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Power Transportation

How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper 143

ashshy writes Argonne National Lab is leading the charge on next-generation battery research. In an interview with The Motley Fool, Argonne spokesman Jeff Chamberlain explains how new lithium ion chemistries will drive down the cost of electric cars over the next few years. "The advent of lithium ion has truly enabled transportation uses," Chamberlain said. "Because if you remember your freshman chemistry, you think of the periodic table -- lithium is in the upper left-hand corner of the periodic table. Only hydrogen and helium are lighter on an atomic basis."
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How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper

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  • Re:Fire (Score:5, Informative)

    by mirix ( 1649853 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @11:08PM (#47717721)

    So does Sodium. But do you notice how table salt doesn't burn in water?

    There's no lithium metal in lithium /ion/ cells. The whole lithium catching on fire thing is to do with them having a rather volatile solvent as part of the electrolyte (something similar to ether).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 21, 2014 @01:00AM (#47718129)

    Lithium-ion chemistry will go on for another 5 to 10 years according to Tesla, CTO. Elon Musk when asked if they could get a costs down to $100 a KwH within 10 years, he responded that he would be very disappointed if Tesla didn't. At $100 a KwH electric cars cost the same as gasoline powered cars. Tesla's current kWh cost is less than $300 currently according to the economist. My very wild guess would be in 10 years batteries will cost $50 a killowatt.

  • Re:Economic risk (Score:5, Informative)

    by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @01:58AM (#47718291)

    Some new game changing battery/supercapacitor breakthrough might be just around the corner. If so, all that investment in the battery megafactory could get wiped out. Ditto with investing in lithium mining.

    It's not much of a risk. Every single battery chemistry has been played with, at one time or another. And by that I mean rigorously and exhaustively scientifically investigated. In consequence, not only has everything been tried, but we now know what works and why it works. That's why it's science, and not merely engineering.

    Lithium will always remain a preferential element because it's the element that is the strongest reducing agent in the periodic table, short of hydrogen, which is too hard to hold on to. The stronger the reducing agent, the higher the voltage a cell can develop and the better a battery can be. At the other end, you want a strong oxidizing agent. Fluorine would be ideal, if it wasn't such a viciously strong oxidizing agent that it eats your whole battery, not just the electrons you want it to. Presumably this situation is what the spokesdroid was referring to, without explaining what the hell he was talking about.

    Lithium is the cathode of choice since it's a metal that can be conveniently nailed down while still possessing a very good electrode potential. As an ion, it's nicely compact, being the lightest of metals, so it migrates through a battery most conveniently. What to pair it with is a little more complicated, and the subject of much research. This is where manganese, cobalt, and carbon come in. Various combinations of those elements and their immediate neighbors on the periodic table are used to make anodes. Some work better than others. Some may work better yet depending on how they're assembled.

    Rest assured, whatever develops in terms of battery assembly, lithium will remain the cathode, and much of the macroscopic assembly will be the same or close enough to the same that the gigafactory will always be busy. The assembly and packaging to be done is fairly common, regardless of chemistry.

  • Re:Fire (Score:4, Informative)

    by Trongy ( 64652 ) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @02:38AM (#47718381)

    It mentions they are trying to replace the lithium ion anode with "pure lithium" - i.e. lithium metal.

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