If you’re following the latest developments in plug-in electric vehicles, you’ll usually hear how amazing advanced batteries are just around the corner – some variant of lithium ion will charge faster, go farther, and will be lighter and take up less space. Sound good?
Aluminum is used as the anode in a battery and ambient air and its oxygen as a cathode, along with water molecules. Combined in the battery, they produce hydrated aluminum oxide and energy that can power a car. Companies testing it such as Phinergy says you’d need to refill the car with water every few hundred miles. It sounds similar to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles which release water from the tailpipe, but this one is powered by it.
It is the pervasive battery technology today in electric vehicles, along with smartphones and tablets. But it isn’t perfect, and several research groups are looking for a way to improve on its existing strengths. Recent advances in nano-technology are proving a popular avenue for lithium-ion, and lithium-air is another offshoot of li-ion batteries that could significantly increase energy density. During that time of transition, li-ion will be relied on for a lot of EVs and a few hybrids.
Researchers at Rice University and the City College of New York have looked at using an herb called madder, or purpurin, as a natural cathode for lithium-ion batteries. It won’t extend the range much, but environmentalists might be happy with it having less impact on the atmosphere.
It’s one of the biggest breakthroughs of the 21st century so far; it’s essentially a single-atom-thick lattice of carbon atoms. It’s light, incredibly strong for its size, and incredibly electrically conductive. It’s light-weight benefits are being explored.
EVs are being measured in their internal software just by using voltage and current – more data is need. New algorithms can estimate the position of charged particles, allowing for much more precision and less over-engineering.
Brine has its environmental sustainability benefits, similar to herbs, though it won’t be adding to the range. You can collect lithium from brine, which goes over better than digging up mines. It is being used for something now — the hot liquid is used to drive turbines for geothermal energy plants.