What Will the Next Wave of EV Batteries Be Made Of?
If there’s one thing EV lovers and skeptics can agree on, it’s that it all hinges on EV batteries.
The current generation of lithium-ion batteries is delivering unprecedented range, but new battery material research is underway that could upend lithium’s supremacy. Producing the newest battery design is the next gold rush, and plenty of prospectors are in the river panning.
What Could New Battery Materials Deliver?
For starters, what are researchers trying to achieve by changing the build of EV batteries?
New batteries could significantly improve the problems currently facing lithium-ion batteries, including:
Longer range (500+ miles)
Eco-friendly raw materials
Fast (and even wireless) charging
Better cold weather performance
Carbon Nanotube Batteries
The Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode by NAWA Technologies could completely change the way we think about batteries. To put it in technical terms, their batteries structure their carbon nanotubes vertically, which could boost battery power by a factor of ten compared with current market technology.
This design could also triple the amount of energy storage and increase the battery’s lifespan by a factor of five. Better yet, the charging time would be a mere five minutes, from zero to 80%. When can we expect such miracles? As soon as 2023, they say — that’s something to be excited about.
Researchers at the University of California are building an immortal battery technology that could radically reduce long-term EV costs.
Gold nanowire batteries utilized strands of gold one-thousandth the width of a human hair. These strands are suspended in an electrolyte gel to preserve them during recharging — and in case you’re wondering, the researchers simulated over 200,000 recharges in a three-month period and found no signs of degradation.
The Holy Grail of battery technology, solid-state batteries haven’t succeeded so far due to a fatal compromise: they are more stable but lack electrolyte transmissions.
Researchers at Toyota may be changing that. Their solid-state battery employs the use of sulfide superionic conductors, which can operate at extremely high levels and take on a full charge in as little as seven minutes.
A solid-state battery is also inherently safer than current lithium-ion batteries. Companies like Solid Power and QuantumScape are working on mass-market solid-state batteries that could hit the market by 2026.
Zinc-air batteries are inflammable, which is an obvious leg up on lithium-ion batteries, but traditionally they have been too expensive to scale. However, scientists at Sydney University are working on low-cost zinc-air batteries that could change that.
Sodium-Ion and Lithium-Sulfur Batteries
Both sodium and sulfur have the potential to provide lower-cost battery options for EVs, but research has to catch up in order to provide acceptable range and longevity.
However, startup companies are pouring millions into researching these new battery technologies, which could provide an affordable option for lower-income markets like Africa, South America, and east/south Asia, writes Reuters.
Specifically, by using sulfur (which is abundant and cheap), battery makers could cut costs by a staggering 66%. This would open up EVs to much more of the market.
New Battery Capabilities
Those are the potential materials for the next generation of batteries — but what will they look like?
Batteries Might Become Structural Components
Chalmers University of Technology has put out one of the most revolutionary ideas in recent years: new battery technology could be incorporated into the car’s body and structure instead of living in a giant, heavy pack.
This would make EVs lighter, particularly with the use of carbon fiber as the negative electrode. They would also be stiff and capable of withstanding extreme forces.
Cars Could Become Charged by WiFi on the Go
Researchers are working on a technology that harvests radio waves using a microscopic antenna, generating the ability to charge EVs using electromagnetic waves. The antenna would take AC power from the airwaves and convert it to DC to charge the battery.
That would mean you would never have to plug your car in — it would receive all the power it needed while driving.
…or by Air Ultrasound
Ultrasound is another potential means of transmitting recharging power through the air. The company uBeams is working on using sonic waves to transmit power that could be turned back into charge by your EV on the move.
StoreDot is a startup company that’s working on the use of biological semiconductors for chargers. If this were used in an EV charger, it would mean 300 miles of range in a mere five minutes of charging.
500 to 1,100 Miles on a Charge
Higher range is on the horizon. Graphenano is creating a battery from graphene that could offer 500 miles of range and a charge time of several minutes. That is a whopping 33 times faster than lithium-ion batteries!
Recently, an experimental car drove 1,100 miles on a charge using an aluminum-air battery. This could turn out to be a historical moment if EV makers decide to harness this technology.
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