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Electric Cars leaf-battery

Published on July 30th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro

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New Battery Boasts 7 Times More Energy Density

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July 30th, 2014 by
 
leaf-battery

Originally posted on GAS2

Imagine a lithium-ion battery that packs 7 times more energy per kilogram than any battery available today. How would that change the future of electric vehicles?

Just last week, we reported on a conversation with  Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota’s head of research and development, who complains that the batteries available today are simply not good enough to make EV’s a credible choice for most buyers. Kato said it will take a “Nobel Prize winning battery” before EV’s go mainstream. Toyota, Honda and the Japanese government have made a major commitment to hydrogen fuel cell cars instead.

This week a research team at the University of Tokyo School of Engineering has announced a new lithium ion battery that packs seven times more energy density – at 2,570 watt-hours per kilogram – than current lithium ion batteries. The team, led by Professor Noritaka Mizuno,  adds cobalt to the lithium oxide crystal structure of the positive electrode, which promotes the creation of oxides and peroxides during the charge/discharge cycle. In addition, it promises significantly faster recharge times as well.

Isn’t it ironic that the “Nobel battery” Toyota’s Kato referred to may have been invented by a team of Japanese scientists? For a more detailed technical explanation of the of the new battery, see the report first published in Nikkei Technology.

Of course, this breakthrough is still in the experimental stage. Energy dense lithium ion batteries will not be on the shelf at WalMart any time soon. But if the claims for the new battery prove valid, expect to see the struggle between EV’s and FCV tilt sharply in favor of electric vehicles. Now the range for the new Porsche Cayenne PHEV could be 112 miles instead of 16, and that shiny new Nissan LEAF could go over 500 miles on a full charge instead of just 73. And the Tesla Model S would be able to drive some 1,855 miles before needing to be plugged in.

Maybe now would be a good time for the folks at the University of Tokyo School of Engineering to find space for that Nobel Prize?

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Craig Moore

    I drive an EV with a range of 45 miles. I would not try to make a long trip with it, however most of my driving is to work and shopping. I have no problem doing that in my home built EV. I have spent $18,000 on the car and soon the car will have a range of 60 miles with the addition of a few more Lifepo4 batteries. An EV does not have to be your only car. Most homes have two, or three cars in the driveway so you can pick the one that you need to drive on your vacation and pick the one best suited for your daily drive to work. They don’t all have to burn gas and they don’t all have to be electric. The one that you drive the most can be the short range EV. I did not feel that I could afford a commercially built EV so that is why I built my own. It would be nice to have better batteries but I already have everything what I need to go anywhere and everywhere.

  • citizen

    Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles already have ranges of 300+ miles and without causing any environmental damage. Even with this battery, as long as coal is used to recharge it Hydrogen wins by a large margin. And Hydrogen cars are less expensive than EVs. Elon Musk is in trouble and he knows it.

    • Bob_Wallace

      And where exactly does one get carbon free hydrogen?

      Hydrogen cars are less expensive than EVs? Hyundai is planning on marketing a butt-simple SUV with a fuel cell for the price of the Tesla S, which is a luxury car.

      • citizen

        The Tucson is $499 down and $299 a month is only available on a lease. Compare that with a minimum $70K Tesla or a BMW expected to be over $100K
        Hydrogen can be produced from solar, natural gas, and a variety of sources not as clean, including the electricity which would power a Tesla.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It’s the Toyota fuel cell car that will cost the same as the Tesla S. We don’t know how much the Tucson would cost if sold, as you say they will only lease it.

          Yes, H2 can be produced by solar or wind. The problem is that it takes more than twice as much electricity per mile to power a FCEV than an EV. We would need to build over twice as many wind and solar farms if we drove clean H2 FCEVs.

          And the price per mile would be more than twice that of EVs. They cost of building and maintaining a H2 infrastructure would have to be added into the price of fuel.

