Lithium air batteries could give electric vehicles a 640 km range

Argonne National Laboratory has started researching and testing lithium-air batteries in earnest and presents a strong case that the future of electric vehicles may very well ride on this technology. If initial research turns out to be accurate, lithium-air batteries could hold up to ten times more energy than current li-ion technology.

Lithium air battery technology being developed by engineers in America and Japan could allow electric cars to travel up to 400 miles between charges, thereby putting to an end the so-called ‘range anxiety’ that manufacturers fear will put people off making the switch from petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.

The forthcoming Nissan Leaf, which is likely to be the world’s first mass-produced electric car, is expected to have a cruising range of atleast 100 miles.

However, even a 100-mile endurance may not be enough to convince motorists who are able to get 600 miles from a tank of diesel.

Most electric cars on the market today have a useable range of less than 100 miles and despite this distance being further than most motorists travel on an average day, it is widely perceived that their endurance needs to increase dramatically if they are to become a viable alternative to petrol and diesel-engined cars.

Lithium air batteries: Powerful, light and atleast 20 years away…

The main advantage of lithium air is the battery is significantly lighter, but is able to hold more energy. It is estimated that lithium air batteries could deliver five to ten times the energy of lithium-ion batteries; in theory rivalling the energy density of petroleum.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Transport Association (ETA) said: “Lithium air battery technology could revolutionise the performance and range of electric vehicles, but it is likely to take at least a generation to reach the cars we drive.”

Don Hillebrand, who directs the Center for Transportation Research at Argonne National Laboratory told the New York Times last week: “Nickel-metal hydride’s an adult. Lithium-ion is a developing adolescent. And lithium-air, we’re just looking at the ultrasounds.”