Just keeping my eyes peeled for new announcements, I have seen close to a hundred announcements of legitimate breakthroughs in improved battery performance.  And there seem to be an even larger set of dubious announcements where it looks like the science needs years to catch up with the claims.  
Today I saw another good one.  It involves a lithium metal battery with graphene and a silicon coating to extend its life.  Lithium-metal batteries are exciting because they charge fast and have a high energy density.  But lifetime has been the big issue with a few dozen cycles the norm.  The new announcement from researchers at Rice University indicates they can triple this lifetime, but it’s still nothing great–for now.
Nobel laureate Dr. John Goodenough at the University of Texas has also been at the forefront of materials breakthroughs for batteries for years.  You can thank him for the rechargeable lithium-ion battery.  (He also invented the technology behind Random Access Memory.)   He has some new ideas that people call the “quantum glass” battery.  It uses a solid electrolyte instead of a liquid.  Those trying to advance it claim it will lead to long life, quick charging, and take prices to $30 per kWh, making batteries a relatively insignificant cost in EVs. 
What I note in all these articles is the tendency for groups to think they alone will reach some amazing goals in battery performance, but on closer inspection they all note the same impressive goals as being within reach.  We wrote about this in a prior blog.
The lessons are (1) if you think you have an amazing battery technology that will have unequalled performance, you are probably underestimating the size of the crowd that is saying the same thing, and (2) if you think batteries won’t improve by an order of magnitude, you are not watching closely enough.  
So watch this space.  We likely will report on more of these advances.
Thomas Hall


Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStarts Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

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