Range anxiety is a much touted argument with those who decry electric vehicles. When petrol engine vehicles first came to the fore people didn’t consider range anxiety as an issue even though it was at the time. There were few petrol stations and early combustion engine vehicles had limited range. Range anxiety is a state of mind however as the average passenger vehicle drives around 38 kms per day on average. Today’s production fully electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or Mistubishi iMiev have a range of around 160kms. The Tesla stable of Roadster and Model S and soon to be supplemented by the Model X have a range of around 500kms. A recent announcement by IBM researchers on two continents points to several breakthroughs in the development of Lithium air batteries. Lithium-air batteries differ from lithium-ion batteries by using carbon for their positive electrode instead of metal oxides. There have however been issues of recharging them which the IBM researches appear to have overcome. So what’s it all mean. Well a Lithium air battery has almost the same energy density of gasoline and would mean that electric vehicles fitted with them could travel close to 1,000kms before needing a recharge. The researchers used the Blue Gene supercomputers to come up with modelling to assist in their research efforts. Prototypes have already been developed apparently and a prototype pack should be available in 2013 with industrial production salted around 2020. Some are calling this one a game changer which will put the combustion engine into the history museum.
Some more research on this on the following links:
IBM-lead Battery 500 coalition could have full-scale prototypes ready by 2013.
My Own Thoughts on Range Anxiety – I’ve been driving a converted Mitsubishi Mirage for the past 3 years and although initially anxious myself with my quite limited range (a mere 70kms) I use the vehicle for over 90% of my driving. It’s only on longer trips out of the city that I revert to a combustion engine. The current production vehicles with a range of 160kms are more than adequate for the vast majority of people’s daily driving requirements. Lithium air will, if developed successfully (and that seems a big step closer now), make any concerns about range anxiety a thing of the past.
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