back to article New battery boffinry could 'triple range' of electric vehicles

A new method of designing batteries, cooked up at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, could triple the range of electric vehicles, a new paper has claimed. The development, described by the article An In Vivo Formed Solid Electrolyte Surface Layer Enables Stable Plating of Li Metal (PDF) in energy journal Joule, is due to …

  1. Not also known as SC

    Phone Batteries

    I wonder if this development can be used with phone batteries too?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Phone Batteries

      Logically, yes. The failure mode that this addresses is the same, although other failure modes exist, as Samsung know too well.

      But it is usually a seven year journey from lab to retailer, so don't get your hopes up. You'll have an iPhone 16 by the time this technology is out.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "But it is usually a seven year journey from lab to retailer,"

        The attractive thing about this is it's a retro-fit for the existing battery chemistry.

        So relatively easy to add into batteries.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "But it is usually a seven year journey @ John Smith 19

          So relatively easy to add into batteries.

          Easy? You reckon. We have a claim from a respectable source that they've demonstrated something in the lab. What happens before that is "easily added into batteries"? The short list below is a fraction of the tasks needed, only vaguely in order:

          * Labs need to verify that there are no new failure modes or performance changes to the battery - eg energy storage at the expense of service life may not be a good trade-off in these days of sealed devices.

          * The IP holders need to establish heads of agreement with a battery and/or phone maker as to who will do what, and how rewards will be shared

          * Battery makers need to establish that the lab process could be undertaken in a battery plant - if the preparation is too onerous, then it simply may not be possible to make them other than in a lab.

          * The battery makers have to work out if it is actually economic to volume manufacture with the additional materials, and additional processing - many good ideas don't make it to the shop simply because nobody will pay the right price.

          * Battery makers have to try and source materials of the required quality and quantity (at a low price). If supply chains are constrained now or in future, that feeds back into the economics.

          * Battery and phone makers need to establish what price the market will pay - it may be economic at a basic level, but if the market won't pay more, why go to all the effort?

          * Battery makers and phone makers need to do tests that will convince their respective insurers that the technology is safe over several years - after the Note 7, they won't be in a hurry to take chances on a much higher energy density battery.

          And at every stage there's regulatory compliance, H&S, disposal and recycling. You've got new concerns that if there's three times the energy density, then the consequences of a "not at fault" failure may be far more serious than current technology - if a perforated battery gives off far more noxious fumes or explodes like a small hand grenade, will airlines permit the devices to fly? If you have much higher energy stored, does the new chemistry work and remain effective with fast chargers?

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: "But it is usually a seven year journey @ John Smith 19

            @Ledswinger

            You seem to have missed the word relatively in "relatively easy to..."

            Relatively easy != easy.

            Compared to having to throw out the old production lines completely and build brand new ones from scratch using new completely new processes, complete new battery chemistry, etc, to use this technology...if it ever pans out.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              "Relatively easy != easy."

              Exactly. *

              Tweaking the recipe slightly. Not too expensive. Junk existing chemistry (and probably production machinery). Very expensive.

              Why is the concept of a qualified statement so difficult for people to grasp?

              *As opposed to say a Hydrofloric Acid and Cream Cheese battery with an operating temperature of 200c, which I'd suggest has f**k all chance of ever moving outside my head (where it was invented 5 seconds ago).

              But if I wanted to do something really clever....

              I'd look for a fluid I could run through the cooling jackets of heat engines, or the tubes of a boiler, and then run directly into some kind of flow battery. Turning heat directly into electricity, without generators or alternators.

              The chemistries a b**ch and the thermodynamic efficiencies seem low (but I'm not sure why).

              Making that work would require very high order boffinery indeed.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "Relatively easy != easy."

                "a Hydrofloric Acid and Cream Cheese battery with an operating temperature of 200c, which I'd suggest has f**k all chance of ever moving outside my head " @John Smith 19

                Are you aware of the sodium-sulphur battery, with an operating temperature of 300C or more? At that temperature it's compatible with Samsung smartphones, Boeing dreamliners, and maybe more, but was more aimed at stationary storage and (for a while in the UK in the late 1970s) Transit-sized electric vehicles. Prince Philip had one in his electric Bedford CF taxi.

                Anyway, ledswinger's list of hinder factors is an interesting illustration of why business leaders and their Westminster puppets have been so keen on a bonfire of the red tape (at least pre-Grenfell, maybe it will change now). Who needs the British Standards Institute anyway (it presumably isn't gonna be ISO/CE rules much longer).

                You know which icon goes here, innit.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "But it is usually a seven year journey @ John Smith 19

            @Ledswinger: "if a perforated battery gives off far more noxious fumes or explodes like a small hand grenade"

            Are you saying there are potential military applications? Their research budget has just tripled.

          3. mistersaxon

            Re: "But it is usually a seven year journey @ John Smith 19

            Three times a phone battery is not a hand grenade, by any stretch of the imagination (except yours and possibly a H&S inspector now, thx).

            As for ingredient cost - did you see the article? Nothing expensive and the membrane is self-applying.

            Anyway I'd settle for twice the life and a bigger antenna, as the ones we seem to have now couldn't hold a signal if it had big brass handles on it.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "But it is usually a seven year journey @ John Smith 19

            Just imagine inventing the steam engine under modern H & S rules.

