A team of researchers has uncovered a new technology for enhancing lithium-oxygen batteries, which could result in lighter and more energy-efficient electric vehicles.
Compared to lithium-ion batteries often used in traditional EVs, lithium-oxygen or lithium-air batteries are far lighter and perhaps most importantly, can extend a car’s range. However, newer batteries also run at exceedingly hot temperatures, so they don’t necessarily output all they can. Worst of all, they degrade quickly and replacement parts can also be expensive.
The new technology developed by Ju Li, a Battelle Energy Alliance Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, however, addresses those issues.
Li and his fellow researchers developed a new battery concept known as nanolithia cathode. In essence, the battery doesn’t allow oxygen to take on a gaseous form and instead allows it to stay inside the battery without seeping out. That alone can reduce voltage and increase charging time on batteries. More importantly, it reduces heat issues.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to MIT News, not allowing the oxygen to become gaseous means the battery doesn’t actually need to draw in oxygen to create the desired power-creating effect, which reduces the need for “large auxiliary systems” designed to do that.
So, what about those lighter electric vehicles? According to the report, the “solid oxygen” cathodes used in the technology are still far lighter than the batteries used in today’s electric vehicles. And since it no longer expels air, it’s capable of holding onto the energy without too much loss. Ultimately, that could mean lighter batteries, lighter cars, and more range.
But before Tesla owners get too excited, researchers were quick to note that their technology is just a proof-of-concept at this point and likely won’t become a “practical prototype” until next year. The full report was published in Nature Energy journal.