  • vensonata

    This discussion is probably done by now, but I would like to add that “density” means “Power density” not weight density. There is some confusion in the comments. The battery will weigh 7 times less than the same kwh conventional lithium. Lead Acid batteries weigh 4 or 5 times as much as lithium for the same kwh of storage. The size is also a factor. But basically we are saying that a battery pack of the same size and weight as the 24 kwh lithium in the nissan leaf would give the car 7 times the range and hold 168kwh of electrical power. Engineers…agree?

  • http://fmwdistinct.com/ carl mason

    Lets just see how this progresses…http://southernselectrical.com/

  • Lynne Whelden

    Always fun to read but really….it’s like watching paint dry! We’re probably talking 20-30 years before a Nobel-inspired battery comes to market. Well, makes for good reading over AM coffee. But sadly, not in my lifetime…

  • xyz123xyz

    Why aren’t these more energy dense batteries coming into the market yet, I hear a new news article every day that batteries are getting better, but never hear when they come to market

    • Bob_Wallace

      Basically, some of the ideas don’t pan out. There’s a fatal flaw that may or may not be solvable down the road.

      Then, it just takes time to move new discoveries into factories. First the ideas have to be well proven before anyone is going to invest in bringing them to market. Batteries have to prove their charging cycles and probable calendar life. They’ve got to go through all sorts of safety testing. And then someone has to figure out the best way to manufacture them.

      Take Ambri, the liquid metal battery idea, for example. The basic concept was worked some time ago. Then a year (?) was spent looking for a better (cheaper) mix of materials. Then they built and tested prototypes. Now they’re building a prototype factory in order to figure out the best manufacturing process. And after that, if all has gone well, they’ll have to build a factory.

      • xyz123xyz

        So in that case they might as well not publicize it until they are doable!! More like what Apple does with its products……I would say they should go public only after they have proven it will work!

        • Bob_Wallace

          Large corporations (with large budgets) have no need to talk about their work until it’s time to drop it on the market. Well, a few teasers leading up to the Grand Introduction. As Apple does.

          I would not be surprised to see a large battery manufacturer and allied car manufacturer announce a “300 mile range EV for $30k” or some sort of major step forward.

          I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Tesla has a better battery technology waiting in the wings for their new plant to start operations.

          Large, solvent companies don’t need to pimp their ideas to raise development funds. They can finance in house.

          Talking early about what you’re doing/attempting gives your competition ideas. Better to not show them a path you think working. Steal the march….

        • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

          They are scientists, they publish their research results as they find them. So other scientists can learn from and build on that knowledge.

          Technical development is not a process of locking up a few men/women in white coats and wait until they come out with a perfect product. They have to communicate with other teams to learn from each other. That communication is public (thank god) and takes place in the scientific literature.

  • xyz123xyz

    The problem with FCV is, it has to generate electricity on board and it has to store additional hydrogen on the car, which adds weight to the car, and makes it in-efficient….compared to a battery powered EV…..this also means battery EVs have more space

    • Bob_Wallace

      Space is an issue. But batteries are heavier than H2 tanks and weight eats up energy.

      One point for each.

      • xyz123xyz

        At least they don’t need a contraption to convert something to electricity

  • Jouni Valkonen

    Sorry, but there is no Nobel price of Technology, this again underlines how ridiculous Toyota’s claim is as they claim that EVs can be feasible if there is new physics or chemistry invented.

  • Boris

    This looks like another one of those maybe this could happen one day articles. If a company is really on to something, I guess that’s be chasing money first by talking to Tesla and the rest of them. If they were really close to creating a battery with similar qualities as today’s Li-Ion batteries but 7 times higher density which would mean less than $50 per kwh, they would literally be sitting on billions of dollars.

    • djr417

      This battery is from a school lab- not a company, its years away from being manufactured by any company- and thats assuming the only major difference is the improved density.

    • Kyle Field

      I’m sure they are in talks (or will be very soon) with the big battery manufacturers…and specifically those who produce for EVs. Yes, it’s barely proven in the lab for now…but I’m sure Tesla, Nissan and others who see where the market is actually going (and not just where the Koch brothers want it to go) are looking and ready to invest.