            Or even inventing fire....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "But it is usually a seven year journey from lab to retailer,"

          That is assuming that it scales without problems.

          There has been a large number of battery tech improvement over the years but non of them made their way into production for various reasons - what works in the lab under controlled conditions does not necessarily work out in the world.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "But it is usually a seven year journey from lab to retailer,"

          "So relatively easy to add into batteries."

          I wonder if there are patents involved and how much the licensing fees are? Or will this be made freely available to all since it's a minor step change (even if the effects are more major)

      2. LeoP

        Re: You'll have an iPhone 16 by the time this technology is out.

        I will most definitly not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You'll have an iPhone 16 by the time this technology is out.

          Indeed not. It will be a SameDung Universe 18.

      3. gudguy1a

        Re: Phone Batteries

        7 year journey...? Not necessarily - as assistive/peripheral technologies (used to help with this battery problem) also gain ground in their own realms - the time line becomes shortened, making a 'possible' market introduction in 3 - 5 years. Maybe... fingers crossed

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Phone Batteries

      > I wonder if this development can be used with phone batteries too?

      No. Phone batteries are designed in such a way that any potential capacity improvement is converted into "let's put a smaller battery in so we can make it thinner".

      1. Blank Reg

        Re: Phone Batteries

        @Adam 1

        I'm afraid you are correct. Personally I'd much rather they make the phones 2mm thicker. Given how thin the batteries are now, adding 2mm is probably a 50%+ boost in capacity.

      2. mosw

        Re: Phone Batteries

        >> any potential capacity improvement is converted into "let's put a smaller battery in so we can make it thinner".

        Recently heard from Siri: "Does this battery make me look fat?"

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Phone Batteries

      Plus, any improvement in battery technology is subsumed by the device using more power than the previous generation due to a bigger screen, faster processor, extra-loud speaker or whatever the new generation of phones are touting.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Phone Batteries

      I wouldn't hold your breath, as yet, every story re battery improvement technology has, so far, failed to deliver.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Phone Batteries

        I wouldn't hold your breath, as yet, every story re battery improvement technology has, so far, failed to deliver.

        I know. It's a bloody nightmare having to cart those earthen jars around that're full of (insert suspected acidic chemicals of choice here) just to get a tiny amount of power from each one.

        Don't get me started on the piles of them needed to crank the car engine over!

        (Perchance you're too young to remember the "phone batteries" from many decades past - huge cylindrical things that would be somewhere around the size of a milk bottle IIRC (pint bottle, give or take), which would give a tiny bit of power for a small fraction of the time you wanted it to last for? Today's batteries do exactly the same, only for about 1/1000th the size!)

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Phone Batteries

          My first phone ran on 3 AA batteries.

          It had many great features, including

          an Alarm Clock

          Text Messages

          the ability to make phone calls

          and

          That's it.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Coat

        "every story re battery improvement technology has, so far, failed to deliver."

        IOW "It ran out of juice" ?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Phone Batteries

        "I wouldn't hold your breath, as yet, every story re battery improvement technology has, so far, failed to deliver."

        Seriously, batteries ARE much better now than 10 years ago, than 10 years before that, etc,etc. What YOU mean is that we keep hearing of 300% improvement in capacity that charges in 1/10th the time.... and it is not making it into devices. But simple AA rechargeable batteries DO have 400% of the capacity that they had 30 years ago AND charge in 1/10th the time. So improvements are, in fact, made. But reading a hype article like this ... having read hype articles like this for the last 10 years... gets old. If they were all to be believed, we would have triple the triple the triple the range of a battery 10 years ago by now. And then we read another article like this...

  2. GBE

    How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

    It seems like every week or two for the past 5-10 years somebody announces some discovery/invention that "could" double/triple/quadruple battery capacity while simultaneously making them safer, smaller, cheaper, lighter, and fresher smelling.

    Somehow "could" never turns into "does"...

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

      "Somehow "could" never turns into "does"..."

      And yet batteries continue to get better in real-world devices. How does that work?

      1. GBE

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        And yet batteries continue to get better in real-world devices. How does that work?

        Mostly it seems to be through continuous, incremental improvements rather than "breakthroughs" involving carbon nano-tubes or in-vivo-formed-membranes that provide a 2X-3X jumps in capacity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

          In my lifetime there have been thre general battery breakthroughs.

          1/. Nickel cadmium. Developed in WWII this enabled secondary cells to rival primary cells for the first time. And made portable power tools possible, And indeed electric model aircraft.

          2/. Nickel metal hydride. Not as robust as NiCd, but doubled energy /weight.

          3/. Lithium Ion. At a stroke, yet more energy density. Making today's range of portable electronics and electrics all possible.

          All of these are fundamentally about getting a chemistry that was known to work just about safe enough and stable enough to mass produce.

          There is no better chemistry than lithium.

          All the advances since are from fine tuning lithium chemistry, and this is another such fine tune.

          There is probably one more technology to go - lithium air. Because it can utilise atmospheric oxygen, its about 3 times lighter than existing lithium (batteries), especially when charged. Back of envelope calculations show that a lithium air battery could, if it could be got to work, take an airliner across the Atlantic. With passengers. Just.

