Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Battery Breakthroughs

The key to making hybrid and electric vehicles more viable is to increase the battery capacity without increasing weight or decreasing interior space. In order to make this a reality, hybrid car batteries will need the help of some radical technological breakthroughs. Here are some developments that could increase the energy storage capacity of hybrid and electric vehicle batteries.

1. Carbon Foam Battery
While most hybrid battery developments are focused on creating more powerful, longer lasting batteries, who wouldn’t want a batter that is also cheaper and more green? Researchers at MTU are working on a carbon foam battery that is essentially half capacitor and half battery (asymmetric capacitor) and uses a carbon foam as a cathode to increase the batteries storage capacity. By combining the amazing lifespan of asymmetric capacitors with the lighter weight of carbon foam technology, researchers believe that they could create a better battery for hybrid electric vehicles. The carbon foam technology incorporated into a asymmetric capacitor is now patented.

2. Carbon Nanotube Electrode Lithium
Carbon Nanotubes, or CNTs, are cylindrical hollow threads that can be constructed to be extremely long and thin. In fact, CNT threads can be as long as 100 million times their width. Carbon nanotubes are the strongest materials ever created in terms of tensile strength (maximum stress before stretching).  Now, researchers at MIT are using CNTs to develop a cathode that can store and release many times more energy than traditional hybrid car batteries. Unfortunately, any implementation of CNT technology in hybrid car batteries is probably at least 5 -10 years off.  However, MIT has put carbon nanotubes to some good use; They have used CNTs to build a sensor that can detect rotten fruit.
3. Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery
Lithium-Ion batteries are everywhere including our hybrid vehicles. Now researchers at U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a new anode that can absorb far more lithium than current battery designs. The secret to the increased energy capacity is a special polymer that bonds with silicon particles that protect the structure of the electrodes during expansion and contraction. The polymer is made from low cost materials.


4. Lithium Nanowire Battery
Developed in 2007 at Stanford University, nanowire batteries can store ten times more energy than traditional graphite-based batteries. Now researchers at Colorado State have developed a car battery design that uses microscopic copper wires to replace the traditional graphite electrodes. There are some potential problems however. Nanowires’ silicon volume can change tremendously which can lead to quicker than normal capacity fading which might prevent its application in electric and hybrid cars where consumers expect a long batter lifespan.
Researchers at Stanford are also working on a lithium sulfur carbon nanowire that can reduce the movement of silicon when absorbing ions.

5. Lithium Air Carbon Battery
IBM recently pledged to make an electric car battery that can power a vehicle with a range of 500+ miles. To do so it has invested in lithium air carbon technology. IBM believes its battery can last much longer than current batteries during a charge because it uses carbon electrodes in which the ions react with oxygen.
Though expectations are that lithium air technology will only increase efficiency by 10%, the technology could potentially be added for a relatively low cost of around $5 per battery and might be commercially viable in the near future.