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Water-Based Flow Batteries Promise Triple EV Range at a Quarter the Cost |

Let’s start out by saying that a collaboration between GE Global Research and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is promising great things from water-based “flow” batteries. The claim is triple the driving range for electric cars equipped with lithium-ion battery packs, at a quarter the price.

Dr. Grigorii Soloveichik, a chemist and project leader at the GE unit, told me, “We’re confident about the energy density and costs, but we also have to show that the batteries can quickly charge and discharge.” He said that the new batteries should be easily able to beat a Department of Energy goal of 240 miles on a charge.

Before you get too excited, GE and Berkeley are still in the lab stage. Dr. Soloveichik said that what’s happened so far is “some experiments to show it’s real.” The joint operation is planning to produce, within a year, a chemical cell “that will demonstrate what will be needed to produce a working battery.” The actual pack “for a small vehicle” is likely to take three years, he said. To get to a pre-production pack stage, two or three more years are needed, Dr. Soloveichik said. Don’t expect to see these cells in the 2015 Nissan LEAF.

Dr. Soloveichik said that the key to the research lab’s flow battery is “really cheap stuff, inexpensive materials.” According to GE, the flow battery uses a water-based solution with inorganic chemicals “that are capable of transferring more than one electron, providing high energy density.”



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