Breakthrough may give electric vehicles 500-mile range

Air battery technology could put EVs on a more even competitive field with gas-powered cars.

Air battery technology could put EVs on a more even competitive field with gas-powered cars.

A technical breakthrough by researchers employed by IBM in California and Switzerland could lead to batteries that would give electric cars a 500-mile range between charges.

If the research pans out, the limited range of electric vehicles – their major drawback – would become a thing of the past. With a range of 500 miles, electric cars would be on a par with most gasoline-powered autos.

Physicist Winfried Wilcke at IBM’s Almaden labs in San Jose and researcher Allessandro Curioni of the IBM Lab in Zurich, Switzerland, combined to come up with the concept for the new, long-range battery design. If their work proceeds on course, they believe a full-scale prototype could be ready for testing by next year and commercial batteries could be used in electric vehicles by 2020, the journal New Scientist reports.

Electric cars often use lithium-ion batteries, or similar types. These batteries generally provide no more than a 100-mile range, which limits the desirability of electric vehicles for many potential customers. The new type, known as lithium-air cell, packs much more energy-storage capacity. However, certain electrochemical properties have made these batteries impractical for general use.

Until now – which is where the IBM researchers come in. Their work has led to what Wilcke said were “very promising” developments in ways to avoid the problematic electrochemistry, New Scientist reported.

Read more in Buffalo's Business First.

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