Scientists Are One Step Closer to the “Ultimate” Battery

Lithium-oxygen batteries are the stuff of near-myth, with theoretical energy densities surpassing ten times that of the traditional lithium-ion battery. To put that in real terms, when realized, the lithium-oxygen battery would cost and weigh 1/5 a lithium-ion battery and yet would allow you to travel about 400 miles on a single charge. Its energy density would be comparable or superior to gasoline and its energy efficiency would certainly well exceed that of gasoline (EVs are in fact already more efficient than combustion-engine vehicles).

The pursuit of a functional lithium-oxygen battery has yielded various compositions – in the case of this Cambridge team’s research, it has taken the form of a “highly porous, ‘fluffy’ carbon electrode made from graphene (comprising one-atom-thick sheets of carbon atoms), and additives that alter the chemical reactions at work in the battery, making it more stable and more efficient.”

Lithium-Oxygen Battery TypesThis development also serves to remind us that the speed of adoption of electric vehicles by the greater market depends, to some extent, on the rate at which researchers can test and refine improvements in existing batteries as well as bring to life entirely new, superior battery technologies.

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It is thus important to recognize that the goal of accelerating electric vehicle adoption can be achieved through multiple policy and funding channels. Not only can policy-makers augment perks for EV-drivers (such as HOV lane access or subsidized charging) – they can also advocate for greater funding of scientific research pertaining to the development of superior battery technologies. This can take the form of, for instance, greater funding of relevant university research projects as well as grants made available to private companies whose technological advancement would clearly serve the public interest. Such investment would be greatly welcome considering the US government’s lackluster (and seemingly declining) investment in R&D over recent years:

Federal R&D Spending

This does not mean that increased research must focus on improvement of batteries for EVs specifically. Improvements in battery technology obviously have impact reaching far beyond EVs. Which raises another point: the improvement of core EV technology and functionality is (in large part) aligned with the pursued advancement of various other widely used technologies – mobile phones, to name just one.

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It would be wise, then, to do what one can to increase the probability of (a trend of) increasing funding for R&D purposes, and particularly research related to batteries. This might take as simple a form as reaching out to one or more political representatives. Here are sources to find and contact your representative or governor today and insist on more funding for (battery) R&D.