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IBM's Battery 500 Project research lab  (Source:
The two newcomers are Asahi Kasei and Central Glass

Two well-known manufacturers have jumped on board IBM's Battery 500 Project, which is expected to provide lithium-air batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

The two newcomers are Asahi Kasei, a leading chemical manufacturer and global supplier of separator membrane for lithium-ion batteries in Japan, and Central Glass, which is a global electrolyte manufacturer for lithium-ion batteries.

“These new partners share our vision of electric cars being critical components of building a cleaner, better world, which is far less dependent on oil,” said Dr. Winfried Wilcke, IBM’s Principle Investigator who initiated the Battery 500 Project. “Their compatible experience, knowledge and commitment to bold innovation in electric vehicle battery technology can help us transfer this research from the lab onto the road.”

While both manufacturers typically work with lithium-ion batteries, they'll be working on critical parts of lithium-air batteries for IBM. Asahi Kasei is expected to create a vital component for the lithium-air batteries using its knowledge in membrane technology, and Central Glass is expected to make a new class of electrolytes and additives to improve lithium-air batteries using its chemical experience.

“New materials development is vitally important to ensuring the viability of lithium-air battery technology,” said Tatsuya Mori, Director, Executive Managing Officer, Central Glass. “As a long-standing partner of IBM and leader in developing high-performance electrolytes for batteries, we’re excited to share each other’s chemical and scientific expertise in a field as exciting as electric vehicles.” 

IBM's Battery 500 Project, which launched in 2009, aims to create lithium-air EV batteries that are capable of traveling 500 miles before needing to recharge. The idea is to make EV adoption more widespread by offering greener vehicles capable of matching the range of gasoline vehicles.

Today, most EVs can drive about 100 miles before needing to recharge their lithium-ion batteries. This is an issue, since gasoline vehicles are capable of going four to five times that range on a single tank. One option could be a larger battery, but that would weigh down the vehicle considerably.

Instead, IBM has been working on an alternative: lithium-air batteries. Lithium-air batteries have a higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries, mainly because of their primary fuel being oxygen from the atmosphere and the fact that they have lighter cathodes.

IBM eventually hopes to create a lithium-air battery that has an energy density 10 times greater than that of lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries for EVs have had a lot of problems over the last year, namely with fires and safety issues concerning vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and Fisker Karma plug-in.

Source: IBM

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Get over it, please!
By Masospaghetti on 4/20/2012 12:34:14 PM , Rating: 5
It's comical that virtually every article in DT about batteries, EVs, green energy, or transportation related always has to include a sentence or two bashing the Volt for battery fires.

The batteries in the Volt was a non-issue and not a safety problem. Let it go!

RE: Get over it, please!
By DockScience on 4/20/2012 12:44:23 PM , Rating: 5
A lithium battery chemistry scientist once told me that the better a battery worked, the more it looked like a hand grenade. And that was for a hand-held device.

Imagine that your car's gas tank held not gasoline without air, but gasoline (with a little manganese) and concentrated hydrogen peroxide, both separated by hundreds of square meters of incredibly thin polymer. That's an EV battery.

It's not a bomb, it's a teddy bear.

RE: Get over it, please!
By WalksTheWalk on 4/20/2012 12:49:33 PM , Rating: 4
We're at a point where battery technology hasn't kept pace with the demand for it and we're left with less than optimal solutions. The next big breakthrough in battery technology will be worth trillions of dollars and the good news is that a lot of worldwide players are working on it.

RE: Get over it, please!
By B3an on 4/20/2012 3:27:50 PM , Rating: 5
They're always working on it though. It's not like only now they've realised how important batteries are. I've been reading about all kinds of new battery tech for over a decade and progress goes ridiculously slow.

Wheres my fuel cell laptops?

RE: Get over it, please!
By TSS on 4/21/2012 6:58:40 AM , Rating: 3
If you've been following stuff for over a decade you know that, very simply put, there is no solution.

