General Electric says it's a little more complicated than making instant
oatmeal, but the company, along with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is developing a recipe of electrochemical solution and water that will power a cheaper, safer, and longer-charged battery than current electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The developers are hoping their newly designed flow battery will remain charged for three times longer than the current Tesla S Model battery (265 milles) and cost about a quarter of the S Model battery.
GE Water-Based EV Battery Model: image via GENewsCenter.com
Most EV batteries used today are powered by lithium-ion, the same power source that is used for cell phones, laptops, and hundreds of other smaller devices. Though some car battery companies have figured out ways to make lithium go further than 100 miles per charge, like the Tesla S Model battery, lithium is not the most efficient source of energy for an EV.
The proposed flow battery uses water-based solutions of inorganic
chemicals that are capable of
providing high-energy density. Discharge and re-charge of such flow
batteries occur in electrochemical cells separated from energy storing
tanks, making them safer when they discharge (see battery model above).
GE has received a grant from the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to develop its long range water-based battery. “We’re excited about the impact this new technology could have on electric vehicles, especially as it relates to cost and the need to recharge," said Grigorii Soloveichik, GE project leader. "Our flow battery could be just one-fourth the price of car batteries on the market today, while enabling roughly three-times the current driving range. The DOE wants a battery that can power a car for 240 miles; we think we can exceed that.”
The Berkeley Lab has extensive experience in making traditional flow batteries and will apply its expertise to the joint project.
sources: GE Press Release, ARPA-E