The Nobel Prize in Chemistry Stanley Whittingham has no doubts: lithium batteries have ample room for improvement. And they will be the winning technology that will accompany the success of the electric car for the next 10 years. Nothing else concrete on the horizon.
The Nobel: "More capacity in less weight and less price"
Whittingham, 78, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry along with two other scientists for his own research on lithium ion batteries. Today it may seem paradoxical, but his first discoveries about batteries date back to when he worked for the Exxon-Mobil, an oil giant. Four decades have passed since those first studies in a laboratory in the New Jersey (here the complete bio). And the professor is always at work to increase the capacity of lithium batteries for the same weight and bulk. It is certain that this can be done, further strengthening security.
Whittingham is convinced that the improvement in battery technology can give a further boost to the production of renewable energy. And also that prices will fall, making electric car lists much more competitive. The Nobel today teaches in the State University of New York, in Binghamton, but he travels the world to explain his point of view. These words are extracted from an interview given in Sydney is taken from Autonews.com.
The Nobel: "We need less bulky batteries"
"What we are aiming at now is to increase the energy density by twice as much weight and volume. Reducing the price. And also see if you can make batteries that are truly compatible with all devices. So as to have cleaner cities and more vehicles electrified in the streets ".
"It would allow cars to increase their autonomy. And perhaps more importantly, it would allow batteries to be less bulky. If we can put double the energy in the same volume, then we can make the batteries much smaller than they are today. We would use less material, so they would be less expensive and this would help to conquer the market. Electric vehicles must have a price for which the consumer considers them a realistic option. And they must travel reasonable distances".
"Faster refills? The battery lasts less "
3- Will the top-up be faster?
"The problem is that if you top up quickly, you need enormous power and tension. And eventually, you'll reduce battery life. The electricity suppliers themselves do not want cars to be loaded very quickly. "
4- What is the future of lithium ion batteries?
"The lithium ion will dominate for at least the next 10 years, because there really is nothing different on the horizon. Toyota and a number of American companies are working on solid-state batteries. But it is not clear how much they will cost or even if you will get a sufficient amount of energy. They might work initially for products like iPhones. But there are many questions to be answered before they are used in large-scale systems".
"We are too dependent on China"
5- Is it really necessary to challenge the Chinese leadership?
"In the United States we are worried about China's domination, and clearly in Germany too. It is important for every country. We want to be totally independent. If something goes wrong in China, then everything stops, and this is not acceptable".
6- How can the batteries change the energy storage activity?
"It happens that the sun shines a lot when you don't particularly need all that production. And in Texas, the wind blows at three in the morning, when you don't need it. The batteries are incredibly useful for conserving that energy. Since PG&E began shutting down supplies in California, people have begun to think about this. That is to say, if you have a two million dollar home, you also want to have your car production and your energy storage. Without being influenced by these weather events ”.
"Yes, the firemen didn't like our research …"
7- What is the current research you are working on?
"I'm involved in two major projects. I direct it and it is fundamental to understand on scientific basis what are the limits of these batteries. At the moment, we have only 25 percent of the theoretical capacity, so 75 percent is volume or dead weight. People really prepared in this field are involved ”.
8 – Is it true that his first researches, in the 70s, made firefighters very nervous?
– Here ends the story of the Nobel who smiles thinking back to the heroic times in which … he disturbed the firefighters' sleep. But also read: this is how lithium batteries are created in the VW house. And here: the Seri Group starts the first Italian cell factory.