We're trying to replace Oil. The most effective way we know of packing hydrogen together, much better then even pure hydrogen. And it's free ready to go in the ground, all we need to do is pump it up at ridicolously low costs.

Even if we completly forget lithium and the batteries itself, has anybody actually given any thought to the amount of elecriticty required to run all these vehicles?

If we'd assume that the entire US fleet would be replaced by volts and driven for 40 miles a day (just so i can keep daily usage at 8kwh per vehicle), with a vehicle fleet of 250 million, that's 2 billion Kw/h a day, or ~60 billion Kw/h a month that will be needed to charge these vehicles with.

Considering in january 2012 the US generated 342,655 GwH, that amount would have to increase by 60,000 GwH or roughly 17,5%. For comparison, everything the US generates now from nuclear power was 72,450 GwH in januari 2012, or 20,9% of total energy production.

And of course, those vehicles aren't just volts. Those include SUVs, minivans, Vans, Campers, Semi trucks, 18 wheelers etc. So that 17,5% would be a "government estimate", or way way better then it'll ever be in reality.

And that's just elecricity required to run everything, not to actually build anything. Or the electricity required to generate more electricity. Any figure you come up with concirning hydrogen is just going to be worse, as this is using electricity directly while hydrogen would be using that electricity to run something to convert that energy into hydrogen, which means you've got further efficiency losses to deal with.

The only hope we have is fusion. The only possible hope. Then we have such an abundance of elecricity at such a minor enviromental impact that it no longer matters what we use the elecriticy for. In all other cases, even EV/Nuclear, the standard of living will simply go down without oil.

Unless we make some drastic societal changes. If everybody lives 10 minutes walking distance from their work, 80%-90% of transportation problems would be solved in a heartbeat.

RE: Get over it, please!
By Mint on 4/22/12, Rating: 0
RE: Get over it, please!
By m51 on 4/22/2012 3:30:34 PM , Rating: 5
Indeed oil is magical stuff when it comes to cost, energy density, volumetric density, and easy of storage and transport. We also already have trillions of dollars worth of distribution and support infrastructure for it.

There is no clear universal economical solution. There are however some approaches that show promise as partial solutions. Much like we generate energy now from multiple sources, coal, gas, natural gas, hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar, and geothermal, the solution for transportation energy probably lies in a multipronged approach.
It's also important to keep in mind that we cannot afford to make a massive change over, but need to take incremental steps that do not require a massive investment in a new refueling infrastructure to become viable.

PHEV's are definitely a step in the right direction as they start to supplement oil as a transportation fuel with electricity. Electricity can be generated from a wide variety of sources. PHEV's have the advantage that the grid infrastructure needed to charge them can be built up over time as the number of PHEV's on the road increases over time. It will take decades to transition to a point where the majority of light vehicles are PHEV's. PHEV's also have a huge advantage over all electrics because of the much smaller battery capacity needed. Since the battery pack cost is such a dominant factor in Electric vehicle pricing PHEV's will become cheap enough for large market penetration long before all electrics. The charging paradigm of PHEV's which is relatively slow charge overnight on non-peak demand hours is also a good match to allow a paced development of grid infrastructure.

PHEV's however become less and less competitive with increasing vehicle weight where energy demands are higher. That is still the realm of gasoline/diesel. One option here is a transition to natural gas for heavy vehicles. Another possibility is coupled electric power on major transportation arteries, essentially PHEV's without the batteries that run on coupled electricity on roads that are so equipped, and oil or methane the rest of the time.

