It has been confirmed that Volkswagen is working on a powerful new battery for its EV fleet.Â Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show, Dr. Heinz-Jakob NeusserÂ said thatÂ â€œan 80kWh unit is under development using our own technology. It would provide between three and four times the battery power in a given package.â€ This means thatÂ a battery of equivalent physical size to that used in theÂ new 2015 Volkswagen e-GolfÂ could hold the amount of energy in a top-end Tesla Model S.
Neusser refused to name the specific battery chemistry, but didnâ€™t deny itâ€™s a lithium-air unit. Lithium-air has been a batteryÂ holy grail of sortsÂ since the 1970s, but obstacles such as electrolyte degradation, manufacturability, and high cost have prevented the lithium-air takeover that would truly catapult EVs into the mainstream. But improvements on lithium-air technology continue to move forward withÂ recent work by researchersÂ from Mie University in Japan.
The primary distinction between lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries is that lithium-air batteries replace the cathode with air â€” which results in a notably lighter battery, with the potential to hold in a great deal of energy. Some researchers have stated that these â€œbreathingâ€ batteries could result in EVs with ranges greater than 300 miles a charge.
â€œOur systemâ€™s practical energy density is more than 300 Wh/kg,â€ Nobuyuki Imanishi, PhDÂ stated. â€œThatâ€™s in contrast to the energy density of a commercial lithium-ion battery, which is far lower, only around 150 Wh/kg.â€
A technology breakthrough of this kind couldÂ transform the range capabilityÂ of hybrids and EVs, and VolkswagenÂ isnâ€™t the firstÂ car manufacturer to recognize the potential. Toyota Motor Corporation has tried to avoid the use of lithium-ion batteries, like those present in its Prius Plugin-EV andÂ RAV4 EV, as much as possible due to their high cost. But the company is currentlyÂ conducting researchÂ on the use of lithium-air technology.
â€œAs Toyota anticipates the widespread use of electric vehicles in the future, we have begun research in developing next-generation secondary batteries with performance that greatly exceeds that of lithium-ion batteries,â€Â Toyota wrote.
If Volkswagen and Toyota are successful in developing lithium-air batteries, that could mean bad news for Tesla Motors, whichÂ is currently in the process of bringing Elon Muskâ€™sÂ planned â€œgigafactoryâ€Â into life. The factory would enable the car manufacturer to dramatically increase lithium-ion battery production.
But Musk shouldnâ€™t abandon his plans just yet. Volkswagen hasnâ€™t provided a timeframe for these new batteries, regulating its announcement to the â€œwouldnâ€™t it be niceâ€ category for now.
And it would be nice to have Tesla-like range in a new, compact EV car, donâ€™t you think?
Source:Â The TelegraphÂ |Â Image:Â Jo Borras/Gas2.org