Toyota has long clung to the Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) batteries, claiming that lithium-ion batteries are too expensive. Toyota is looking to solid state and lithium-air batteries. By modifying liquefied electrolytes into solid electrolytes, it allows each cells to connect without the need for individual casing, which results in creating a more compact packaging. Solid state batteries could thus have one fifth the volume of current batteries. What makes that possible is the use of solid electrolytes. Rather than a liquid sloshing around, a solid state battery has blocks of solid material pressed together. This requires less packaging to achieve the same effect as the liquid electrolyte batteries.
With metal-air batteries, the cathode is “air”, meaning that the battery weight is only the anode. The problem with this picture is that with current lithium-air battery research, the “air” must be pure oxygen, and cannot be any old air from the atmosphere. This is because of contaminants and especially humidity. Lithium-metal burns in certain conditions. To resolve this problem lithium-air battery researchers have gizmos to extract pure oxygen from the atmosphere to provide the proper stuff to the lithium-air battery. That gizmo adds to the packaging complexity of lithium-air batteries in a way that is not shown on Toyota’s picture.
Lux Research analyzed the consumer electronics space. Lux says solid-state batteries will provide real completion to Li-ion in the consumer electronics market, offering tremendous technical value for a segment that prizes volumetric efficiency and low costs. The incumbent, Li-ion, will put up a worthy fight but by 2020, solid-state will draw close as current complex manufacturing processes that are a challenge today are solved, costs fall and energy densities rise. From this foundation, it will surge past Li-ion in technical value by 2030. Li-S will also make strong progress, but won’t quite match the well-rounded value propositions of solid-state and advancing Li-ion, finding only niche consumer electronics applications that prize excellent specific energy above all else. Li-air is a non-factor in this sector, hampered by its volumetric inefficiency and its need for peripherals.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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