Hydrogen fuel cells are not a near term economically feasible solution. The painfully poor storage and transportation problems, the high cost and the poor energy efficiency of the end to end solution put it out of reach economically without some major breakthrough. These very factors are what caused the largest US fuel cell manufacturer, Ballard, to abandon their vehicle fuel cell program. Modern electrolysis vehicle refueling stations consume about 75kwh of energy to produce 1kg of compressed hydrogen, the fuel cell in the vehicle can only recover about 16 Kwh of that energy. This cost of hydrogen production puts fuel cell vehicles out of economic reach without some kind of production cost breakthrough such as thermochemical production off of high temperature nuclear reactors. Even if the production cost of hydrogen were to drop to economically competitive levels the abysmal storage and transportation problems of hydrogen make it likely that it would be converted to a liquid fuel such as methanol. Taking the efficiency hit in trade for solving the storage and transportation problems. This is increasingly likely as ICE thermal efficiencies continue to improve.A Methanol fuel cell system is also a possibility.

Fusion seems to be an extremely unlikely source of economical energy within the next 30-50 years. As much as people want it to work, and have wanted it to work for the last 60 years, it is an extremely difficult problem to solve. In more than half a century of work we have yet to succeed in breaking even on energy in to energy out. Duty cycles are incredibly low, with facilities like NIF only able to do a few shots a day, costs are enormous, energy density is low (ITER is more than 20 times larger than an equivalent power light water reactor). There are also unsolved problems such as the first wall problem and tritium fuel production that are ignored in the hype of scientists painting a rosy picture in search of more funding. I hope they get it, because it's a field that needs to be explored, but fusion power is not going to be producing commercial energy in the next half century, if ever.

Wind power can make a small contribution, but the intermittency problem and need for energy storage and production backup are hidden costs that essentially double the actual price of wind power from what advocates claim. It's a good match with hydroelectric power, but hydro power is limited with only about 4% of our energy coming from hydro and most of the potential hydro power has already been exploited.
Solar power has the advantage of production during peak demand hours, but it is still too expensive by a factor of 5. It also has hidden storage costs and wide daily and seasonal variations.
Biofuels when scaled up to make a sizable impact on vehicle fuel requirements are not feasible either. Because of the low solar conversion efficiency (~0.5%) they require enormous amounts of land and vastly exceed our available fresh water supplies. Salt water algae approaches seem the only viable approach that can scale large enough, and again these have difficulties as well.
On a near term basis the most viable energy sources seem to be nuclear energy and natural gas. Nuclear is what I would prefer as it has by far the least environmental impact of any energy source, however if I were to bet money I'd have to put it on Natural gas in the next 20 years.

RE: Get over it, please!
By Aries1470 on 4/24/2012 9:04:53 PM , Rating: 2
Well, you have your facts ok, for the types of energy that you have described.
You have totally missed the electricity production from the sea. ALL, or NEARLY all the countries that have access to the sea can have a big electricity production.

I will link just a couple of technologies, of which one also has a "by-product" of making potable (aka drinking) water due to the high pressure it makes. Similar to de-salination plants, but instead of USING HUGE Amounts of electricity for production, it actually makes it :-)

Here are just a couple (2-3) of links of the ones that I personally like: <- seems to indicate that systems have already been built elsewhere.

I hope that gets you thinking about hte power of Waves and the Sea :-)

Then some of that energy can also be used to convert sea-water to Hydrogen to replace LPG ;-) A win-win situation if you ask me.

RE: Get over it, please!
By tayb on 4/20/2012 2:59:21 PM , Rating: 2
Cars catch fire all the time. I have personally seen 15-20 car fires in the past 5 years in Dallas. Gasoline is highly flammable.

RE: Get over it, please!
By Reclaimer77 on 4/20/2012 4:11:19 PM , Rating: 2
I have personally seen 15-20 car fires in the past 5 years in Micheal Bay movies.

Fixed that for ya Mr. Exaggerate.

RE: Get over it, please!
By Keeir on 4/20/2012 8:11:23 PM , Rating: 3

He is reporting having seen an average of 3-4 car fires a year. In the US there are typically ~300,000 car fires a year. (Reported to Fire Departments)
Roughly 200,000 are due to mechanical and or electrical problems (A incident rate of 1/1000-1/2000 cars per year. Not very good quite frankly)

Anyway, since there are ~300 million people in the US, just from a straight math standpoint a minimum of 1/1000 chance each year of observing a fire. His numbers are probably a bit high unless he personally work in Fire or Transport sectors. If he does, his numbers are entirely reasonable if not unexaggerated.

