IBM research boosts long-range, air-powered electric battery project

Apr 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- IBM announced that two industry leaders -- Asahi Kasei and Central Glass -- will join its Battery 500 Project team and collaborate on far-reaching research with the potential to accelerate the switch from gasoline to electricity as the primary power source for vehicles.

In 2009, IBM Research pioneered a sustainable mobility project to develop lithium-air technology capable of powering a family-sized electric car for approximately 500 miles (800 km) on a single charge.

As partners in the Battery 500 Project, Asahi Kasei and Central Glass bring decades of materials innovation for the to the team. They will expand the project’s scope and, although the scientific and engineering challenges to its practical implementation are extremely high, exploring several chemistries simultaneously increases the chance of success.

· Asahi Kasei, one of Japan's leading chemical manufactures and a leading global supplier of separator membrane for lithium-ion batteries, will use its experience in innovative membrane technology to create a critical component for lithium-air batteries.

· Central Glass, a leading global electrolyte manufacturer for lithium-ion batteries, will use its chemical expertise in this field to create a new class of electrolytes and high-performance additives specifically designed to improve lithium-air batteries.

“These new partners share our vision of electric cars being critical components of building a cleaner, better world, which is far less dependent on oil,” said Dr. Winfried Wilcke, IBM’s Principle Investigator who initiated the Battery 500 Project. “Their compatible experience, knowledge and commitment to bold innovation in electric vehicle battery technology can help us transfer this research from the lab onto the road.”

Most electric vehicles can only travel about 100 miles before needing to recharge using today's lithium-ion batteries. This is a significant barrier to electric car adoption unless a new battery technology can be developed that is affordable, lightweight, compact and has the capacity to power a typical family car several hundred miles or more on a single charge.

For a car running on today's lithium-ion batteries to match the range provided by a tank of gasoline, car manufacturers would need a very large battery which would weigh down the car and take up too much space. Lithium-air batteries have higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries, due to their lighter cathodes and the fact that their primary "fuel" is the oxygen readily available in the atmosphere. To popularize , an energy density ten times greater than that of conventional lithium-ion batteries is needed, and these new partners to the project can help drive lithium-air technology towards that goal.

New materials development is vitally important to ensuring the viability of lithium-air ,” said Tatsuya Mori, Director, Executive Managing Officer, Central Glass. “As a long-standing partner of IBM and leader in developing high-performance electrolytes for batteries, we’re excited to share each other’s chemical and scientific expertise in a field as exciting as electric vehicles.”

“We are very focused on addressing environmental challenges and limitations with diverse technology to build a brighter future. This alliance allows us to explore a new path to developing an improved rechargeable battery performance that can not be met with conventional technologies,” said Tetsuro Ohta, Head of Advanced Battery Materials Development Center, Asahi Kasei.

This research will take place at IBM Research – Almaden in California.

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dschlink
3 / 5 (7) Apr 20, 2012
Battery cost is much more of a barrier to the adoption of electric cars than range. Rather than focusing so much on boosting the range, the improvements in energy density would be better applied to reducing battery size and total cost. If they can make a ten-fold increase in density, that could mean cutting the battery to one-fifth the current size with an attendant cost reduction and still double the range.
fmfbrestel
3.5 / 5 (10) Apr 20, 2012
Battery cost is much more of a barrier to the adoption of electric cars than range.


Debatable. I wouldn't buy a Nissan Leaf even it only cost $10K. 60 mile range is unacceptable for american markets. European and Japanese markets might be more open for low ranges, but not for the american consumer used to being able to take cross country trips with a range of 1000 miles.

For an electic car to be successful in the US it will need to have at least a 300 mile range and a recharge time less than the time required to eat lunch or a quick stop at a tourist trap.
Lord_jag
3.3 / 5 (7) Apr 20, 2012
I think you need to log your daily use of your vehicle. Most people, Americans included don't use their cars for long road trips *** EVERY DAY ***.

When you need a car for a long road trip, rent a smoker. This will suffice for your daily commute to work and back with lots left over to stop at the store on the way home.

Do you really use more than a tank of gas every week?
dschlink
3 / 5 (2) Apr 20, 2012
I put 7600 miles on my van last year. My wife put under 5000 on her car. We both drive almost every day. The maximum I've driven my van in one day in the last 7 years was only 95 miles. For her car, it's probably around 65. For 90% of people living in the USA metroburbs, 60-100 miles would do the trick.

