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Lithium Chemistries Head List of Next-Gen EV Batteries

New battery chemistries will reach the electric-car market over the next decade, but to be successful the new generation of products will need to have drop-in manufacturing capability, experts said last week.

“Whatever the chemistry is, it will have to be made in the same factory as today, with fundamentally the same equipment, and in the same amount of space,” Sam Jaffe, principal research analyst for Navigant Research, tells Design News.

In a webinar last week called “Beyond Lithium-Ion: Next Generation Battery Technologies,” Jaffe said that the leading alternatives to today’s lithium-ion batteries are lithium-sulfur and “metal-air” chemistries, which includes lithium-air, zinc-air, and sodium-air. All of those chemistries have the potential to boost the driving range of electric cars, but they still have technical issues that must be resolved before they can be placed in production vehicles, he said.

The chemistry closest to automotive production applications is lithium-sulfur, but even that is a minimum of five years away, he said. Lithium-sulfur offers about twice the specific energy of today’s best lithium-ion chemistries, but it still suffers from short cycle life. To date, most such chemistries have exhibited degradation caused by a breakdown of the sulfur. The result is that most lithium-sulfur batteries have offered about 100-200 charge/discharge cycles, far less than the 2,000 cycles automakers are seeking.
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