Will Li-Air Batteries Free Cars From Gas?

Some scientists believe that newly designed lithium-air batteries could be the technological break-through electric vehicles need to compete with gasoline engine cars in terms of performance and range. Researchers say that lithium-air batteries could potentially have the same energy density as petrol and diesel fuels when considering that combustion engines have an efficiency of around 30%.

Lithium-air batteries are different than traditional lithium-ion batteries currently used in electric vehicles and other devices today; they are open at one end in order to supply their own oxygen from a light-weight, porous carbon electrode (the cathode), and theoretically only limited by the lithium electrode (the anode). However, there are serious complications to implementing this technology into real-world scenarios.

image via Risø National Laboratory

One of the biggest issues facing lithium-air batteries is that current testing uses pure oxygen to obtain results – a far-cry from the mixture of gases found in our atmosphere – and are free of moisture, which can quickly corrode the lithium components. Current lithium-ion batteries also require a much lower overvoltage to recharge than lithium-air batteries, which cannot handle multiple charges and discharges necessary to power a modern vehicle.

Battery performance must improve if to be embraced by consumers, because according to researchers the equivalent energy of 13 gallons of gas would weigh over 4,000 pounds in terms of battery storage. Still, scientists believe the basic principles are available to give lithium-air batteries the chance to become the high-density, light-weight future of transportation power.

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Aaron Colter is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Purdue University, he has worked for the NCAA, Dark Horse Comics, Willamette Week, AOL, The Huffington Post, Top Shelf Productions, DigitalTrends, theMIX agency, SuicideGirls, EarthTechling, d'Errico Studios and others. He is also the co-founder of BananaStandMedia.com, a free record label, recording studio, and distribution service for independent musicians.