  • mds

    What is the deep-cycle performance of this new battery? Energy density alone does not solve the problem. It has to last through more than a few charges.

    • vensonata

      Let’s say they could only cycle 700 times instead of 2000 for standard lithium. If you got 200 miles per charge that is 140,000 miles on a battery. Remember that battery at 7 times the density would be a 40 kw battery because it is lighter.. the same weight as a 6kw lithium today. materials are less, space is less, therefore cost may be less. If it had 2000 cycles it would last for 400,000 miles or 25 years at heavy driving.

      • Bob_Wallace

        140,000/150,000 miles before hitting 70%/80% with a 200 mile range car is all we need.

        If the car is in immaculate shape after 140k, then pop in new batteries.
        Very few will but they will be excellent low cost transportation for folks with limited budgets. People who have to watch their dollars aren’t going to be driving across country, they’re just trying to be between work and home with the occasional short trip to the local lake/beach. There would be a lot of demand for a very dependable, 100 mile range used EV. Low operating costs and repairs unlikely.

        • sault

          Utilities are interested in these old batteries too, so there might be a market for old EVs with new batteries while their old batteries got out to pasture at utility-scale energy storage facilities. And in many cases, total pack capacity is driven by a few weaker cells that can be replaced much more cheaply than the whole pack. A refurbished pack could give almost new range and a new life for the EV in the used market.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think the idea of replacing tired cells is interesting. It could be that we’ll take our EVs in at 80k/when we’re down to x bars/sometime for a battery refurbishing much like a 60k timing belt replacement. Drop it off for the day and drive the loaner.

  • vensonata

    Gentleman I will give you a prize if you can just double the density of lithium batteries. We really don’t need more than that…the Nissan leaf would have 150 miles. Tesla 600 miles. The volt would go 80 before switching to gas. If the battery costs the same it would satisfy most needs (except for those who are never satisfied, of course!)

    • Steve Grinwis

      … The density of the batteries isn’t the issue for any of those.

      It’s the price per kWh. They can make a 500 mile Model S if they want to. Right now. With existing battery tech. Elon Musk said so.

      The problem is, who in their right mind wants to pay for it? Are people really feeling limited by the 250 mile range of their $100k luxury sedan? Do they want to pay $150k for the 500 mile version? I’d guess that’s what it would cost.

      Ditto for the Volt. The volt battery could be way larger, but they aren’t interested in that, because of the price.

      Price is king. Whomever makes the cheapest battery that’s durable enough to stand up for 10 years, wins. Period.

      • Kyle Field

        Density is one of the other factors. If the battery cost drops to 10% of it’s current cost but increase in physical size and weight by 10x, they do not make sense for cars. The current batteries do weigh quite a bit AND cost a pretty penny. Anyways. I think you see what we’re saying. This can be summed up as density (which is technically just capacity per physical volume)…weight is the other factor.

        • Steve Grinwis

          Yes, a battery that is 10x as dense is not interesting. That’d be about four times the density of lead. That might be an achievement in and of itself, and probably require some sort of gravity manipulation… :P But no one is really pursuing batteries significantly less dense than current state of the art. We’re still at a really immature part of our technological development in Lithium batteries.

          As for battery weight, my smart car battery weighs 400 lbs, and that gets me 120 – 130 km ish. The whole car weighs 2100 lbs. Doubling the amount of battery only gets you to 2500 lbs ish. Not really a big deal, and that’s for the lightest car on the market. It’s even less frightening to add 400 lbs to a 3500 or 4000 lbs car. Weight really isn’t an issue with modern Lithium batteries.

          Cost on the other hand… Cost is the current limiting factor for all current chemistries in production. Not power, not density, not cycle life. Cost. Cost is king.

  • MarTams

    “Experimental stage” means not even a prototype exists. Most likely, it could die on its way to the market like many other super duper batteries and ultra capacitors. But here’s hoping that it’s commercialization and manufacturing is viable, and we have a winner.