          But as far as chemical batteries go, That's it. One might be better off making synthetic diesel from nuclear power stations derived electricity and running a conventional diesel or jet engine.

      2. LucasNorth

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        yeah but when has it ever tripled like we are always hearing? It is always the gradual improvement that one would expect, these outlandish promises never come true

        1. Keith Oborn

          Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

          Well, for EVs at least (and given the commonality of technology, most other Lithium battery uses as well) the last 7 years has seen about 5x reduction in $/kwh cost and maybe 3x increase in kwh/unit volume.

          Exactly what has made this possible is only really known to the battery manufacturers, and I doubt they want to discuss it much. It's most likely a combination of a few step changes (although not on the "3x better" scale) and lots of little tweaks.

          Most technologies don't usually experience huge overnight jumps, but if you wait a few years and look back--. Look at semiconductors for instance.

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            the last 7 years has seen about 5x reduction in $/kwh cost
            That has as much to do with the economies of scale gained with the increased volume production of lithium-based batteries and the usual attendant benefits as it has to do with battery chemistry changes/enhancements.

      3. rreed2000

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        Doubling/tripling/quadrupling capacity? Really?

        We do see modest increases in capacity, but all the while keep hearing of massive capacity breakthroughs that never seem to make it into production.

        1. DainB Bronze badge

          Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

          Because it is simply not possible.

          "cheap, safe, long-lasting batteries" and "much more range in their electric vehicles" are two mutually exclusive things as range requires nothing else but higher energy density. Or lower power consumption. Or more batteries.

          If you try even triple energy density of Li-Ion battery (0.875MJ/kg x 3) you're right next to gunpowder which has energy density of 3 MJ/kg. If you want increase it 5 times you're now in TNT territory (4.6 MJ/kg).

          Would you prefer car that can do half the range or the one that goes further but literally has 500Kg of TNT under your ass ?

          1. GerryMC

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            Would you prefer car that can do half the range or the one that goes further but literally effectively has 500Kg of TNT under your ass ?

            FTFY

            Unless you mean that you do carry half a tonne of TNT with you. In which case the FBI or MI5 or equivalent may want a word with you...

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

              "Unless you mean that you do carry half a tonne of TNT with you."

              Does the term "energy density" mean anything to you?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

                @Doctor Syntax

                "Does the term "energy density" mean anything to you?"

                Nup! Not a thing!!

            2. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

              Re: @GerryMC, literally

              Give up the fight, mate

              https://xkcd.com/1108

          2. Adam 1 Silver badge

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            > If you try even triple energy density of Li-Ion battery (0.875MJ/kg x 3) you're right next to gunpowder which has energy density of 3 MJ/kg. If you want increase it 5 times you're now in TNT territory (4.6 MJ/kg).

            > Would you prefer car that can do half the range or the one that goes further but literally has 500Kg of TNT under your ass ?

            I heard that there are some nut jobs out there that attempt to drive vehicles with 43.1MJ/Kg. Won't catch me near a diesel though. That must be, by the arguments above, 10x more dangerous than TNT.

            1. Captain DaFt

              Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

              Won't catch me near a diesel though. That must be, by the arguments above, 10x more dangerous than TNT.

              Good point. If I recall correctly (and I'm just now too lazy to confirm) a chocolate bar has a higher energy density than than the equivalent weight of nitroglycerin.

              What a lot of people fail to appreciate is that energy density, and the speed the energy can be released, are two entirely different things. ☺

              1. inmypjs Silver badge

                Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

                "chocolate bar has a higher energy density than than the equivalent weight of nitroglycerin"

                Yes because a chocolate bar burns with about twice its weight of oxygen from the air while explosives (and most batteries) need to be self sufficient.

              2. Deltics
                Coat

                Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

                Any problem can be solved by the misunderstanding of the application of explosives.

              3. katrinab Silver badge

                Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

                Yes, if the chocolate bar is pure sugar, then it is 17MJ/kg.

                If it is pure fat, then it is 37MJ/kg

                Nitroglycerin is 6.38MJ/kg.

            2. DainB Bronze badge

              Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

              May I leave it to you to figure out why wood which is 4 times as energy dense as TNT does not produce same result when it is releasing all that energy ?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" @ DainB

                May I leave it to you to figure out why wood which is 4 times as energy dense as TNT does not produce same result when it is releasing all that energy ?

                Because wood usually exists as a discrete physical block, and that prevents the fuel from being exposed quickly to the oxidising agent fast enough to cause an explosion. However, that's for a lump of wood. If you have wood dust it most certainly is explosive because the oxidising agent and the fuel can be mixed to the perfect proportions. Operators of wood pellet power stations and sawmills know this, often from costly experience, and there's Youtube videos of real world wood dust explosions (coal, flour, corn dust, even sugar will do the same). Scan to 30 seconds into this:

                https://youtu.be/4hS6IGO2tdA?t=38

                TNT and most other explosives don't rely on atmospheric oxygen, they contain their own reagents, and so does a battery. Given the sort of explosions a conventional lithium battery can achieve if short circuited, I wouldn't want to be around one with three times the energy density.

