Jun 12, 2011

MIT develops “refuelable” liquid batteries for EV applications

Although lithium-ion batteries are seen as the future of electric vehicles, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a new battery technology that could completely revolutionize the automotive industry.

As it stands, the two biggest hurdles facing electric vehicles are costs and range. However, MIT’s newly developed semi-solid flow cell battery technology could make those worries a thing of the past.
Dubbed ‘Cambridge crude’, the new technology essentially suspends a typical battery’s positive and negative electrodes in a liquid electrolyte. The energy stored in that liquid can be accessed by pumping the fluid through the system.
Although flow batteries have been around for a while, MIT’s design differs in that it is much more energy dense. In fact, MIT says its design provides a 10-fold improvement in energy density over present liquid flow-batteries, thanks to the use of lithium-ion chemistry.
More importantly to the auto industry, MIT estimates that its semi-solid flow cell can be produced at about half the cost of conventional lithium-ion battery technology. The liquid battery technology also requires about 50 percent less physical space than comparable lithium-ion batteries.
Cambridge crude can be recharged like a normal battery, but also has one distinct advantage – when its energy has been depleted, the fluid can removed and replaced with fully charged liquid. That would give EV drivers the ability to “refuel” their vehicles like a typical car, and could potentially solve the range issues associated with EVs.
MIT expects to have a fully-functioning prototype system ready to be “engineered for production as a replacement for existing electric-car batteries” by late 2013.

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