Big changes are coming in the electric vehicle (EV) battery arena: range increases from 100,000 miles to a million miles. General Motors claims to be on the cusp of a million-mile battery. Contemporary Amperex Technology, a Chinese battery manufacturer, published that it is nearly ready to produce batteries that last 1.24 million miles. Even Tesla is making hints of rolling out similar-range batteries. Most EV batteries are lithium-ion, warrantied for 10 years or 100,000 miles, with no more than 20-30 percent degradation. One version of the new longer-range battery is a lithium-sulfur one, with a capacity five times greater than that of lithium-ion batteries. Million-mile batteries would be a big boon to the emerging used EV market as well as creating big opportunities for being repurposed for energy grid storage or backup power systems, both less performance-demanding applications.
Another advance in battery technology is a battery free of cobalt, nickel, and other heavy metals, thus avoiding the environmental and humanitarian issues related to the extraction and use of these substances. Developed by IBM, this battery is made from three materials that can be extracted from seawater, a much less invasive sourcing method than mining. In addition to big environmental improvements, IBM has also proven that the battery significantly outperforms the lithium-ion version.
To tackle the climate crisis, we need a widespread replacement of fossil-fuel vehicles with electric and hydrogen ones. EVs are dominating this transition thus far, but range anxiety is a barrier to rapid adoption. Prospective buyers worry about running out of charge and getting stuck on the highway or getting stuck at a charging station for two hours. An Israeli company, StoreDot, is addressing this problem with a new battery capable of fully charging in just five minutes. StoreDot has already demonstrated this fast-charging technology in phones, drones, and scooters. These batteries make the EV refueling experience, i.e., recharging, roughly the same as for gasoline cars.
The fast charging has come from replacing the graphite typically used in lithium-ion batteries with semiconductor nanoparticles. At the moment, these nanoparticles are based on germanium, but StoreDot plans to shift to silicon, a much cheaper and more abundant option.
As greater range capabilities are brought together with extremely fast-charging performance and avoidance of rare, difficult to extract, and toxic metals, the transition to a clean, all-electric future should take a big leap forward. Since batteries take considerable energy and resources to produce, extending their life and reuse options will provide an important environmental gain. As these improvements move into the mainstream, increasing the number of EV charging stations will need to race to keep up with demand.
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