• Jan 12, 2011
Whether you're talking about cameras, phones or electric cars, lithium is the current battery of choice. Lithium can pack much more energy than the nickel-metal hydride cells hiding in the boot of a Toyota Prius, but that doesn't mean that the rare earth metal represents the zenith of battery technology.
Bloomberg reports that scientists and engineers at Toyota's Ann Arbor, Michigan technical center are on the lookout for the next big thing in batteries, and the automaker thinks it may be on to something. Lithium's possible replacement is composed of magnesium and sulfur, and Toyota engineering manager Jeffrey Makarewicz reportedly feels the batteries can be ready as soon as the year 2020.

The problem with lithium, according to Makarewicz, is that it can only optimally hold about 2,000 kilowatt-hours of energy. That's apparently not enough spark to consistently power the plug-ins and EVs of the future. We're guessing Makarewicz is alluding to the fact that electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf only have enough juice to venture 35 to 100 miles on a single charge, while even the most inefficient gasoline mills can travel hundreds of miles

So, will magnesium one day surpass lithium as the battery guts of the future? We have no idea, but we apparently have about a decade of patient waiting before we can find out.

[Source: Bloomberg | Image: Life123.com]


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  • 40 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think Graphane is the next big thing :-)

      Super/Ultra capacitors .....

      But we need to explore alternatives also.
      • 3 Years Ago
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      It's really glad to read about the following topic which has enhanced my knowledge regarding topic and plus has given alot of ideas which I can think on.
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      • 3 Years Ago
      I've said it a hundred times that I remember my old original Makita 9.6V cordless drill from back in the day, and how I thought cordless drills would NEVER be strong enough to replace a corded 1/2" drill. Does anyone even buy corded drilles anymore?
        • 3 Years Ago
        OTOH I have a 10 year old nicad drill that still works great, I've thrown away several li-ion drills in the last few years.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I still do, for the shop. Cheap, light, and the power is limited by the drill itself, not the battery hanging off it.

        Everywhere else, cordless
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Nissan Leaf only have enough juice to venture 35 to 100 miles on a single charge, while even the most inefficient gasoline mills can travel hundreds of miles"

      If the gasoline can travel hundreds of miles and stored in a space 1/4 the space of a battery, I think 'inefficient gasoline mills' is a bit misleading.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wouldn't want to be the one mixing those together....
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hm.. that's an interesting shift in materials.

      It's not like lithium is rare. You can scrape the stuff off the ground in Bolivia. Afghanistan has a ton.. China has a ton.. I believe we have some in North America too.
      • 3 Years Ago
      "The problem with lithium, according to Makarewicz, is that it can only optimally hold about 2,000 kilowatt-hours of energy."

      2,000 killowatt hours per what??? there is no limit to the amount of batteries you can put together effectively making one battery.

      2,000 KWhrs.... per pound? per ton? per cubic foot? per acre? per whale?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Have you not learned that Autoblog uses a one eye'd, developmentally challenged robot to summarize articles? If you read the original article it seems he means you can only pack a maximum of 2000 kwh of storage into a car with li-ion. Which seems like an aweful lot given that a 50kwh battery already weighs more than an ICE engine. I'm thinking either he was miss quoted or it was out of context.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't think Lithium is considered a rare earth metal.
      • 3 Years Ago
      "2000 kilowatt hours"

      Just to put that into perspective - the battery will power a 100W bulb for 20,000 hours - which is 833 days.
        • 3 Years Ago
        they missed a crucial bit of detail in the original bloomberg article, the total weight of the batteries. 2000kwh of energy is an enormous amount. lithium ion batteries achieve 0.25kwh/kg on the high side, that means 2000kwh would require 8000kg of batteries. chevy volt has a little over 10kwh in its battery pack, nissan leaf is at 24kwh, tesla roadster's at 53kwh, where the heck did they come up with the 2000kwh number? 2000kwh is 2 megawatts for one hour, or 2680 horsepower for one hour...
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why batteries, when advancements in super-capacitors/ultra-capacitors makes more sense? There have been several breakthroughs recently by universities to significantly increase their capacities, they have a significantly longer life-span, and charge extremely quickly.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Because so far it has all been a big load of BS maybe? EEStor was supposed to be in production cars by now, they have yet to so much as produce a working prototype.
      • 3 Years Ago
      This story is so 2004. That means... 2014 is the real date?! http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2006/03/31/002579.html
        • 3 Years Ago
        Toyota has always been several steps ahead of the competition.
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Toyota has always been several steps ahead of the competition."

        They've been rapidly accelerating out of control for some time now. Almost unstopable.


      • 3 Years Ago
      Everyone that thinks electric is the way to go is up in the night, lets increase the load on a antiquated electrical grid (remember the northeast five years ago). Then on top of that lets divert our carbon foot-print to those coal-fired power plants and or increase the nuclear waste that has a 500year half-life sounds like the solution to me, not! Increase(demand) efficiency in the internal combustion engine with the combination of good transmissions for the short term until a real solution is found. ON TOPIC: It will be interesting to see these batteries glow that beautiful white light when they catch fire and cant be put out!
        • 3 Years Ago
        Most people are going to be charging at night when the grid has tons of capacity to spare.

        An electric vehicle powered by 100% coal still has a lower carbon footprint than any gas car.

        And guess what, i takes a crapton of electricity *and* oil just to get oil out of the ground and processed and delivered. This is never really considered in debates between electric and gas.

        But the fact of the matter is, we have winds that blow, rivers that flow, and a giant ball of burning gas up in the sky. The potential to harvest 100% pollution free energy exists. Whereas an engine that blows up a liquid fuel will never have that potential.

        I'm betting on electric. Oil won't be around forever. Especially now that we have China ramping up their oil use to essentially become another America's worth of oil consumption.
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