In the greater Dallas area, I'd expect over 5 years there to be ~25,000-30,000 car fires which were refered to the Fire Departments. He's claiming to have see 1/15,000 seems not entirely unreasonable or impossible... just unlikely.

RE: Get over it, please!
By macca007 on 4/20/2012 9:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
Any chance you could give me next weeks lotto numbers, Ta! ;)

RE: Get over it, please!
By zephyrprime on 4/22/2012 4:59:01 PM , Rating: 2
Your math sucks. There is no way he saw that many car fires in that time unless he works as a fireman, cop, pit crew mechanic, etc. I've driven for 17 years in a large metro and seen a major car collision but during that time, I've never seen a single car fire.

RE: Get over it, please!
By Keeir on 4/23/2012 6:08:09 AM , Rating: 2
Reading comprehension is good.

I clearly stated that unless he worked for Fire Department, his numbers were very unlikely.

But given the sheer number of incidents, there is a relatively realsitic chance he is telling the truth (compared to gut reaction anyway)

I am thinking he is likely counting direct evidence of fire which raising the possibility significantly. But overall, its a relative long shot. But I've seen smoke pooring from cars on no less than 3 occasions and seen at least 2 accident scenes that sure as heck looks firey, though I have never once seen a car in actual flames. So, I'd say have seen a number between 2-6 car fires (I definately know from news sources that once accident scene had 2 cars on fire, which is a relatively rare occurance apparently since accidents is low on the list of reason for car fires)

RE: Get over it, please!
By zephyrprime on 4/23/2012 10:51:05 AM , Rating: 2
You're overthinking this. There's just no way he saw that many unless he had some job where he handles wrecks.

RE: Get over it, please!
By Jeffk464 on 4/21/2012 10:22:54 AM , Rating: 2
Yup when people are worried about battery safety the alternative is gasoline. Not exactly the least volatile substance around, plus its liquid and can rapidly spread all over the accident scene.

RE: Get over it, please!
By ImEmmittSmith on 4/23/2012 5:01:58 PM , Rating: 2
When I use to commute to Dallas from Fort Worth on a regular bases, 40-50 miles each way, I probably saw 3-4 car fires in those 5 years. So, I would say it is probable. There are just so many cars congested into one area. One additional note, I remember seeing more of these fires 15-20 years ago, then I have recently.

RE: Get over it, please!
By m51 on 4/22/2012 3:43:44 PM , Rating: 2
In a Lithium-Air battery one of the reactants is the oxygen in the air. Much like gasoline in a tank is not in danger of causing an explosion if there is no air in the tank, A lithium-air battery can only react at a maximum rate determined by how fast oxygen is fed into the battery. It's never in danger of exploding.
In fact I would expect Lithium-Air batteries to be exceptionally safe, even with the very high potential energy stored in them. There is just no mechanism for the energy to be released suddenly.

Also not all Lithium battery chemistries are 'bomb like'. Although some have thermal runaway mechanisms, others, like LiFEPO4 do not, and do not suffer from catastrophic flammable failures.

Yes high energy batteries can contain a substantial amount of energy in a small package, but called them all hand grenades is way too simplistic a generalization and is not accurate.

RE: Get over it, please!
By zephyrprime on 4/22/2012 4:53:40 PM , Rating: 2
This is all true. This is why air based batteries may be the only way to really advance. They are safer because the air further away and way less dense than the cathode reactant in a regular battery. Also, oxygen is way the heck lighter than any cathode material which is usually a metal and is the majority of the weight in a battery.

RE: Get over it, please!
By tayb on 4/20/2012 2:53:39 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. The link in the first paragraph is absolutely unnecessary. I guess DT wants to direct a disproportionately large number of crawl bots to anti-Volt pages. Not sure why. The content is barely relevant.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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