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Not Ready For Prime Time, But Tech Looks Promising

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a lithium-air battery that demonstrates high density, high efficiency, and long cycle life.

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One nagging issue with electric vehicles is range. While today's lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are much better than yesterday's nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, they still don't offer enough energy storage to take an EV much further than 100 miles without a lengthy recharge. Even if the Li-ion batteries were up to the challenge, there is still the awkward problem of where to pack 1,000 pounds (or more) of bulky storage cells into a vehicle's chassis.

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We know that General Motors has the largest battery lab in the world, one that's capable of carrying out all kinds of scientific tests, but that's a little boring, if you ask us. If you want to test a battery's durability, do you really need fancy lab equipment and sophisticated computers? Or can you just use a few household items, a swimming pool, bullets and a lot of time? Maybe it's time to ditch the lab coats, fire up the oven and learn how battery testing is really done.

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Judging by the table shown above, lithium-air (Li/O2) batteries appear to be quite remarkable, on paper at least. But what can we really expect from this new advanced battery technology? Well Argonne National Laboratory has started researching and testing lithium-air batteries in earnest and presents a strong case that the future of electric vehicles may very well ride on this technology. If initial research turns out to be accurate, lithium-air batteries could hold up to ten times more energy t

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The United States Department of Energy has granted IBM 24 million hours of computing time on the supercomputers at the Argonne and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. The reason? Research on lithium air batteries. Lithium air batteries hold a lot of potential for dramatically increasing energy density for electric vehicles, potentially up to 5,000 watt-hours per kilogram.

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Last week, a consortium of some of the nation's leading scientists and engineers reportedly met in California to develop a new battery pack for electric cars. Sponsored by IBM and its Big Green Innovations program, the so-called Battery 500 team hopes to create a power pack capable of propelling a vehicle for up to 500 miles.

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