Sunday, April 22, 2012

IBM and its New 800 Km Range Lithium-Air Battery

Electric vehicles are cursed by ludicrously expensive, short-range batteries, which sour new owners on the technology all too quickly. The EV and hybrid automobile industries cannot survive for long, if they cannot even attract old owners back for new designs and models.

But what if a company -- perhaps IBM -- were to invent and produce a reasonably priced battery that provided a 500 mile range per charge? How would that change the equation?
Most fully charged lithium ion car batteries today will take an electric vehicle only 160 kilometers before petering out. (Nissan says its all-electric Leaf has a range of about 175 kilometers.) Plug-in electric vehicles such as the Chevy Volt have an even more limited range of up to 80 kilometers before its gas-powered motor must kick in.

...Researchers predict a new type of lithium battery under development could give an electric car enough juice to travel a whopping 800 kilometers before it needs to be plugged in again—about 10 times the energy that today's lithium ion batteries supply. It is a tantalizing prospect—a lighter, longer-lasting, air-breathing power source for the next generation of vehicles—if only someone could build a working model. Several roadblocks stand between these lithium–air batteries and the open road, however, primarily in finding electrodes and electrolytes that are stable enough for rechargeable battery chemistry.

IBM plans to take lithium–air batteries out of neutral by building a working prototype by the end of next year. The company announced Friday it has stepped up development efforts by adding two Japanese technology firms—chemical manufacturer Asahi Kasei Corp. and electrolyte maker Central Glass—to the IBM Battery 500 Project, a coalition IBM established in 2009 to accelerate the switch from gas to electric-powered vehicles among carmakers and their customers.

...the lithium–air batteries might be ready for production by 2020 at the earliest, "if we don't find any show-stopping technology along the way." [Winfried Wilcke] adds: "The only thing I'm certain of is that it won't happen this decade." _SciAm
Well, it was a thought. But it is just as important to understand development timeframes when they are stretched out, as when they are compressed or accelerated.

EVs and hybrids are not magic carpets, sent from an alternate Persia to rescue us from hydrocarbon fueled vehicles. It takes time to overturn infrastructures based upon $trillions of investment, development, and production base.

Fortunately, there are many decades worth of oil remaining, and centuries worth of liquid fuels from CTL, GTL, BTL, KTL, and GHTL [gas hydrates to liquids]. If you throw in the cheap and abundant industrial process heat from new generations of safer, cleaner, scalable nuclear reactors, we are not likely to run out of liquid fuels for combustion engines for a very long time.

Peak oil religionists are good at sitting around in circles, droning their liturgical repeats, centered upon a dark and constricting future. The rest of us have work to do.



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