Battery breakthrough for electric cars?
A123, the company that supplies batteries for the Fisker Karma, claims to have made a "game changing" breakthrough.
It says it has developed a lithium-ion battery pack that may need no external cooling or heating, being happy to operate at any temperature between plus 45 degrees and minus 30 degrees. So what, you might ask? Well, the problems with keeping lithium batteries cool in a car was the main reason why they took around 10 years longer to get into cars than into mobile phones or laptops.
A significant proportion of the cost of an electric car's battery pack is actually the cooling system, so costs would come down if the cooling system could be simplified or even eliminated.
The technology is called Nanophosphate EXT and is designed "to significantly reduce or eliminate the need for heating or cooling systems". Potentially, it could also mean that the battery in conventional cars can be replaced with something far smaller and lighter. Currently, conventional car batteries are still lead-acid, because they are less affected by extreme weather conditions.
Car companies would love the idea of getting rid of the heavy conventional battery and replacing it with something that could weigh at least 10kg less – every bit of weight saving improves fuel consumption and CO2 performance.
The first of these new-generation batteries is due to go into production in 2013.