Better Batteries Key to Electric Car Revolution

U.S. Energy Department has ambitious goals for bringing the cost down to $125 per kilowatt-hour by 2020.

Published: 29-Dec-2011

Electric vehicles are still too expensive and have too many limitations to compete with regular cars, except in a few niche markets. Will that ever change? The answer has everything to do with battery technology. Batteries carrying more charge for a lower price could extend the range of electric cars from today's 70 miles to hundreds of miles, effectively challenging the internal-combustion motor.

To get there, many experts agree, a major shift in battery technology may be needed. Electric vehicles such as the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid from GM, rely on larger versions of the lithium-ion batteries that power smart phones, iPads, and ultrathin laptops. Such gadgets are possible only because lithium-ion batteries have twice the energy density of the nickel–metal hydride batteries used in the brick-size mobile phones and other bulky consumer electronics of the 1980s.

Using lithium-ion batteries, companies like Nissan, which has sold 20,000 Leafs globally (the car is priced at $33,000 in the U.S.), are predicting that they've already hit upon the right mix of vehicle range and sticker price to satisfy many commuters who drive limited distances.


Better Place prototype battery switching station in Japan.

The estimated cost of each of the 51 battery replacement stations is $1 million.

Chevy Volt battery animation screen capture.

Argonne's composite cathode material has a unique combination of lithium-and manganese-rich mixed-metal oxides in a stable materials-design approach.

Toyota RAV4 EV is Tesla-Powered. Photo:EV World

Company estimates cost of battery backs could be one-third that of systems being developed by other electric car manufacturers.


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