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Flow Batteries for Electric Cars? | Green Energy News

Electric vehicles are too expensive. They don’t go very far. They’re are not selling as well as they should because of those problems. The culprit is mostly those lithium-based batteries car developers are in love with.

Electric car developers live in a land of wishful thinking; hoping for a breakthrough that may never come. They dream of the day when lithium battery prices drop like a set of car keys. They pray for the day when those same batteries quadruple in their capacity to store energy. Since they don’t how to slice costs or juice up capacity themselves, they’re waiting for someone else to provide those miracle breakthroughs.

There are some fundamentals about lithium that will never change. Though some say there’s plenty of lithium on the planet with which to do what we want, it’s not exactly easy to extract from resources and many of those resources are too small be money makers, thus may never be developed.

And that’s just a simplistic explanation of raw material supply problems.

Once you’ve got your lithium it’s an absolute pain to work with. As soon as your metal is open to the air it begins to oxidize. Immediately. Rapidly. So your battery electrochemistry or your manufacturing process has to deal with that instant oxidation problem. Extremely difficult to work with in a manufacturing sense translates into high productions costs. Battery cell makers combat productions costs with cheap labor. That’s not a great solution.

At the end of life it’s technically possible to recycle lithium batteries, but it’s a tedious process that’s different for every type of battery pack and cell. Technically possible doesn’t always mean economically possible. Right now, I don’t think the economics are in favor of recycling lithium batteries. So when they’re cooked beyond a useful life they’re headed to the toxic scrap heap.

There is of course an upside to lithium. In thousands of examples, those lithium batteries that all of us use and enjoy have changed the world. They’ve been the breakthrough that’s driving nearly all the of personal electronics craze from smart phones to tablet computers. Even if lithium batteries don’t pan out for electric cars, they have a strong future in electronics. With a new model smart phone coming out every week it seems, demand for lithium-ion batteries will remain high, like forever.



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