  • Steve Grinwis

    Tesla has already proven Toyota wrong with the model S. We can build a car with gasoline like range today. The real issue is cost.

    • Kyle Field

      Cost is everything. If we can improve the energy density even “just” 5x, we can get that same mileage out of other EVs while also allowing the battery size (and corresponding weight that has to be carried around) as well. Assuming price parity, this could increase mileage, reduce weight, cut cost…HUGE win for EVs vs gasmobiles and especially FCEVs.

      What I simply don’t understand in the EV vs FCEV argument is that FCEVs rely on a fairly fixed technology – use electricity to create hydrogen (through a number of existing, proven methods)…whereas with EVs, batteries technologies are evolving almost daily with no upper limit yet to be found (specifically related to cost, energy storage density and weight). It’s crazy to me that anyone is drinking the FCEV Kool-Aide (and we didn’t even get into the conversion losses from electricity to hydrogen back to electricity as required by FCEVs…)

      • Henry Harrison

        So you don’t think there could be any technical breakthroughs in fuel cell tech. Interesting. I’m not drinking the Musk Lithium kool aide. He’s a con artist. The next few years will prove him wrong. Just watch. You’ll be able to pick up a used Model S real cheap but you’ll have to spend $20k or more for a new battery.

        By the way, FCEV’s create electricity from hydrogen not the other way around. Another example of someone spouting off without the first clue of what they’re talking about.

        • Calamity_Jean

          Where does the hydrogen come from before you put it in your car? If it’s renewable-source hydrogen, it’s from dissociation of water by electricity.

          • jonbohmer

            Almost all hydrogen today is produced from natural gas. It would be much simpler and more efficient to simply run the FCV on natural gas. But it would still have emissions which the EV does not have.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Oh, I know that. But hydrogen from natgas is still a fossil fuel, indirectly. Not renewable.

            “But it would still have emissions which the EV does not have.”

            Aye, there’s the rub. (Said in a Scots accent.)

        • Vensonata

          And the hydrogen comes from?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Henry, something has to create that hydrogen for fuel cells to use so that they can make electricity.

          It takes a lot of energy to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen. It takes a lot of energy to compress hydrogen enough to store it in a FCEV.

          That’s simply physics driving up the cost of H2 FCEVs.

        • sault

          “So you don’t think there could be any technical breakthroughs in fuel cell tech.”

          No, this is a strawman argument you are making. Of course there will be improvements. However, fuel cell vehicles have physics problems to overcome, not engineering problems that we lowly humans can address. The energy conversion steps required to fuel them and the inherent properties of fuel cells means that they will use 2 – 3 times as much energy to run compared to an EV.

          There is also a major economic argument against fuel cell vehicles due to the fact that hydrogen refueling stations are very expensive, making building them a hard sell before there are a lot of fuel cell vehicles on the market. And nobody will buy a fuel cell vehicle until there are a lot of fueling stations available. The only way to solve this is with massive government expenditures, but this may turn out to be throwing good money after bad if fuel cells don’t catch on.

          “I’m not drinking the Musk Lithium kool aide. He’s a con artist. The next few years will prove him wrong. Just watch.”

          Are you just spouting off more nonsense because you don’t have any proof for your personal attack against someone who brought about a mass-market electric car and has achieved success in several other business ventures? I mean, if you know so much more than Elon, are you shorting TSLA and SCTY? (LOL, you’d have lost a lot of money, SCTY is up 100% over the last year and TSLA is up 1000% over the past 2 years!!!) Seriously, put your money where your mouth is. Please do let us know when you get rich…

          • leaf driver

            Correction Nissan leaf is the mass market ev. Tesla is luxury vehicle for rich. Sales tell the story

        • beernotwar

          Wow someone got swirlied by Elon Musk in high school. Con man? Most human beings are lucky to start one revolutionary company in their lifetime and Musk has done it three times and isn’t stopping there. Every entrepreneur has a bit of the snakeoil salesman in him — it’s how they get people excited about their ideas. The proof is in the pudding and I’m ready for another big bowl of whatever Elon Musk is cooking.

