When you read about plug-in electric cars, you notice – sooner or later – that they are all, without exception, powered by lithium-ion battery packs. But the fight for higher energy density, smaller battery weight, greater range and faster charging speed, while simoultaneously trying to reduce the costs of batteries, can't go on forever. Sooner or later, limits of what lithium-ion technology can do, will be reached. And what will happen then?
In fact, at the eCarTec conference that was held in Munich, Germany in October, things will need to change after 2020. Li-ion batteries are slowly bidding their farewells, while battery makers are thinking of new (even better and more advanced) technologies to take their place.
Lithium-ion packs will reportedly continue to decline in prices – by 5% to 6% in the next ten years. According to Dr. Holger Fink, senior vice president of Engineering at Robert Bosch Battery Systems GmbH, »once manufacturing and raw material costs have been optimized, other technologies such as lithium-air, lithium sulfur, and solid-state batteries will begin to take over as the technologies that will offer increased performance in PEVs,« adding that the solid state battery technology is the one that is most likely to become the alternative choice in the short run. Solid-state batteries, as the name suggests, replace the liquid electrolyte with a solid material. In the long run, another alternative will be the Lithium-sulfur technology, but it's not likely that it will become commercially interesting until 2030, Fink added. It is safe to say, the transition from one technology to another will be gradual and slow.
Sticking to our current decade time-frame, improvements in energy density will see electric cars to drive for up to 200 miles on one battery charge by 2020. Masato Origuchi, chief battery engineer for EV/HEV at Renault, who also spoke at the eCarTech, said it is possible, with hefty improvements, to extend the range of a BEV to at least 372 miles. Models, expected to join the "200-mile club", are the new Leaf electric car, Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3, which will be available in the next few years.