Yeah, I'll be needing more range this summer's vacation; but I could rent a car once every decade for long trips and come out way ahead. Heck, I could hang a 8KW generator on the bumper hitch and make the run.
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2012
fmfbrestel betrayed some lazy & quirky thinking
Debatable. I wouldn't buy a Nissan Leaf even it only cost $10K. 60 mile range is unacceptable for american markets.
1. Leaf specs show range of 170Km, ~105M
2. That infrastructure for only $10K allows you a 5K?W diesel genset in the boot, even run off waste cooking oil.

If you work out the cost overall you have a pretty nice package that allows flexibility, longer range and remarkable utility.

Besides is there some weird snobbery value in not having to top up fuel more than once a week, is it such a huge inconvenience reflective of the new urban class culture of middle class obverse ego & self-esteem ?

What needs consideration is capital cost vs ongoing energy costs for distance travelled. Net present costing is a useful exercise, easy to do on spreadsheets.

I'm not associated with Nissan but, I am an electronic engineer, food scientist and technology development consultant and see many examples of bad and lazy thinking.
baudrunner
1.6 / 5 (11) Apr 20, 2012
The number of cars on the road surpassed one billion last year. If all those cars used the air-powered battery, the result of all that oxygen being taken out of the air would result in drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Naturally, of course, the movers and shakers who put all this together will have oxygen generators in their homes, cars, and offices.
Mike_Massen
2.5 / 5 (11) Apr 20, 2012
baudrunner offered a knee jerk reaction
If all those cars used the air-powered battery, the result of all that oxygen being taken out of the air would result in drivers falling asleep at the wheel...
No !
1.Work out the vehicle travel distribution
2.Fact they only use O2 during travel
3.Equilibrium statistics - charge vs discharge distribution
4.Amount of oxygen in the atmosphere (even limit that to an urban layer if you like)

Atmosphere over land is very rarely stationary or even approaching it, the heat and change in partial vapour pressures may well induce more flows (ie Wind) to cancel out anything except very minor variations in O2 percentage. Drivers arent going to fall asleep any time soon on the outside roads. However, it would be sensible to ensure sensors are used in restricted flow underground car-parks - easy to add to the existing CO/CO2 sensors which are used to trigger fans.

Air has a huge amount of O2 !

Can we call get off this lazy thinking scenario - please ?
Mike_Massen
1.5 / 5 (8) Apr 20, 2012
Here is a bit more information on the technology
http://en.wikiped..._battery

Petrol has about 9000 Watt Hours/Litre, anything that gets to even a quarter of that from a simple solid state battery would be a huge advance & with fine tuning the charge infrastructure in and around cities and urban areas will likely avoid the problem of delivering large charge demands on power grids at the end of each day...

It would be quite ironic that we can progress from a system that pollutes the atmosphere with CP/NOx/SOx/CO2 to one which essentially provides virtually pure air we can breathe !

Centralising the battery recycling would go a long way also to having zero net effect on industrial pollution potential once integrated with advanced renewable power sources.

There are still safety issues which could do with qualification but, the ideal of a true zero emissions transportation system seems very close indeed !

Wish I had looked at Li-Air more closely 20 years ago.
ZachAdams
1 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2012
LOL, with higher energy densities, the option always exists to choose a shorter range with a smaller battery. Less weight & lower costs.
DoubleD
2 / 5 (3) Apr 20, 2012
If it doesnt have a range of 300 mi and recharge as quickly as pumping 15-20 gal of gas, and have an overall total cost of ownership comparable to gasoline/diesel engines, American consumers will be very slow to adopt, regardless of your carefully reasoned arguments and insults. Why? Well, it has to be as good as or better than what is available now. Seems pretty simple to me.
DoubleD
2.5 / 5 (2) Apr 20, 2012
Oh, yeah. My employer relocated 35 mi. in the opposite direction so I drive 100 mi a day, round trip, for work. Then running to the kids ball games or Cub Scouts or Tae Kwon Do and I have 120-150 mi in today. I work in the commmercial electric power generation industry and would welcome an all-electric that does what my CRV does.
RealityCheck
2.6 / 5 (10) Apr 20, 2012
The number of cars on the road surpassed one billion last year. If all those cars used the air-powered battery, the result of [b]all that oxygen being taken out of the air[/b] would result in drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Naturally, of course, the movers and shakers who put all this together will have oxygen generators in their homes, cars, and offices.


