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A Trick for Making Batteries Safer Could Also Make EVs Affordable

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

A new lithium-sulfur battery may now take the crown as the highest performing battery, lasting more than twice as long as lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that lithium-sulfur (Li/S) batteries contain more than twice the energy of lithium-ion, and can last for more than 1,500 charge-discharge cycles. This battery may help to change the game in electric and hybrid vehicles.

“Our cells may provide a substantial opportunity for the development of zero-emission vehicles with a driving range similar to that of gasoline vehicles,” said Elton Cairns, of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) at Berkeley Lab.

The battery could provide a cell-level specific energy of 350 to 400 Watt-hours for electric vehicles, giving them a 300-mile range. This would be almost double the specific energy of current lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers wrote in the journal Nano Letters that the battery showed an estimated cell-specific energy of more than 500 Watt-hours and it maintained it at less than 300 Watt-hours after 1,000 cycles, which is much higher than currently available lithium-ion batteries.

“It’s the unique combination of these elements in the cell chemistry and design that has led to a lithium-sulfur cell whose performance has never been achieved in the laboratory before – long life, high rate capability, and high cell-level specific energy,” says Cairns.

The Li/S batteries would be cheaper than current lithium-ion batteries, and they would be less prone to the safety problems that have plagued currently available batteries, such as overheating.

“The lithium-sulfur battery chemistry has attracted attention because it has a much higher theoretical specific energy than lithium-ion batteries do,” says Cairns. “Lithium-sulfur batteries would also be desirable because sulfur is nontoxic, safe and inexpensive.”
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