Electric cars populate the streets but not in significant numbers and this is owing to a few challenges electric cars pose, the biggest of these being battery range. Most current electric cars have batteries with a range of some 150 miles, a distance range that causes range anxiety in owners as well as potential owners.
Described as the fear that the vehicle will not reach where you are going without running out of juice, this range anxiety is what IBM is hoping to put to rest with its new lithium-air battery that the company says can go 500 miles without running out of power. We all know IBM for software and computer AI wizard Watson, but the company has been working on the electric vehicle battery for a number of years now and foresees some profits on the results.
Speaking to MSNBC, Winfried Wilcke, the principal investigator of IBM’s Battery 500 Project said that there was money to be made if the project reached commercial viability and also added that the fact that a better battery would reduce reliance on fossil fuels made it a greater incentive to get the project to the market. Started in 2009, the project uses a new technology that departs from the traditional lithium-ion battery architecture, which relies on heavy metals to react with the lithium to produce electrical energy.
Lithium-air batteries instead use oxygen instead of these heavy metals in a reaction that grabs oxygen from the air and results in lithium peroxide as a byproduct. When recharged, this reaction is reversed and oxygen is liberated back into the air. The team at IBM says they have successfully tested the technology in the lab and are now prepared to take the engineering process to the next level in partnership with material science manufacturers. The company admits it is still a bit of time away from a commercially viable battery but the success in the lab is still a major milestone in the quest for less dependency on fossil fuels and an overall more sustainable environment.