          3. rsjaffe

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            "If you try even triple energy density of Li-Ion battery (0.875MJ/kg x 3) you're right next to gunpowder which has energy density of 3 MJ/kg. If you want increase it 5 times you're now in TNT territory (4.6 MJ/kg)."

            And yet we drive around with even a larger bomb in our vehicles every day. Gasoline has an energy density of 45.7 MJ/kg

            1. handleoclast Silver badge

              Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

              @rsjaffe

              And yet we drive around with even a larger bomb in our vehicles every day. Gasoline has an energy density of 45.7 MJ/kg

              Oh no it doesn't. I guarantee you it doesn't.

              A gasoline/air mix, where the two are intimately mixed, does indeed have that sort of energy density. Gasoline by itself, nope. Which is why a tank of petrol is relatively safe. Fill a tank, drop in a lighted match and you'll get a pretty flame in the filler pipe. Do the same with an empty tank, where there are plenty of fumes, and you'll get a bang, but not much of one because the fumes don't have a lot of gasoline.

              Despite what Hollywood wants you to believe, cars don't explode unless they are first subjected to the sort of abuse that creates a fuel-air mixture.

              1. aqk
                Mushroom

                Re: How many battery "explosions" is that this year?

                I guarantee you that a gasoline/petrol tank ONE THIRD full of gasoline is indeed extremely dangerous.

                If you do not believe me, try splashing some on your lit BBQ.

              2. itzman

                Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

                cars don't explode unless they are first subjected to the sort of abuse that creates a fuel-air mixture.

                Those of us who have flown and crashed planes powered by Li-ion batteries can assure you that they, however, do.

          4. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            > Would you prefer car that can do half the range or

            > the one that goes further but literally has 500Kg of

            > TNT under your ass ?

            If you drive a petrol car, that's exactly what you currently have, give or take a spark.

            (As "arse" is spelt donkey-like, for "petrol" read "gasoline".)

          5. Bill B

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            @DainB ... we should definitely avoid any energy source that is around 45 MJ/kg .. especially as a full tank could be around 40 kg of the stuff.

          6. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            "Li-Ion battery (0.875MJ/kg x 3).... gunpowder 3 MJ/kg. ... TNT (4.6 MJ/kg)."

            Gasoline/diesel/kerosene - 45-47MJ/kg

            Even piddly ethanol is 30MJ/kg

            And THAT is why we won't see electric airliners.

          7. tfb Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            Well, the car I drive now uses a power source with an energy density of nearly 50 MJ/kg, and I don't lose sleep over it any more than the other ~ billion people who drive one. I can deal with a power source with a tenth of the energy density,

          8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            FAIL

            "f you want increase it 5 times you're now in TNT territory (4.6 MJ/kg)."

            That's huge.

            Except..

            Liquid hydrocarbons run roughly about 62MJ/Kg.

            Or about 13x greater.

            And yet the operators of gasoline powered vehicles have managed to carry around tanks of these chemicals (sometimes very big tanks of them) for centuries.

          9. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

            My petrol car with a 30l tank, which is small as cars go, has the equivalent of 223kg of TNT.

        2. Mike Moyle Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

          "Doubling/tripling/quadrupling capacity? Really?"

          Sure! It's absolutely possible. It's like with my uncle Jake, during the gas crisis of the '70s, who bought one of every gasoline-saving gadget that was advertised in Popular Mechanics one month. By his calculation they saved him a combined total of 125% of his gas. The only problem he had was needing to stop every 50 miles to drain his gas tank.

        3. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

          Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

          >We do see modest increases in capacity, but all the

          >while keep hearing of massive capacity breakthroughs

          > that never seem to make it into production.

          Yes, it's the use of superlatives that is frustrating. However, we seem now to be at a point where thee is so much invested in lithium that if an alternative to that chemistry was developed, it may well face pressures from big business keen to exploit the eggs they find in their basket. So lobbying/politics/vested interests may be the block on development.

      4. Steve Crook

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        Incremental.

        It's possible that we'll be able to squeeze more out of current battery technology, but I can't help feeling it's a bit like the days of cassette tape, with never ending incremental improvements to a fundamentally limited technology. We had to wait for the true breakthrough: CD and digital.

        Similarly with batteries methinks.

        What we have at the moment simply son't scale sufficiently for solving the most pressing problem, storing intermittent renewable energy. Phones and other small devices are irrelevant. As are batteries for cars if the electricity that's being used to charge them comes from fossil fuels...

    2. DJO Silver badge

      Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

      True but dendrite formation has been the sticking point for a while now, if this does counter that an improvement in capacity should happen, probably not x3, maybe x2 and it'll take at least 5 years to get it working commercially.

      Or not as the case may be - Several teams have claimed to have beaten dendrite formation but so far have come to nought.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Fr. Ted Crilly

          Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

          Shad.... Shad-Shad, that one? SWORDS!

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          Sodium-ion technology

          Quite an intriguing website.

          Especially the graph of element abundance in the Earths upper crust normalized to Silicon (which is pretty abundant)

          Sodium is (literally) as cheap as table salt.

          Lithium got its jump on other choices because (at some point) a chemist did an energy density calculation. Li is lightest Anode element QED highest density.