Hahaha! Good one, baudrunner! Others seem to have missed your subtle joke about using up the O2 and drivers falling asleep, mate!

Obviously, that is what we currently do; ie, we take O2 out of the air to burn the fuel in internal combustion engines....and drivers aren't currently falling asleep en masse all over the place!

Good one, mate. I appreciate that subtle kind of humor, even this (very) early in (my) day. Thanks for the wake-up chuckle, mate! :)

.

Eikka
1 / 5 (3) Apr 20, 2012
The lithium air battery is peculiar because it gains weight as it empties. Oxygen is really heavy. I recall that for 100 kWh of energy, which is good for about 400 miles, you need about 8 kilograms of raw lithium. If you oxidize it to Li2O the battery will actually gain something like 10 kilograms of oxygen.

But that just goes to show what the real weight in batteries is: it's all the electrolytes, electrodes, casings, wires and other support materials involved. That's why the lithium-air battery can be so much lighter. It does away with half of the battery by not carrying the second half of the chemical reaction with it.

And it's a much smarter idea anyhow, because you can't make the battery catch fire without the oxygen that isn't there after the pumps are turned off.
Eikka
1 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2012
Do you really use more than a tank of gas every week?


That's the point though.

A gasoline car isn't crippled if it can't get more fuel every single day. An electric car will be, because it can just about drive you around for a day, and if you can't plug it in, you forget to plug it in, you get a blackout or the computer crashes and the charger won't charge, you find yourself in an emergency in the middle of the night with the battery only half-way full - no dice. Sorry, can't go. Call a taxi.

It's kinda like the pointlessness of modern smartphones. You get a fancy expensive phone that runs out of battery in a couple of hours if you actually use it and won't last two days on a battery - something we all thought was history after the 90's. Anyone who actually depends on being able to make a phone call wouldn't buy one.

Similiarily, if you can do with an electric car as they are now, you don't really need a car do you?
TrinityComplex
3 / 5 (2) Apr 20, 2012
There's also the possibility of charging the vehicle while at work, effectively removing half of that trip from the accumulated total before a recharge. Just because your employer is 60 miles away doesn't mean you can't still use a 100 mile range car.
Mike_Massen
1.5 / 5 (8) Apr 20, 2012
RealityCheck was nicely light-hearted when he retorted to baudrunner with:-
Obviously, that is what we currently do; ie, we take O2 out of the air to burn the fuel in internal combustion engines....and drivers aren't currently falling asleep en-mass all over the place!
Very true & naturally (as its combustion) we are replacing it with mounds of CO2, even more reason to be sleepy. Its surprising pedestrians don't fall over asleep on the sidewalk!

Right now the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) is only around 25% efficient so 75% of the CO2 emitted is not going to anything useful except heat, will that mean we are also cooking the sleeping pedestrians ?

Li-Air system (electric only) is likely to be much more than 50% efficient, so baudrunner, you will be so much better off :-)

Now if we could instead absorb CO2 & produce Lithium Carbonate rather than peroxide & then, when charging, strip off just the carbon first for recycling we could also reduce average atmospheric CO2 too.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) Apr 20, 2012
Just because your employer is 60 miles away doesn't mean you can't still use a 100 mile range car.


That depends on whether your employer is willing and able to provide you with a charging point. It's a tall order if you have to drive 60 miles off into the countryside for a client and find out that they only have a regular 120 volt socket and it would take you ten hours to recharge.

And it only applies to that particular commute.
kochevnik
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 20, 2012
For an electic car to be successful in the US it will need to have at least a 300 mile range and a recharge time less than the time required to eat lunch or a quick stop at a tourist trap.
In LA I'd contemplate a trip to Santa Monica and back, which is twenty miles each way. For a trip like that the emphasis could be on low power drain while sitting at about fifty stoplights and running some air conditioning ideally. Air conditioning could easily require as much energy as the ride. Driving a vehicle with no power drain when idle makes a more cost effective trip.

That said I only rent cars in the USA for obvious reasons.
Mike_Massen
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 20, 2012
Eikka sprouted such utter nonsense, doubtless from lack of experience !
Similiarily, if you can do with an electric car as they are now, you don't really need a car do you?


Blimey - wake up your neurons Eikka !

