New battery could triple electric cars’ range

Currently, electric car batteries are expensive and don’t give enough range per charge for drivers. However, the new battery which has been developed by US scientists, could triple the driving range of an electric vehicle, and have a much lower cost.

Dr Qichao Hu, who developed the device with his former professor, Donald Sadoway, a prominent battery expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that the battery could double the life of laptops and smartphones.

But it is in the electric car arena where the benefits could be the most dramatic. Professor Sadoway said, “We’ve got to get a car on the showroom floor for $30,000, not $130,000 and the big piece is the battery: it’s too expensive and it runs down too fast.”

The new battery is set to be around 20 per cent cheaper than existing batteries (which can account for as much as 30 per cent of the cost of an electric car) and doesn’t need temperature control systems.

With electric cars accounting for roughly one per cent of new passenger car sales in most countries, analysts say a battery which will cut costs and decrease ‘range anxiety’ could work to change sales.

“That’s game-changing,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, head of global automotive research at ISI Group, an investment research group. “There are a lot of experienced battery makers trying to do exactly that because it’s the killer application.”

Independent experts in the US recently confirmed prototype cells in the battery developed by Dr Hu and Professor Sadoway can store more than twice as much energy as conventional cells as the ultra-thin metal anode has higher energy density than the graphite and silicon anodes in current batteries.

Dr Hu founded a company called SolidEnergy in 2012, just outside Boston, to commercialise the technology and hopes the battery will be in production for consumer electronics in the first half of 2016 and in electric cars by the second half of that year.

The project has backing from Vertex, the venture capital arm of Temasek, Singapore’s state investment group and there is possible interest from Apple and Tesla.

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