Scientists at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Argonne National Laboratory have developed a groundbreaking lithium-air battery that can store almost four times as much energy as a conventional lithium-ion battery of the same size. This technological breakthrough has the potential to significantly increase the range of electric vehicles (EVs), making them more attractive to potential buyers.
Currently, most EVs use lithium-ion batteries, which have a range of around 150-300 miles per charge. While this is adequate for daily commutes, it falls short for long road trips, which is why some consumers hesitate to purchase an EV. However, the lithium-air battery, if it performs as projected, could quadruple the energy storage of an EV without increasing its weight, significantly extending a vehicle’s range.
The critical difference between lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries is the chemical reaction inside the battery. Lithium-ion batteries contain tanks of oxygen and a liquid electrolyte, allowing the lithium and oxygen to bind together, releasing energy. When the battery charges, the lithium and oxygen separate, storing energy.
In contrast, lithium-air batteries bond lithium and oxygen together to release energy without needing a liquid electrolyte or oxygen storage tanks. Instead, they use oxygen from the air, resulting in much greater efficiency, even on a molecular level.
Rachid Amine, one of the researchers on the project, explains that “the chemical reaction for [lithium-ion batteries] only involves one or two electrons stored per oxygen molecule, whereas that for [lithium-air batteries] involves four electrons.”
The development of the lithium-air battery has been a long time in the making, with scientists working for over a decade to develop a lithium battery that can use oxygen in the air. The lithium-air battery is the first to operate at room temperature, making it suitable for EV use. Furthermore, it is efficient enough to power long-haul trucks and even some airplanes.
“The lithium-air battery has the highest projected energy density of any battery technology being considered for the next generation of batteries beyond lithium-ion,” said Larry Curtiss of the Argonne National Laboratory.
As EV batteries continue to improve, electric vehicles will become more affordable, convenient, and cheaper to drive, saving owners time and money. As reported by the International Energy Agency, these improvements have already led to an increase in EV sales.
With this new technology, electric vehicles may become even more desirable.