Eg.
I travel 15Km per day using a bicycle, sometimes its an electric bike, many other people do the same around our city. Its getting close to winter in southern hemisphere (rain etc) and even if it wasn't, I would jump at the chance of getting an electric car for $10K and only use 15Km worth of battery depth of charge/day and might even travel more like 30Km to the gourmet deli etc. The batteries will last much longer, I can have sexy passengers with the right chromies and it costs me peanuts to charge when I get home (easy power button on front door to remind me to plug in charger) and as I have used so little during day it also charges quicker :-)

What was this about my suggesting people stop the habit of bad thinking ?
NotParker
1 / 5 (6) Apr 20, 2012

That depends on whether your employer is willing and able to provide you with a charging point.


Let alone the condo owner or apartment owner. Or whether you have street parking and plan to run extension cord over the sidewalk to your car.
Mike_Massen
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 20, 2012
I have this vision of driving along in a Nissan leaf with 3 passengers:- My two sons and a young athletic girlfriend :-)

However, in front of each passenger is a two hand crank generator combination wired suitably into the batteries.

They are busily turning these fast as we accelerate but keep going at a more sedate speed to keep the lights and air-conditioning functioning. By implementing such a system, I get:-

1. Reduced depth of battery discharge
2. Family increasing their upper body fitness (option for foot cranks too)
3. Less need to hire gym sessions, in fact might cancel them
4. Community spirit of us all working together for the common good
5. Sense of competition as each generator logs output
6. Good practice if the girlfriend forgets to plug the charger in
7. My money's worth with all the food I supply to the kids
8. Keep the kids quiet if I wire a zapper under their seats & if they fail to keep outputting power,

Each worker could make 250W, happy days :-)

*grin*
Mike_Massen
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 20, 2012
Here is an earlier article I just found - over a year ago, some good comments about the issue of incremental progress too, article came out Feb 1, 2011

http://phys.org/n...ity.html

I'm quite excited about the capacity and potential for this technology and hope there wont be much resistance to induce it to be adopted with Watt-ever types of parallel engineering approaches, perhaps a series of these smaller modules could first be produced for electric bikes and scooters and especially so if the power density is high :-)
Code_Warrior
1 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2012
Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah......

Hopes and dreams and what not...

Nothing to see here... Just an IBM press release... Move along...
Egleton
2 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2012
Why? Well, it has to be as good as or better than what is available now. Seems pretty simple to me.
People are always telling me how things are now. Human foresight has obviously atrophied.
Eikka
1 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2012

What was this about my suggesting people stop the habit of bad thinking ?


Like I said. If you can do with an electric car of today, you don't really need one, like your case suggests.

You've done fine without so far. If the only problem is rain, get a velomobile. Why do you need a two-ton car for $10k that will need a battery replacement in five years, when you're perfectly capable of getting yourself around for practically free? Lithium-ion batteries have a shelf-life as well, so it's not just a simple matter of saving your kilometers.

The less you drive, the more expensive it becomes because the electricity cost is neglible compared to the battery. If you drive 15 km five days a week, you go 3900 km a year, and if the battery is good for 5 years you get 19,500 km out of it. If it costs you $10k then that's 50 cents a kilometer, plus insurance, plus electricity, plus maintenance, plus inspections, plus registration...

Even a scooter would be a better idea.
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2012
Do you really use more than a tank of gas every week?


In Louisiana almost everyone does.

In fact, 2 or 3 people per household may each use more than a tank of gas each week. We have some of the longest average commute distances, both for work and school.

Still, I don't think I've ever driven more than 500 miles in one day in my life.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2012
Factors affecting O2 content in the air:

1. Deforestation
2. Jet air travel (!)
3. Oxygen depleting cars
4. People
5. Industry, power generation,
etc..

..there must be some kind of conspiracy to deplete this world of oxygen, replace it with carbon dioxide, and blame somebody other than ourselves on global warming.

we're all gonna die..

Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2012
Maybe there are anaerobic based aliens with a long term plan who visited us long ago, observing our emotional attachment to religion (which did nothing useful for use for thousands of years) then foisted Science upon us around 400 years ago or so in a gentle yet subtle way so we got the impression we came up with it - aliens knowing full well the industrial consequences of the rise of Science.

There does seem to be some anecdotal evidence for aliens and who knows what their biochemistry is all about. Anaerobic energy production also occurs in humans, ie. When muscles switch from respiration to fermentation and then produce lactic acid.

