Most people consider switching to electric vehicles to save money on gas and contribute to a healthier environment. But “range anxiety,” the fear of being stranded with no power, was cited by 64 percent of consumers as a main detractor to buying an electric vehicle. Electric cars today typically can travel only about 100 miles on current battery technology, called lithium-ion battery. Lithium-ion battery technology stands little chance of being light enough to travel 500 miles on a single charge and cheap enough to be practical for a typical family car. This problem is creating a significant barrier to electric vehicle adoption.

Recognizing this, IBM started the Battery 500 project in 2009 to develop a new type of lithium-air battery technology that is expected to improve energy density tenfold, dramatically increasing the amount of energy these batteries can generate and store. IBM researchers have successfully demonstrated the fundamental chemistry of the charge-and-recharge process for lithium-air batteries.

Key Points About IBM Battery 500 Project

  • IBM researchers are exploring the science of Lithium-Air Batteries, capable of powering an electric car at least 500 miles or 800 Km range on single charge. The goal is to make a total electric drive system comparable in size, weight and price to a gasoline drive train
  • Lithium-Air batteries barrow oxygen from the air as the vehicle is being driven, creating an air-breathing battery and enabling extended range from a single charge.
  • Lithium-Air battery comprises an encapsulated Lithium metal anode, and a lightweight ‘air-cathode’ replaces heavy metal-oxide cathodes of today.
  • Lithium-Air electric vehicle (EV) batteries will be lighter due to the elimination of heavy metal oxides used in electric car batteries today.
  • Improved battery performance has the potential to spur electric vehicle adoption, an increasingly important issue for national governments and automobile industry with the goal of decreasing dependency on oil and improving environmental conditions.
Lithium-Air Battery Technology

Lithium-Air Battery Technology. Image credits: IBM