GM Developing Lithium-Air Battery to Improve Electric Vehicle Capability
Lithium-Air Batteries are Lighter, More Efficient than Traditional Lithium-Ion Batteries-
According to The New York Times, General Motors has began conducting research into lithium-air batteries, which may revolutionize electric vehicle technology. GM confirms that the battery technology needs much more R&D before it may be used to commercial EVs, however the increase in capacity of these batteries could offer yield output per charge matching or exceeding that of a traditional petroleum-fueled car. Lithium has been used for years in high-density batteries from laptops to electric cars, but lithium-air batteries have rarely made headlines due to limited development. Lithium has an extremely high energy density; and if exposed to water, the chemical reaction issues a large amount of heat, lithium hydroxide and hydrogen. All batteries contain an anode and a cathode. Electrical current flows between them when the chemicals inside the battery react with one another. Traditionally, anode and cathode have been made from different solid elements. In lithium-air batteries, the solid cathode is replaced with oxygen. Since the air we breathe contains abundant oxygen levels, a lithium-air battery does not need to store a supply of oxygen inside itself, which makes the battery much lighter and smaller. In fact, lithium-air batteries could offer an increase in capacity of more than 10 times that now accomplished by current lithium-ion cells. While lithium-air batteries are 10 years away from commercial-scale use at best, and are still in laboratory stages of testing, they symbolize a significant advance in potential range for all electric vehicles. GM’s 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be released this fall and uses more common lithium-ion cells in its battery pack. The extended range hybrid-electric vehicle will be capable of traveling 40 miles on a full charge of electricity before a gasoline range-extender engine kicks in for another 300 miles.