          But IRL you can't use pure Lithium/Sodium/Calcium and once you start needing high molecular weight polymers in there achievable density starts dropping (but Lithium prices stay the same or rise).

          So Lithium is the Gold standard in battery energy density even in "Lithium"

          batteries.

          Which suggests Sodium might be quite worthwhile.

      2. Faux Science Slayer

        "Green Prince of Darkness" at FauxScienceSlayer > photovoltaic fraud

        Laboratory conditions are narrow, when expanded to wider temperature ranges and vibration

        can cause issues. When failures do occur the Phosphorus and Sulfur could compound fire issues.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Green Prince of Darkness" at FauxScienceSlayer > photovoltaic fraud

          @FauxScienceSlayer

          I thought you'd died of shame.

        2. PNGuinn
          Mushroom

          When failures do occur the Phosphorus and Sulfur could compound fire issues

          Simples. Just add lots of activated carbon to absorb the fumes.

          Now all I need to do is chemically justify the addition of some potassium nitrate .....

          >> Well, not quite, but in maybe 3 years time ....

      3. handleoclast Silver badge

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        @DJO

        True but dendrite formation has been the sticking point for a while now

        Since at least the 1970s (when I learned of it). OK, that was in NiCd not Li-ion, but it seems to be intrinsic to rechargeable batteries in general. Thinking about it, ions getting deposited on the plate during recharge are likely to be preferentially attracted to/deposited on parts of the surface nearer the other plate. It's pretty much what you might expect to happen with what is effectively electro-plating.

        If that's the mechanism behind dendrites (I'm too lazy to google it right now) then changes to geometry and/or separator aren't going to help (I vaguely remember claims of new separators that would solve the problem but didn't). Changing the chemistry a little might actually work. Maybe not solve the problem, but slow the rate at which dendrites grow.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

          Dendrites in Nicads could be dealt with by slamming the cells *hard* onto a concrete surface or giving them a 200A pulse.

          I wouldn't like to try either with LiIon

    3. Curly4
      Go

      Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

      There has been many improvements over the last 5, 10 and 15 years some of them happened before the internet was much more than a gleam in the eye of its its inventor (Howard Deene as he claims). So this claim may not reach the market as it has been reported but could (will?) result in improvements that will become a product. So don't condemn these claims but encourage them for some will make a BIG difference

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

      They trickle through quite often but eventually someone will charge ahead and solve the problem, you just need to be positive.

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        you just need to be positive.
        But if you want to be current, you'll need to be negative too.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        They trickle through quite often but eventually someone will charge ahead and solve the problem, you just need to be positive.

        What a total snowflake assertion. "You just need to be positive!"?

        Excuse me, science and engineering do not operate on faith, or state of mind.

        They operate on sound principles of physics.

        The fact that your post has attracted thumbs up instead of the hoots of contempt it deserves is the most depressing thing about it.

        There is a theoretical limit to how good any engineering can be, based on sound physical principles.

        The limits of battery performance in terms of energy density are known. We are already within about 30% of the best possible battery that could ever be built.

        And within 95% of the best possible electric motor, and within 85% of the best possible wind turbine, 45% of the best possible solar panel....25% of the best possible electric light...

        ...and getting very close to the theoretical limit of conventional bits-in-silicon computing power...

        In short we are not far off as good as it gets in just about all the technologies that comprise the world in which you so ignorantly and complacently live.

        Secure in your delusion that 'positive thinking' will make it all better.

        Many have wondered how and why civilisations collapse: You evince a putative reason. The people that comprise them and benefit from them become too stupid pampered and complacent to actually fix them when they go wrong.

    5. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

      It seems like every week or two for the past 5-10 years there's an article here about some interesting battery technology research followed a comment about how battery research never bears fruit. It's almost as if we've erased from our collective consciousness the horror that was NiCad.

      1. Andy france

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        "the horror that was NiCad" ......

        NiCad? Pffft ..... in my day we had to get by with a potato and a couple of nails.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

          NiCad? Pffft ..... in my day we had to get by with a potato and a couple of nails.

          Potatoes? Luxury! In my day, if we wanted energy we had to sit outside in the sun, barefoot, facing uphill, BOTH ways, in the snow!

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: How many battery "breakthroughs" is that this year?

        It's almost as if we've erased from our collective consciousness the horror that was NiCad.

        Oh, to be young and naive again!

        Once upon a time (up until the nineteen seventies), the portable world ran on carbon/zinc drycells.

        Anything under D size was practically worthless, and it took a minimum of two of those to give you nearly a half hours use.

        Then you chucked them, bought more, and carried on for almost another half hour, provided they hadn't leaked and eaten away the electrical bits of the device.

        Compared to them, NiCads were a godsend!

        But, everyone knows that batteries have never improved, so I'm told. ☺

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I understand this technically I would be driving a bomb? Not sure how I feel about that.

    1. spacecadet66

      As opposed to a car with an internal combustion engine...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes but nobody told me I couldn't take a car as on-board luggage in an aeroplane so therefore it must be safe.

        1. 's water music Silver badge
          Coat

          Yes but nobody told me I couldn't take a car as on-board luggage in an aeroplane so therefore it must be safe.