Is it possible advanced beings have evolved to do this more often or genetically engineered themselves to take advantage of wider bodily energy sources to survive in more diverse planetary environments.

We certainly have great difficulty applying our own inflated sense of intelligence to mass human behaviour and its control for survival !
jerryd
1 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2012

What a bunch of armchair haters here. EV's are by far the best way for local driving. If one needs more a 5kw generator gives one unlimited range when needed.

The problem is the EV's now being built while better than ICE's in lifetime costs, they should be far lighter, 1200lbs, less costly using lead batteries and forklift EV drive tech they could be built for $10k in mass production.

My EV's are like that and get the equivalent of 250 and 600mpg for my EV sportwagon and Harley Servicecar size Trike I've been driving versions of for 15 yrs. So think of me next time you fill up.
Irukanji
1 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2012
then foisted Science upon us around 400 years ago or so


I think you mean re-foisted. We had well advanced science fields between 1500BC and 500AD, after which religion took over and threw us into the "dark ages", where religion said everything was evil and the church had more power than the monarchy. Luckily, people started using their brains and now we are able too move forwards with science. However it appears that this forward movement of science has resulted in those religious folks taking it as a threat to their person and so now we have a decrease in the average IQ(and relative intelligence) of religious people which is passively dragging the rest of society down. Think feminism, communism and all that stuff(gay rights, womens [extra] rights, occupy movement, etc).

It's all a sham to make smarter people stop being smart and conform to the majority. Implying the majority are brainwashed religious nutters with low intelligence.
joefarah
1 / 5 (3) Apr 22, 2012
Give me a range of 150 mi and a < 15min charge time at a cost of less than $10K over existing cars and I`m sold. The $10K will be re-couped in 2 years. OK, and I need the batteries to have a lifetime of at least 10 years at 80% capacity (120 mi range).
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2012
Lithium - Air is one way to go, but I'm more excited about the potential for Zinc - Air, since it's more abundant and environmentally safe.

As for the present generation of batteries, such as those in the Prius, one thing I wonder about is lifespan. I have talked about it with the guy in the next office here, since he drives a Prius. As of January of this year, the replacement cost for the batteries is just over $2500. They are on warranty up to 100,000 miles, which in the car business gives you a good idea of when they are expected to begin to fail, though some articles claim they can last up to 300,000 miles of use. Average use usually takes a car in the US to between 100 and 150 k miles in around 10 years.

So, my concern is in regard to the point at which the car becomes worthless except for scrap value. ICE cars can last decades with proper maintenance. Unless there's a battery breakthrough, a Prius might be in the scrap yard in far less than 20 years. Might, or might not.
TrinityComplex
1 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2012
Eikka, I wonder where you live to think that a person can do without a car if a 100 mile range a day is all they need. As much as I would love to be able to take public transporation to client sites it's poor enough around here that it's not an option. In addition, having to carry an inventory with me requires the storage of a car. I may not drive 100 miles in a day, but the portable storage that a car provides is critical.

Before you tell me that I have a special circumstance, you picked a special circumstance in your reply to my earlier post.

No, electric cars are not for everyone, especially in their current form, but it's just like any other major purchase a person makes. Do research, find out what works best for you, and get what you can afford to fit your needs and wants. This talk on both sides implying that all cars should be electric or none should be is oversimplifying the situation. What works for one person may be irrelevant to someone else.
GSwift7
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2012
No, electric cars are not for everyone, especially in their current form, but it's just like any other major purchase a person makes. Do research, find out what works best for you, and get what you can afford to fit your needs and wants. This talk on both sides implying that all cars should be electric or none should be is oversimplifying the situation. What works for one person may be irrelevant to someone else.


exactly.

The guy I work with is a good example. He made an informed decision to pay extra and deal with the issues. I don't have that financial luxury, so I don't have a choice.

Another factor he brought up, that I didn't think about, is how fragile the batteries are. They don't hold up well in crashes, which significantly lowers the threshhold for the car being totalled by the insurance company in a collision.

He's a good example of an early adopter. He wanted one, and that's all there is to it. A Porche isn't smart either, but I want one anyway. lol.
Irukanji
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2012
Electric smart cars would be alright for city-only travel. Set up the carparks with the charging facility, the office workers go inside and when they come back the car is charged and ready to go.

I figure the average office worker doesn't have 3 other passengers, so there is plenty of space in the back for a small bank of batteries. And average commute distances are maybe 20-30km each way at the most.

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