    • sault

      The cost argument of EV vs ICE is always missing a few key factors, though. The costs of climate change and the negative impacts of vehicle pollution are not even allowed to be taken into account. When they are, EVs are cheaper by far.

      • Steve Grinwis

        Even without those, the cheapest new car to own and operate is an electric Smart car. ($16k for a brand new car with rebates, and dealership incentives, $1 / day fuel costs, minimal maintenance)

      • Bob_Wallace

        It’s too bad we can’t go a few decades into the future and get those people to fund our transition off fossil fuels. They will totally understand making the investment now in terms of what the future value will be.

        • sault

          Well, I’m sure glad they took lead out of gasoline. If they ever make a time machine (still looking for one at Costco…), I’ll gladly send some of the extra money I made due to less brain damage back to all the folks who allowed that transition to happen. And with negative inflation happening as you go backwards, it’ll be worth a mint!

      • GCO

        I second that EVs are already cheaper today before even taking into account all the other benefits you mention.

        There is IMHO no comparison between a Leaf and a Versa, as the first is so much more comfortable and pleasant to drive, but their sizes are similar and the Versa is known for its low cost, so it’s interesting nonetheless to see how economical each is.

        Guess what, despite its much higher initial cost, the Leaf quickly comes out ahead.
        http://www.edmunds.com/nissan/versa/2014/tco.html
        http://www.edmunds.com/nissan/leaf/2014/tco.html

        • Bob_Wallace

          Interesting.

          Price to own (5 years)

          Versa $37,253
          Leaf $36,559

          And that’s without the Leaf getting the federal tax credit or any state subsidies.

  • Fred

    Someone with more knowledge on the topic should explain if this is actually a super capacitor being called a battery, as is typically the case when reports of “Revolutionary new battery changes everything OMGMOGMGMGO!!!!!”

    • Kyle Field

      All things in time. For now, I’m just excited by this possibility…and holding off on an EV purchase until this plays out…

      • GCO

        You might be holding off for a long time — and miss out on all the benefits PEVs could already bring you today.

        Like all tech, if you always want the next better gizmo, you will be waiting forever. At some point you have to go for whatever is available and suits your needs. (Incidentally, you’d also contribute to the development of that next best thing you dream of…)

      • Vijay G. Kamat

        Not necessarily, every manufacturer must design the battery pack in such a way that irrespective of the chemical content, should be totally replaceable.

        Today I buy a car with Li-Ion, Li-Air or Lithium Polymer battery. Tomorrow carbon battery with 3000deep cycles and three times energy density comes into the market, I should be able to swap it.

        Or when my battery (super capacitor) starts to hold less energy, let me use it at home and new one in the car.

    • Benjamin Nead

      No, it doesn’t appear to be a supercapacitor, Fred. I followed the Nikkei Technology link in the above article and it takes you to a press release describing what appears to be chemical elements applied to the electrode of otherwise conventional lithium batteries that eliminates oxidation.

      As with all these things, worth noting and remembering. Some of these come back a few years later with another press release announcing that small prototype cells have been thoroughly vetted and larger format ones are now being tested. Even after that news, it’s certain that it will another few year before you hear about commercial manufacturing and production.

      And others disappear and you never hear about them again.

      It’s the extreme reactions to these things that gets us in trouble: it’s just as bad to unequivocally believe every “press release battery” is going to be here a year or two from now than it is to say that we’ll never, ever see them.

      Batteries are getting incrementally better. The ones you buy today are better than the ones you bought 7 years ago. The ones you will buy 7 years from now will undoubtedly be better than the ones you can buy today. As to how much better is anybody’s guess . . . and totally dependent on hard work of scientists, chemists and engineers who head off to the laboratory every day.