          Save yourself some embarrassment, they will rarely fit through the measuring frame. You are better off trying to jam it into one of your pockets-->

      2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Yeah, when there are thousands of explosions per minute, you'll get used to it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sigh...

      This development actually makes the battery safer.

      As for batteries on planes, the rules are clear. Batteries inside devices are allowed unless it is a Galaxy Note 7.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sigh...

        Sometimes people get it, sometimes they don't, such is life.

      2. Naselus

        Re: Sigh...

        "As for batteries on planes, the rules are clear. Batteries inside devices are allowed unless it is a Galaxy Note 7."

        You say that, but you didn't see the fuss they made at the airport when I tried to board wearing my battery-operated explosive vest last summer.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "As opposed to a car with an internal combustion engine..."

    ...and a tank full of highly inflammable liquid.

    1. Deltics
      Coat

      The liquid isn't actually all that flammable. The vapor on the other hand....

    2. aqk
      Flame

      It's much more dangerous when the tank is HALF full. Luckily it's in a sealed tank away from sparks hopefully.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Triple the range

    So they'll do about 60 miles then at this time of the year?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Triple the range

      The research is from Ontario. You'll have to plug-in your battery heater overnight so that car starts in the morning.....

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Triple the range

        AC, "Ontario....plug-in your battery heater overnight so that car starts in the morning..."

        The battery pack could be designed to be heavily insulated (thermally) with a few CM of high tech foam, so that keeping it warm (given -40°C ambient) should only require maybe about 100 watts. Even that 100w assumes that the charging is completed.

        For when the battery pack needs cooling, use flowing liquids or open the air vents. Like a well insulated home that has windows and skylights that open up. Yes, both good insulation and excellent cooling can coexist (one at a time).

        The killer feature for e-cars in cold climates will be that the car will be toasty warm in the morning, what with it being connected to the grid all night.

        My comedy vision is the guy with a Ford F450 Dually adding a fake E-car sticker, and plugging in his huge truck with a built-in 10kw heater, melting snow for 20-feet in all directions. Comfort first.

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Triple the range

          Me: "...a few CM of high tech foam..."

          OMG. I just noticed that I had used uppercase "CM" for centimeters, when it should obviously be lowercase "cm".

          That's inexcusable. I'm very sorry.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still haven't graduated from lithium

    How about uranium batteries? They should last a long time.

    1. Kaltern

      Re: Still haven't graduated from lithium

      Might be a few pesky side effects to deal with first...

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Still haven't graduated from lithium

      Atomic batteries have been around for a long time, even in very small forms. They're perfectly safe as long as you keep the core cool and entirely undamaged for a few hundred years.

      1. Duffy Moon

        Re: Still haven't graduated from lithium

        "Atomic batteries have been around for a long time"

        Adam West's Batmobile had them!

    3. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Still haven't graduated from lithium

      Plutonium is the favored choice for radiographic thermal generators (RTG). They do deliver ~10KW for the first decade and are stock in trade for long missions. They do have a problem with being an attractive target for terrorists. You do not have to worry about crashes though. NASA builds those suckers tough! As in fall from orbit due to exploding launch vehicle tough.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        radiographic thermal generators

        Not quite.

        Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators use the decay heat of Pu241. They may generate 10Kw of heat (10Kw(t)) but their electrical output is more like 500W Start of Life. 1st generation units needed 30Kw of heat to generate 500W.

        Replacing them with an Advanced Stirling Generator increases output by 4x but now has moving parts.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Still haven't graduated from lithium

        "They do have a problem with being an attractive target for terrorists."

        Only terrorists who really don't know what they're up to. RTGs are hot because they're seriously radioactive and therefore easily detectable from a distance.

        Plus they can't be used to make weapons.

        - Anything more than slightly radioactive will cause your nuke to start going off too early and cause a fizzle. That's why the US military didn't like Alvin Weinberg's Molten Salt Reactor - the plutonium produced was a mix of desireable and highly undesireable (for bomb making) isotopes that was virtually impossible to separate and so red hot from a radioactivity point of view that any attempts to do so would stick out as a guant "something's going on here" flag

        - They're too hot to handle for making a "dirty" (conventional) bomb. Anyone who handled them directly would quickly be dead and in any case a conventional explosion would only scatter the stuff over a limited area that's relatively easy to clean up (see point above about being radioactives being detectable from a distance). Powdering the material for wider dispersal runs into both the "readily detectable" and "soon be dead" issues.

        RTGs are nice tools, but attempting to mishandle them is hazardous enough for your health that you'll probably be dead long before being able to do much, or before the armed hazmat team shows up.

    4. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Still haven't graduated from lithium

      Well given that their engineering and/or manufacturing processes struggle to make sure their small SUVs don't turn themselves into BBQs, I am kind of glad that this didn't pan out.

    5. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Still haven't graduated from lithium

      Due to chemistry concerns, you want the *lightest* element, not the heaviest.

    6. aqk
      Alien

      Re: Still haven't graduated from lithium? Try Plutonium.

      That little Voyager, now well on its way to Alpha Centauri, (past the Oort belt yet?) is still chugging merrily along with its small supply of Plutonium keeping its engines warm.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When do we get the new Goodenough batteries?

