If anyone thought that Tesla Motors’ electric vehicle was the peak of rechargeable battery technology, it seems good to note that we’re just getting started, that is, the peak is still somewhere in the clouds.
A123 Systems, long since failed and resurrected by Wanxiang Group, is a developer of advanced-technology lithium-ion [Li-Ion] rechargeable batteries. Instead of going it alone, A123 Venture Technologies seeks partners to develop the next generation of Li-Ion batteries. In a recent collaboration with A123, SolidEnergy may begin producing a new Li-Ion cell with up to 400% capacity. At first, SolidEnergy will produce Li-Ion batteries for smaller applications, but you can be sure that electric vehicle battery packs won’t be far down on the list.
Here’s a video from SolidEnergy: [Hopefully, SolidEnergy will release a new version without the dramatic score but, until then, you’ll have to listen carefully to the speaker’s introduction.]
SolidEnergy’s new Li-Ion makes use of a totally-new solid electrolyte, Polymer Ionic Liquid [PiL], with allows for more energy-dense cells. New Li-Ion batteries made with PiL hold nearly 800Wh/kg, where mass-produced cells, such as the Panasonic 18650 Li-Ion cell used in the Tesla Model S, only hold about 200Wh/kg. My monster laptop, an HP ProBook 4540s, might last 3.5hrs with the standard 49Wh Li-Ion battery but, equipped with a SolidEnergy PiL battery of the same weight, could last as long as 14 hours! An electric vehicle, such as the Chevy Spark EV, comes with a standard range of just 82 miles but, if equipped with a SolidEnergy PiL battery, could actually match the range of the Tesla Model S 85kWh, at 50% the price!
Another interesting feature of SolidEnergy’s solid PiL electrolyte is the temperature range. In order to operate safely, most hybrid and electric vehicle rechargeable battery packs need some sort of cooling system, which adds range-robbing weight to the vehicle. Newer solid electrolyte rechargeable batteries need both a cooling system and a heating system to run at lower temperatures, adding more weight. SolidEnergy’s PiL electrolyte has a safe operating temperature range of -40°F to 482°F [-40°C to 250°C], clearly requiring lightweight insulation, while eliminating the need for weighty heating or cooling systems.
Image © SolidEnergy