Article source: www.FT.com
Currently Nissan’s Leaf car can travel about 150 miles on a single charge, an affordable electric car that can travel almost 400 miles without needing to be charged could be developed within a decade following a “breakthrough” in battery technology, according to Nissan, the Japanese carmaker.
The company is one of several investigating ways to eke out more power from electric batteries in a bid to extend the range of their vehicles.
Nissan’s electric Leaf car can only travel a limited distance — about 150 miles — on a single charge.
Extending this to a level comparable to petrol or diesel cars is essential in winning over more consumers to the technology.
Carmakers must introduce electric vehicles into their fleet in order to hit stretching emissions targets that come into force around the end of the decade.
But consumer appetite for fully electric cars remains limited.
Pure electric cars — as opposed to hybrid vehicles — accounted for less than 1 per cent of total car sales last year. Running out of charge on the road is often cited as the primary reason among consumers reluctant to adopt the vehicles.
Both General Motors and Tesla are working on a mass-market electric car with an affordable price tag and a range of more than 200 miles. Tesla’s Model S has a range of 250 miles but a $90,000 tag.
BMW’s first fully electric car, the i3, has a range of about 100 miles.
Nissan said that using a sodium compound within the battery instead of a carbon one could help it increase the energy density within a standard lithium-ion battery by up to 150 per cent. Its current batteries have an energy density of up to 400 watt hours per litre.
Under Nissan’s development plans, that could increase to 700Wh/L by 2020 with a target of more than 1,000 by 2025. This would see the distance a car could travel rise from 150 miles currently to 375 miles assuming no other improvements are made to the car or the battery technology.
A big challenge for companies is that the chemical structure of the needed compound — amorphous sodium monoxide — is difficult to re-create, making the compound impossible to reproduce.
Nissan said it has teamed up with the Tohoku University and two other Japanese institutes to develop a new way of studying the structure, which will allow them to determine its atomic make-up and potentially reproduce it at scale.
“This is essential to develop the next generation of high-capacity batteries,” said Kazuo Yajima, global director of the electric and hybrid vehicle division of Nissan.
He said that once the battery range has exceeded 300 miles, the company may use its further advances to make the battery packs smaller and lighter.
Article source: www.FT.com