With potentially ten-times more energy-holding capacity of today's power packs – in the same realm of gasoline – lithium-air is the Holy Grail of batteries. While challenges still remain, scientists have now developed a working demonstrator that achieves over 90-percent efficiency and has, so far, shown the ability to be cycled 2,000 times.
Says Professor Clare Grey of Cambridge's Department of Chemistry,
If you want to get deep into the weeds and read about adding lithium iodide to the electrolyte and the use of lithium hydroxide (LiOH) in place of lithium peroxide (Li2O2), you can get all sciency here.
"What we've achieved is a significant advance for this technology and suggests whole new areas for research – we haven't solved all the problems inherent to this chemistry, but our results do show routes forward towards a practical device."
Suffice to say, we won't be plugging this battery into our electric flying cars next week. The British boffins still have to contend with the cells' requirement for nothing but the purest of oxygen, and the lithium metal electrode's tendency to form dendrites that can trigger explosions (bad!) and short circuits (also bad!). For now, it seems we'll have to be content with the technology that has already been proven to be at least workable in the Nissan Leafs, Chevy Volts, and Tesla vehicles we can purchase today.