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/03/replacement_for_lithium_ion_battery/

  8. Michael Thibault

    You can triple the range, and more, readily by redefining the car. Most of what you drive around is dead weight -- but it's soo convenient to build that into, or onto, the vehicle for eventual -- albeit infrequent -- need. And some of the mass of the vehicle is there to provide protection of the occupant(s) against injury in the event of collision with... another similarly-massive vehicle. And, as with rockets and their fueling, you need more 'car' to carry the larger engine (or motors) and fuel (batteries) required of a larger car... It's a vicious-circle kind of racket. Inter- and intra-. Stop! Strip the vehicle down to what is necessary to provide the service minimally asked of it: transport (movement at speed) of one individual. Cleave off transport of goods to automata; no hurry or worry with inanimate objects. The really, really smart car stock is made up of electric trikes with bicycle wheels. The bleeding-edgier folk can drop one wheel and go in-line.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The minimalist electric vehicle arrived a while back.

      The thing about the average person's idea of what a car is, is that it involves the ability to keep itself upright and carry at least one passenger and a bit of luggage. Even a self-leaning trike worries a lot of people.

      But if two wheeled electric is what you're after - carrying a passenger and some luggage too if you like - take a look at the MonoTracer MTE-150 which seems to have been reviewed by the FT in 2013:

      https://peraves.wordpress.com

      - it's derived ultimately from the Ecomobile line of cabin motorcycles which apparently first came out in 1982. They're possibly the only genuine four wheeled motorcycles on the planet: you ride them on two wheels, but they've got a pair of retractable outrigger wheels to stop the whole thing falling over when you stop.

      To my mind, the only serious problem with all these fine machines, from the original Ecomobile to the MonoTracer-E, is that they're expensive and will remain so unless lots of people want to buy them, which seems unlikely. Cars with four wheels are almost certainly going to remain the mass market personal road transport simply because they'll sell in far greater numbers so the small cheap ones will end up cheaper than a low volume luxury beastie like the Monotracer line of bikes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The minimalist electric vehicle arrived a while back.

        "But if two wheeled electric is what you're after - carrying a passenger and some luggage too if you like - take a look at the MonoTracer MTE-150 which seems to have been reviewed by the FT in 2013:"

        You won't catch me on one of those unless it can only turn 90 degree corners and builds a wall of light behind it.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    In vivo? They're a bunch of live wires aren't they?

  10. andyp-random-number

    No one will notice

    Improvements in technology happen all the time, no one notices. We don't need batteries that last longer, we already have seen this happen, especially in mobile phones. Low power devices that allow batteries to last 3 times as long are then fitted with 4 times the amount of stuff so that the battery lasts even less time than before the technology arrived.

    You make a battery so that a car can travel 3 times more distance and that car will get fitted with a more powerful motor and bigger steel to protect the occupants to bring down the range to what the buyer expects...and no one will notice the new technology.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No one will notice

      Improvements happen all the time, certainly, but people are more interested about major significant changes; the 'quantum leap' ones, not the 'baby steps' ones.

      The battery is the bottleneck for all modern technology, even for something as trivial as an electric toothbrush. That's because we're still using something from the last century, i.e. lithium-based batteries. We are eagerly anticipating something which breaks away from that.

      1. terrythetech
        Facepalm

        Re: No one will notice

        Isn't a quantum leap the smallest leap possible - even smaller than baby steps. ISTR that Sinclairs QL (quantum leap) was derided similarly, but it didn't matter because it was dubbed the Quite Late by most - 'situation normal' for Sinclair back in the day.

        1. TSM

          Re: No one will notice

          Yes - but the popular usage is still correct (or at least more correct than your view). The point of a "quantum leap" is that a minimum exists at all - that from 1 you can't go to 1.0001 but have to go all the way to 2. So it is, by definition, a major change as contrasted to a small increment.

    2. JJeffs

      Re: No one will notice

      Why would a manufacturer purposefully reduce possible range? Range is the primary reason for people not buying e.g., if a manufacturer trippled range they would increase sales! Also motor size has no bearing on range.

      1. Col_Panek

        Re: No one will notice

        We complain about range, but we only need to go as far as our bladders can take us before we need to get out and micturate. Thus if our cars can recharge in a reasonable amount of time during our personal maintenance, no problem. But finding a charging station, and recharging quickly, is where we're stuck now. It has nothing to do with range, unless your charging stations are 600 km apart. If they're 60 km apart as petrol stations are, the range problem is solved.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: No one will notice

          We complain about range, but we only need to go as far as our bladders can take us before we need to get out and micturate.

          One of my bikes could manage 330km. I could do that in a single sitting, which would be around 3.5hrs. Of course, if I'd been drinking a lot of coffee in the hours before departure, that might be closer to 5 hours with lots of stops (1n those days I wondered about the virtues of installing a bit of pipe, but worried that I might "have an accident" should I have an accident and need to depart from the bike quickly).

