Will New Lithium-Air Batteries End Range Anxiety?

Lithium-ion batteries are the technology with the highest energy density, making them the preferred choice for electric vehicles. However, many users are still concerned about range, as EVs have limited range. In addition, the question of whether a charging station will be available in the area when the battery is discharged is one of the sources of these concerns. Researchers continue to work on solid-state based Lithium batteries that can eliminate this problem.

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A new design from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory could alleviate these concerns, as the new Lithium air-based batteries promise 4 times more energy density. This means that EVs could travel much longer distances than they currently do.

The new component in lithium air batteries is solid electrolyte. Lithium ion batteries use liquid electrolyte, which can result in overheating and explosion. But the real kicker of the new battery technology is the energy capacity it promises. “The chemical reaction for lithium superoxide or peroxide only involves one or two electrons stored per oxygen molecule, whereas that for lithium oxide involves four electrons,” said Argonne chemist Rachid Amine. More electrons mean higher energy density.

The biggest problem with previous lithium air tests was their extremely low life cycles. Researchers at IIT and DOE say that they have overcome this problem and have been able to use the new battery cells for more than 1000 charges and discharges in their tests. “With further development, we expect our new design for the lithium-air battery to also reach a record energy density of 1200 watt-hours per kilogram,” said Larry Curtiss of ANL. “That is nearly four times better than lithium-ion batteries.”