Consumers who are thinking of purchasing an electric car are usually deterred by the range of the lithium-ion battery used as the power source. Concerns about range, life expectancy, and the ability to find a charging station usually results in the consumer purchasing the vehicle with the technology they are familiar with, the combustion engine. Researchers are hoping to change consumers attitude toward electric vehicles with a new electrochemical cell called the lithium-air battery.
Lithium-air batteries are attractive to researchers because they rely on air as the cathode and lithium metal as the anode. This allows the battery to be lighter and can offer up to ten times more energy per density mass unit than conventional lithium-ion batteries. The first lithium-air battery was developed in the mid 1990’s but the technology still requires improvements before we can expect to see it used commercially.
- The battery requires a steady flow of oxygen to operate, so an air compressor and blower will need to be added to the system. This not only negates the weight reduced on the battery, but adds extra parts to the system.
- Lithium metal is highly flammable when exposed to water, so water vapor must be removed from the air and a water tight encasing is required.
Despite recent significant improvements in the technology, researchers say we are still 15 to 20 years from seeing it offered to the public. Once the battery has been approved a long term array of testing is required to make sure the battery can be used safely.