middle of nowhere. But I do hope that in the near future, electric cars would be better.

Fat Knowledge said...

Hi Cars,

I can see what you are saying. But for those of us that live in cities, electric cars would work great. And for a lot of families that have 2+ cars, I could see buying one car that is electric to commute to work and then have a second gasoline powered one for longer trips.

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