End of Road Seen for Electric Car Range Anxiety

One of the bigger complaints about hybrid cars is that the batteries don’t have enough life in them to support long drives to the same distances as a full tank of gas. That might be changing.

A group of scientists have been working on developing a lithium-air battery, which represents the “holy grail” of electric cars because it is believed to be capable of providing the same amount of energy as fuel-powered vehicles, according to new researcher published in Science.

In an interview with IFLScience, Cambridge University Professor Clare Grey explains that a series of modifications to the lithium-air battery could greatly improve the charge-to-weight ratio and might be a strong argument for hybrid cars over fuel-powered ones. There is, however, quite a road left to travel, she says. Using lithium and oxygen, elements that are relatively light compared to gasoline, to create lithium peroxide, could theoretically store 12 kilowatt hours per kilogram, compared to 0.18 Kwh/kg for lead-acid batteries or 13 Kwh/kg for standard fuel.

This is by no means a solution that will be available to car manufacturers in the very close future, however. The current models are nowhere near the efficiency as these theoretical lithium-air batteries, and “existing electrodes not only have pore volumes far below the theoretical maximum, but get clogged easily, preventing lithium and oxygen diffusing through the electrode and creating considerable inefficiency,” the website notes.

Using one-atom-thick sheets of graphene allowed Grey and her team to create a “highly porous electrode” from “the lightest carbon you could possibly use,” she told the website, adding that her team uses the “cheapest form of graphene. We also use very little of it.” Additionally, they replaced lithium peroxide with lithium hydroxide as a hydrogen source, which decreased chemical damage and the need to keep the batteries away from moisture, allowing for continued performance after 2,000 charge-discharge cycles.

Read here for more information on the batteries.



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