          When I had the money I'd be away at least one weekend of any 4, with a minimum distance-from-home of 200km. Often I went to a place closer to 300km away. 300/60=5, but we'll say 4 since I was there overnight (so 60k then stop, to 120 then stop, then 180, 240 and finally my destination at 300, meaning a charge at 60,120, 180 and 240.) 4 charges at what, 6 hours per charge? There's a full day of my weekend gone just getting there, another full day getting back, and we still haven't taken care of the overnight charge.

          Of course, most cars could probably easily be replaced by public transport (cue downvotes) with a bit of sharing between mates on shopping day, and a hire car (or public transport again) for those times you're getting away for a few days. Not many people actually use their cars for getting away from home for a while even once a year, so yes for them the charging issue is well and truly solved if they can take the car from home to work and have enough to get home again OR have a place to charge while there. But if your commute is greater than half the range of your car and you have to use public parking during the day, and there's no charging stations nearby.....

          A 200k range should end most arguments though.

  11. JJeffs

    Read the journal paper

    Read the journal paper! The authors do not claim to improve energy density hence giving extended range. The paper is just saying that the new method helps protect against dendrite growth and reduces ageing. I.e. they are developing batteries which can perform more charge discharge cycles before they need replacing. There will not be an increase in battery capacity.

  12. Fading Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Anyone else concerned...

    With riding around in your new car atop large quantities of phosphorus (highly reactive), Lithium (highly reactive) and sulfur (fairly reactive except with gold, platinum, iridium and tellurium)?

    Great battery tech if it works - even better chemistry set if it doesn't......

  13. jms222

    JJeffs is right.

    The "range" is the total battery lifetime so 100,000 miles or whatever. NOT what we normally call range between charges.

  14. Lorribot

    Err false promises...

    It maybe me misunderstanding but it would appear from what was described that the effect of the shield is to increase the useful life of the battery, so instaed of say 1000 charges you may get 3000 before the the capacity of the battery degrades to say 50% due to described failing of teh electrode. This will be a major benefit for people who buy 5-10 year old electric cars.

    This tech does not actually increase the capacity of the cell so will not extend the range of a vehicle as described in title.

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Endurance, not range

    Is this some kind of poor translation?

    The new chemistry improves the number of cycles in the battery life, not the range per charge.

    That translates to an improvement in the service life of the battery pack/distance between failures

    Mind you, there are already 10,000+ (possibly 100,000) cycle olivine-based LiIon batteries in the lab and three other anti-dendrite technologies (including one which can be literally cut up without catching fire and has been demonstrated working using existing assembly line tech) that are showing no signs of commercial release.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Adding phosphorous to Lithium. Surely that makes it even more volatile?

  17. aqk
    Coat

    Whatever happened to Hydrogen?

    Never mind my Tesla 3, I'm still waiting for my 2008 Hydrogen-powered BMW. They (and Toyota) promised me!

    Have they stopped drilling wells, looking for hydrogen?

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Whatever happened to Hydrogen?

      Never mind my Tesla 3, I'm still waiting for my 2008 Hydrogen-powered BMW. They (and Toyota) promised me!

      Have they stopped drilling wells, looking for hydrogen?

      I'd forgotten the ads BP used to run here about how they were developing hydrogen as a fuel in conjunction with some of the car makers.

      I'd always planned to crack my own hydrogen. It's not hugely hard, though compressing the resulting gas and storing it aren't so easy. All you need is a source of electricity (finally a use for wind turbines! A lot of hot gas around those things!) to drive electrolysis to break water into hydrogen+oxygen, and to drive a compressor to store the hydrogen into a tank till you want to fill your car. You can also bottle the oxygen if you want.

      I had a friend who used to point out that it should take as much energy to break the two apart as you get by joining them, so having an electrolysis plant in your car could never work. That's when I came up with the idea of a home-based wind or solar power to effectively give you "free" fuel.

      Making a tank in your car that's safe to store it after an accident is up to you.

      I still want to test electrolysis in the vehicle - I'm wondering if feeding hydrogen and/or oxygen into the air filter would improve the fuel burning efficiency enough to more than make up for the losses in the system itself. NOT over-unity, not expecting that, but wondering if it'd make a more efficient reaction thus an overall efficiency gain. I'd test it by filling the tank and driving about 100k with the device off, back to the same service station, fill the tank again, turn the device on, drive the same trip and fill up again. Compare the fills. Same route at roughly the same time in the same wind/air temp/traffic conditions, trying to match acceleration etc as well (so no aggressive overtaking). Air temp affects the volume of the air (colder means more air into the cylinder, which gives a power increase) - a few things to account for. I expect it'll be a net loss but hey. Will finally prove some maths one way or another for me.

  18. unwarranted triumphalism

    We keep hearing these claims

    But nothing ever happens as a result.

    Why are they lying?

  19. Mattknz1

    We've forgotten where we came from.

    I fly radio control planes, I started out with Sanyo SCR600 cells, that lasted maybe 4minutes, and now in the same airframe I have managed to stay aloft 42mins using lipo batteries, with 4x the capacity, 1.5x the voltage and 2/3 the weight.

    The early lipo cells could barely pump out 10A, anyone remember 2s3p batteries? And now I can draw nearly 50amps from a pack the same physical size, and charge it in half the time.

    Battery performance has greatly improved, we are just looking at the wrong measure of improvement.

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