    • Peter Gray

      It would be nice if the writer would provide a little perspective. It took me all of 3 minutes to look up and calculate the fact that even if this battery is commercialized, it will still have energy density 5 times lower than gasoline, which means current batteries are 35x less energy-dense. That doesn’t mean EVs are a bad idea, but it gives a sense of the physical obstacles. For a bit more perspective, a typical 20-gallon tankful of gas weighs 120 pounds (54 kg), and to replace it with current batteries requires 1,900 kg (4,200 lb). The new wonder battery would weigh 270 kg (600 lb).

      Again, I’m not saying EVs are a bad idea, but they might require some rethinking about how we drive. The Tesla model of numerous quick-swap leased batteries might be a better model than trying to get 500-mile range by hauling two tons of batteries. But all those stations, and something like a doubling of the total battery stock, have their costs as well.

      • http://reforming-english.blogspot.ca/ peter d. mare

        What about the different weight of the motors? I think the electrical type is much lighter. No?

        • Peter Gray

          Yes, that could partly offset the battery weight.

      • Bob_Wallace

        You’re missing the relative efficiency differences between EVs and ICEVs. Most of the energy in fuel is lost as waste heat.

        We have no need for 500 mile range EVs. Almost every single driver would be fine with a 200 mile range EV and “superchargers” for the occasional long trip. A 500 mile range battery makes no more sense than a 50 gallon gas tank.

        • Peter Gray

          I thought of that a couple minutes after shutting down my confuser and heading for the door. Yes, you’re right, as noted in my correction above.

          I generally agree with you about the 500-mile range, but saying it makes no more sense than a 50-gallon tank is a bit misleading. 500 is only 25% more than the current 400 miles that most people seem to want and be satisfied. 50 g at a modest 30 mpg efficiency = 1,500 miles, which almost nobody would find particularly useful

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually, your comment is the first time I’ve heard about anyone wanting a 400 mile range. ;o)

            What people think they need and what they will be happy with is likely different. If you’re driving a ICEV you want a large enough tank so that you’re not doing the gas station dance every few days, keeping down to once a week a best.

            With a 200 mile range along with the ability to remember to plug in (or wireless charging) you’re not going to get into your car in the morning and realize that you had dropped below a quarter tank the day before. You’ll be fully charged.

            A few people may wish for longer range on long trips, but if they reflect on the money they saved by not buying the extra range they ‘accept’.

          • Peter Gray

            Each of several cars I’ve owned recently, and several others I’ve driven, have had a range of ~400 miles. None of them are exotic or special-purpose. I’m only assuming this means roughly this range is what people want, but I could be wrong about that.

            In any case, the typical range seems to be high enough that few drivers think much about it or are even aware of it. I suspect that most have reservations about EVs that aren’t so much about range itself, and are fairly rational: 1) that charging stations won’t be available at small enough intervals on every route they’re likely to take, and 2) that charging will require a lot more time than a liquid fill-up.

            Of course, both obstacles mean that urban commuter vehicles can and should be the market leaders that get the ball rolling, and show people by first or second hand experience what they can adapt to vs. what they think they need.

          • Lance Pickup

            Gas powered cars have a range of about 400 miles because to refuel a gas powered car requires a special trip to a gas station, and people don’t feel like making that trip often. An EV, on the other hand, is charged to full every night (or could be–it doesn’t have to be if you don’t need the charge) right at home and with minimal effort. So really, all the range you need is what you use on a given day. For most people, this means about 40 miles. Even doubling that to account for unexpected trips or the occasional day where you need extra range is only 80 miles (again, for MOST people, not everyone). 400 miles of range in an EV would be extreme overkill.

            I somewhat agree with your statement that people need to be shown what they need vs. what they think they need. But that doesn’t imply “urban commuter vehicle”. An 80 mile range EV works perfectly fine in your typical suburban situation, and especially where the family has a second gas vehicle they can use for long trips. And don’t call it a second car either–the daily driver accounts for probably 95% of the use!

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