Research and development of Lithium-Ion batteries are some of the most exciting areas in alternative fuels vehicle advancements. Few other technologies hold the chance to reshape an industry the way battery development does. There is a lot of talk about making batteries smaller, but what are the real hot areas of research in this area?
1. Development of a lithium-ion battery that has a longer life than today's batteries is one of the main areas of focus in battery research. For example, researchers are hard at work developing their understanding of exactly what it is that determines the performance and likewise, performance loss, of lithium-ion battery systems. Consumers are used to having lithium-ion batteries act somewhat reliably in cell phones, camcorders, you name it, for several years at a time. The next big step is getting those types of batteries into vehicles. Researchers are concerned with getting them into vehicles in a big way and not just with one or two models. The goal is to further develop batteries for cars, hopefully spawning a whole new generation of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Instead of batteries lasting two to five years, like current lithium-ion batteries used in consumer electronics, researchers are looking to stretch that life in vehicles for 10 to 15 years.
2. Making batteries truly "green" is one of the biggest challenges.All the talk is always centered on making batteries that are smaller and last longer. Sure, that's a part of it. But a lot of researchers are very much focused on developing batteries that come from renewable or sustainable resources, a move that has implications beyond lithium ion batteries. Currently, the elements needed to make batteries are routinely sourced from other countries. There is some concern, and I think rightfully so, that depending on what would become a partially eaten pie with a giant bow out of it.
3. Battery resources continue to be a concern.While there is a great deal of research going on with batteries, nearly all of it on lithium-ion batteries contain nickel– and cobalt– based oxides. That means they depend on both scarce and non-renewable resources. Researchers are testing technologies that help in the process of recycling lithium batteries to recover the non-renewable inorganic components and reduce the amount of waste generated from their production. There is also some work on development of lithium battery systems that are based on renewable materials. Development of pollution-free and sustainable energy technologies that can be applied to batteries will someday be used around the globe.4. Advances happen every day. One of the biggest areas of research is the development of longer-lasting energy available in the smallest, lightest package. Vehicle demand has been no different. For example at the Argonne Lab, several researchers are focusing on making the longest-lasting energy package available in new ways.
5. Technology is becoming close to reality. For example, what makes Argonne's patented lithium composite cathode material unique? In this case, it is its combination of lithium- and manganese-rich mixed-metal oxides in a materials-design approach that hold the key to extending the operating time between charges. Early indications show that these cathode materials will enable a significant decrease in battery pack costs while providing the features necessary for electric drive vehicles. The enhanced stability of the composite material permits batteries to operate at higher voltages, which leads to a substantially higher energy storage capacity than currently available materials.