PolyPlus named Edison Awards finalist on lithium batteries for 500+ mile electric cars
Supposedly the achilles heel of electric cars is the range, and even though electric car owners know range anxiety disappears after a week of ownership, having a longer electric driving range would be handy. Tesla Motors repeatedly proves that a long range electric car is simply a matter of squeezing enough kilowatt-hours of storage onto the car, and then being able to charge a high enough price for the car to pay for the battery pack. Berkeley CA based PolyPlus is developing lithium-air and lithium-water battery technology to make it more practically possible to carry enough kilowatt-hours on-board a car to go 500 miles or more on a charge.
Today PolyPlus announced they'd been selected as a finalist in the Power Generation/Utilization category of the 2012 Edison Best New Product Awards. The awards are named after famed inventor, Thomas Alva Edison. Among Edison's own inventions was a nickel-iron battery that was to be sold in electric cars manufactured by Ford, if it weren't for a mysterious fire that destroyed the Edison factory complex.
Lithium is a highly reactive metal which is known to do catastrophic things when exposed to air or water. Lithium is not found in nature as a pure metal, but always bound to other chemicals. Lithium Ion battery chemistries are a way of binding lithium to other chemicals in a battery for safety (and other) purposes, but this comes at the cost of an energy density much lower than the theoretical maximums. The PolyPlus technology for lithium-air and lithium-water creates the same safety, while maintaining a very high energy density.
Energy density is the amount of energy (watt-hours) per kilogram of battery weight. Typical lithium-ion batteries used in cars today have energy densities in the 150-250 watt-hours per kilogram range. The PolyPlus lithium-water battery has achieved the highest recorded energy density of 1,300 Watt-hours/kilogram, or an almost 10x improvement over current lithium-ion batteries.
To put this into perspective, the Nissan Leaf has a 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack for a nearly 100 mile range. It's battery pack will weigh in the neighborhood of 96-160 kilograms. Using the 1300 watt-hours/kg energy density PolyPlus reports, storing the same energy storage would weigh 19 kilograms, and a 96 kilogram battery pack would carry 125 kilowatt-hours of energy storage, for 5x the energy carried on todays Nissan Leaf, which should offer a nearly 500 mile range.
PolyPlus is currently testing samples of its lithium-water battery and expects the product to be commercially available in 2013.