Battery Technology and The Electric Car

by Derek Kubik on July 2, 2014

Electric vehicles can offer many advantages over internal combustion engine vehicles. These benefits include:

  • Energy efficiency: Gasoline powered vehicles convert 17-21% of energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels, while electric vehicles convert about 59-62% of electrical energy from the power grid to power at the wheels.
  • Performance: Electric motors are quiet, smoother, provide stronger acceleration and require less maintenance than an internal combustion engine.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Electric vehicles emit no tailpipe pollutants, when coupled with green energy sources it is very environmentally friendly. However power plants that provide electricity may still emit pollutants.

Despite the many benefits of electric vehicles, there are drawbacks related to current battery technology:

  • Battery Cost: Battery packs in electric vehicles are expensive and can require replacing one or more times during the vehicles life span.
  • Driving Range: Most electric vehicles have a much more limited range than a gasoline vehicle before requiring recharging/refueling. This limited range has been found to cause what some call “range anxiety”.
  • Recharge Time: Battery charging times range in the hours, even quick charging to 80% capacity can take much longer than the time it takes to fuel a gasoline powered vehicle.
  • Battery Size & Weight: Battery packs are heavy, take up a lot of space and require a cooling system.

There is a huge amount of work going into current and future battery technologies. Some examples of both include:

Power Japan Plus’ Ryden (aka: Dual Carbon Battery):

  • Avoids the cost factors of lithium ion batteries, while providing the same energy density
  • Offers 20 times faster charging (To put this in perspective, the Nissan LEAF could fully charge in 12 minutes instead of 4 hours)
  • No thermal change while discharging; therefore it wouldn’t need a complex cooling system. This also helps improves safety, making it less likely to cause a fire due to damaged battery packs
  • Can be discharged completely with no damage to the battery and longer battery lifespan

Alcoa/Phinergy’s Aluminum-air battery:

  • When used in conjunction with an electric vehicle’s regular lithium ion battery, it can extended the range by 1,600kms
  • Requires the battery to be topped up every month or two with tap water
  • Once the aluminum in the battery is used up it would require a quick change at a service station

IBM’s Lithium Air Carbon Battery:

  • Increased energy density, with a goal of a 500 mile (804 km) range (not expected to be available until 2020)

IBM battery

Image from IBM.com

Unfortunately, current battery technology and costs hold electric vehicles back from wide spread adoption. As battery technologies advance, it will allow for increased range, faster charging times and lower costs. There will undoubtedly come a tipping point, where there will be a huge shift in the industry from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles.

Derek Kubik

Junior SEO/PPC Assistant

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kandace July 8, 2014 at 11:38 pm

It’s exciting to think about just how close the future is. I can’t wait to see how electric cars will evolve to suit the needs of Canadian drivers.

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Keith Rollans July 8, 2014 at 7:57 pm

I’m very interested in seeing what happens with the future of electric vehicles.

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Christina July 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm

This is a great article because it’s exactly what makes me nervous about purchasing an electric car. “Range Anxiety” is exactly what I would have. Will there be a charging station, how long will it take to charge? In Canada our destinations can be very far apart when we travel. But, electric cars would be good for just driving around the city. Hope to see more research!

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Kate Post July 8, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I would love to drive an electric car, but living in an apartment complex the access to charging, not to mention the costs involved, makes it impossible at this point in my life. Lots of cool businesses around Burlington, VT do offer charging in their parking lots, at grocery stores and pharmacies though!

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