New battery could triple range of e-cars

A new lithium battery could triple the range of electric cars and reduce costs, and be in use within 12 months.

The battery would not only change the car market, but double the running life of a smartphone or a laptop, said Dr Qichao Hu, who developed it with his former professor, Donald Sadoway, a battery expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We’ve got to get a car on the showroom floor for $30,000, not $130,000, and the big piece is the battery: it’s too expensive and it runs down too fast,” Prof Sadoway told the Financial Times.

The new lithium battery does not need the same system to prevent it overheating or catching fire and will be 20% cheaper. Just 500 electric cars have been sold in Ireland, but interest is growing. However, there are concerns about ‘range anxiety’, charging times, access to charge points and the lifespan of batteries.

This may change that: “That’s game-changing,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, head of global automotive research at ISI Group, an investment research group. “There are a lot of experienced battery-makers trying to do exactly that, because it’s the killer application.”

Independent tests in the US found the prototype cells in the battery developed by Dr Hu and Prof Sadoway potentially store more than twice as much energy as conventional cells. The new battery has an ultra-thin metal anode with higher energy density than the graphite and silicon anodes in current batteries, and uses safer electrolyte material.

The project has backing from Vertex, the venture capital arm of Temasek, Singapore’s state investment group, and Dr Hu said he had preliminary discussions with Apple, and Tesla, the electric carmaker, as well as with most major Asian battery manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Hyundai and its affiliate, Kia Motors, are to raise the average fuel economy of their vehicles by 25% by 2020 to meet emissions regulations in Europe, South Korea and the United States. The South Koreans on Monday agreed to pay $350m in penalties to the US government for overstating fuel economy ratings.

They said they would develop next-generation engines and transmissions, reduce the weight of key models and expand their line-up of environmentally friendly vehicles to reach the target. Hyundai and Kia, who share key components, said they would replace 70% of their 10 petrol and diesel engines with next-generation engines, while expanding the use of turbo-charged petrol engines.

Hyundai and Kia, which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, plan to launch a compact, hybrid-dedicated vehicle and the plug-in hybrid version of the Sonata saloon, next year, as part of efforts to beef up their eco-friendly cars.


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