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Cheaper and more durable electric cars coming soon

2010-10-15

Lithium-air batteries, in vehicles by 2050?

Electric cars help to combat the greenhouse effect. But the weaknesses of the environmentally friendly electric cars on the road today are numerous. Within ten years researchers at Uppsala University believe these problems will be solved.

It’s the batteries that are the weakest link in the search for an electric car that works.
– They are both too heavy and too expensive, says Kristina Edström, who is professor of inorganic chemistry at the Department of Materials Chemistry.

She is nevertheless convinced that within ten years there will be batteries that can meet the expectations of the industry and consumers.

The great hope lies in rechargeable lithium batteries. These are the same sorts of batteries that are used in mobile phones, computers, and other portable equipment.

– The problem is that the materials used in mobile phone batteries is too expensive to be used on a larger scale. They use cobalt-based materials, and cobalt is costly, explains Kristina Edström.
This is why it’s imperative to develop lithium batteries using alternative materials. One promising alternative being studied by Uppsala researchers is a battery where iron and silicon are used.

– Another key issue we’re addressing is how long the battery lasts. After all, a vehicle should last for ten years. But to create a durable battery, we first need to understand the aging process of a battery, says Kristina Edström.

This is basic research geared to understanding in the best way how the life of a battery can be studied without having to wait ten years for the results.

– We are working in close collaboration with the vehicle industry, where there is a strong motivation to develop good electric cars, says Kristina Edström.

She explains that some countries have set up ambitious goals for electric cars in operation, and they fan the flames with various kinds of tax subsidies. This is why we can expect to see electric cars on a large scale in France, for instance, but electric cars will be an ever more common phenomenon also in Norway and Denmark.

– At the same time we have to realize that an electric car can’t offer the same performance as a traditional car. We’ll have to change our driving behavior, above all when it comes to driving long distances, concludes Kristina Edström.

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