The rechargeable battery has presented some problems for automakers, some of which are not so easily addressed but, thanks to a recent collaboration between SolidEnergy and A123 Systems, could those problems be in the past?
Currently, of all the durable rechargeable battery types, the lithium-ion battery has the best capacity for its weight. Still, lithium-ion battery packs are expensive and heavy and, even as some recent problems with Tesla Model S has highlighted, flammable. Research into advanced rechargeable battery technology is ongoing, because the technology still really isn’t ready for mainstream.
SolidEnergy, a startup company with its roots at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT], has been collaborating recently with the reborn A123 Systems, that is, A123 Venture Technologies, to develop a new rechargeable battery that, later, might be able to push electric vehicles from the sideshow to the main event. The key to SolidEnergy’s new cell is the replacement of the graphite electrode with a lithium metal electrode, coated with a thin polymer electrolyte, which results in a number of benefits.
First, SolidEnergy calculated that its new battery might be manufacturable for around $130/kWh. Today’s lithium-ion battery packs are estimated to cost between $250/kWh and $500/kWh. With material and manufacturing costs around 50% of those currently on the market, electric vehicles of the future could be more affordable. Second, SolidEnergy’s new rechargeable battery cells hold about 30% more than current lithium-ion technology of the same weight, and it is estimated that future versions might hold 40% more. Finally, the SolidEnergy rechargeable battery electrolyte is non-flammable, which would make it safe, even in the event of an accident.
Just for comparison, a Tesla Model S 85kWh, with the same weight battery, would actually have a capacity of 119kWh, cost approximately $6,000 less, and have a range of over 400mi. On the other hand, a Tesla Model S 85kWh with just 85kWh of SolidEnergy rechargeable battery installed, would cost about $10,000 less for the same range as currently. [Actually, the range would be slightly better than the current 300mi because of a 40% decrease in battery weight.]
Image © SolidEnergy