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IBM speeds push for 500

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									IBM speeds push for 500-mile EV battery




Ten years from now, range anxiety for electric cars could be a thing of the past.

IBM today announced two partners for a project aimed at building a lithium air battery
able to propel an electric car 500 miles. Scientists from Asahi Kasei and Central Glass
with expertise in membranes and electrolyte chemistries will join IBM researchers on
the initiative.

Called the Battery 500 Project, the goal is to design an "air-breathing" battery that will
use oxygen from the air to drive a new type of battery chemical reaction and, in the
process, deliver a big jump in EV range potential. The company hopes to have a working
demonstration by the end of next year.

The fact that IBM Research has expanded the research team with these two companies
and other unnamed ones is a sign that the ambitious effort is on the right track, said
Winfried Wilcke, principal investigator at IBM Research who started the project in
2009.

Materials scientists for years have been pursuing lithium air batteries, which use oxygen
from the air to react with lithium ions to discharge and charge electric energy. It still
remains in the realm of research but Wilcke said that IBM has made progress
understanding the basic chemistry and made important decisions on how a working
battery would be engineered.
"Unlike what we originally thought, we know we have a really good electrochemical
reaction. The problems now are secondary," he said. "There are still tremendous
engineering challenges ahead so there's no hope of it happening this decade."


The basic target of the research is to build a battery that would give an average-size
family electric car a 500-mile range. The lithium ion batteries in the Nissan Leaf and
Ford Focus Electric allow for between roughly 75 and 100 miles of range. The high-end
edition of Tesla Motors' Model S will have an option for up to 300 miles of range.


A lithium air battery would use a different chemical reaction inside the battery during
charge and discharge from today's lithium ion batteries. Using supercomputer
simulations, IBM researchers found that new active components, namely the
electrolytes,       need       to        be        different,       Wilcke         said.


The approach IBM is pursuing now would actually use two electrolytes, with one on the
anode side and another on the cathode side. Because IBM has chosen a battery design
with two electrolytes, membrane technology to control the movement of lithium ions is
an            important           part           of          the            research.



 For the most part, today's lithium ion batteries supply ample power to accelerate a car
forward but the primary technical barriers are cost and energy density, or the amount of
stored energy per volume. Several companies are developing enhancements to lithium
ion battery components that promise to improve the performance in the years ahead.


IBM Research's approach is not an incremental improvement but a fundamentally
different chemistry, which makes the venture high risk and one that requires years of
consistent work. Wilcke, though, is feeling good about the progress to date and said the
lithium air work could have benefits for other types of batteries.


"What I'm not certain about is what the cost will be. It's just too early and it depends on
all kinds of different things," he said. "The overall trend is that I'm feeling more
optimistic as time goes by, rather than less."

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