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Lithium-ion battery pack for 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV electric carEnlarge PhotoIf it wasn't so important for the future of electric cars, it could almost get tiresome: Just how do you improve batteries for longer life, quicker charging and a greater range?
It's a question being investigated by great minds all around the world, and has turned up some surprising and exciting results over the last few years.
Inspired by Popular Mechanics' look at potential electric vehicle and hybrid battery breakthroughs, we've compiled many of our previous battery tech articles into one handy guide. The aluminum plates used have high energy density, and companies testing it such as Phinergy say you'd need to refill the car with water every few hundred miles. Existing lithium-ion technology is among the best battery technology we have for electric cars and hybrids. Compared to other battery types it's relatively energy-dense, charges relatively quickly, is lighter than many other battery types, and it's tried-and-tested. Others have researched into the existing problems with lithium-ion tech--such as reducing the tendency for lithium to gather around the battery electrodes. Then there's lithium-air tech--an offshoot of lithium-ion batteries, and one that could significantly increase energy density. It sounds unlikely, but simple herbs could be employed to make batteries greener in future.
In a rare look at improving the environmental aspects of batteries rather than increasing their range, researchers at Rice University and the City College of New York have looked at using the herb madder, or purpurin, as a natural cathode for lithium-ion batteries.
You might not gain hundreds of miles, but any eco-minded electric car driver would be glad to know their batteries had just a little less impact on the environment, right? The chargers are weatherproof, and you can permanently mount them in the engine compartment with the provided ring terminals, or just use the alligator clips.
The Chevrolet Spark EV has been on the market for only a year, but already it's being updated. And in this case, the update is major: The 2015 Chevy Spark EV will have an entirely new battery pack.
Batteries for 1,000 or so Spark EVs for the 2014 model year were assembled by Compact Power Inc. The new battery for 2015 will use different lithium-ion cells, switching from those provided by A123 Systems to cells from LG Chem--the company that makes cells for the much higher-volume Volt and also the ELR. The energy capacity of the battery will fall from 20 to 19 kilowatt-hours, but GM says the 2015 Spark EV's EPA ratings for range (82 miles) and efficiency (119 MPGe) will remain unchanged from the previous model.

The new battery using LG Chem cells is 86 pounds lighter than the old one with A123 cells, meaning it is both lighter and more efficient than the earlier pack. Centralizing all its battery assembly and standardizing on a single lithium-ion cell for its electric cars makes sense as GM strives to expand its plug-in vehicle activities and prepares to unveil an updated version of the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car for the 2016 model year.
The change "helps us to better leverage our economies of scale," said GM's executive director of global transmission and electrification engineering, Larry Nitz. It remains unclear if bringing the pack assembly in-house--the Spark EV's electric motor is already built by GM in a plant in White Marsh Sands, Maryland--will permit the company to boost production of its littlest electric car. The Spark EV is largely viewed as a compliance car, one sold only in California and a handful of other locations, and in numbers only sufficient to meet the state's zero-emission vehicle sales requirements.
The 2014 Chevy Spark EV received enthusiastic reviews when it launched, with reviewers lauding its performance--100 kilowatts (130 horsepower) of peak power to the front wheels, far more than the gasoline version of the Spark minicar--and its Volt-like instrument graphics and interface. The 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV remains priced at $27,495 before any Federal and state incentives. 2012 Mitsubishi i electric car battery packEnlarge PhotoWe'd be the first to point out that many of the electric car owners currently out on the roads have had absolutely no trouble with the 100 or so miles they get from a full charge.
However, it'd be foolish to assume that some people really don't need more than that, and as a result there's always room for an EV with greater range. Improvements to battery technology could be the best way to find this range, and according to New Scientist (via Autoblog), developments in Lithium-Air batteries from IBM could give us electric cars with a 500-mile range. Lithium-air batteries have significantly greater energy density than regular lithium-ion batteries - close to that of gasoline, in fact.
Several companies are working to improve Lithium-air technology, by testing moisture-proof battery membranes, and graphene cathodes. IBM is seeking to improve the electrolyte, the solvent that carries lithium ions between anode and cathode. However, an IBM-led coalition called Battery 500, hopes to have a full-scale prototype running by 2013, and commercial batteries ready by 2020. You might have to wait a few more years for an electric car that truly goes further than the gasoline equivalent, but it's on its way.
Aluminum is used as the anode in a battery, ambient air (and the oxygen in it) as a cathode, and water molecules. But it isn't perfect, and several research groups are looking for a way to improve on its existing strengths.

That's enough to beat many internal combustion cars on sale today, and would certainly eliminate range anxiety. That means batteries could be down-scaled - and therefore vehicle weight reduced - while still increasing range. Current electrolytes react with air and become depleted over time, so IBM is testing various materials.
KG—to develop next-generation lithium-ion battery technology.For electric vehicles, more efficient batteries will mean greater range. Combined in the battery, they produce hydrated aluminum oxide and energy--and that energy can be used to power a car. Egg-line nanoparticles of sulfur are one option, improving energy transfer and hugely increasing capacity, while silicon nanoparticles to replace graphite anodes is another.
For consumers, the car will also be more affordable, since the rechargeable batteries can be smaller. Bosch and its partners are confident that electromobility will become a mass market from 2020 onward. The joint venture, which was announced in June and set up in November 2013, will be headquartered in Stuttgart.
Bosch holds a 50 percent stake with GS Yuasa and Mitsubishi Corporation each holding 25 percent.Bosch will support these joint activities with its entire portfolio of components for electromobility. With its competence in the area of battery packs and battery management systems, Bosch specializes in the monitoring and control of cells and complete systems, as well as in integrating them into vehicles. In addition, it will contribute its know-how in production processes and quality management relating to the large-scale series production of complex products.GS Yuasa will contribute its many years of experience in manufacturing lithium-ion battery cells whose high density makes for a longer range, as well as its expertise in materials systems and electrochemistry. As an established manufacturer of automotive and non-automotive lithium-ion battery cells, GS Yuasa has a strong engineering team and modern production lines with a high level of automation.Mitsubishi Corporation will contribute its global sales network and experience as an integrated global business enterprise.

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