Li-Ion batteries could have a less expensive replacement product
Despite the efforts made by manufacturers, electric cars are still far more expensive than those based on internal combustion engines
Equipped with a simple fuel tank, conventional cars still have an important advantage over electric propulsion. Representing a substantial portion of the purchase price, the Li-Ion battery pack occupies more space than a single tank and has a service life generally lower than the life of the vehicle, possibly replacing it by adding to the total cost borne by the user.
The reason why Li-Ion accumulators are less useful when used with electric vehicles than regular electronic devices is the very high capacity required to meet the power requirements of electric motors. This translates into the use of large amounts of Lithium, a relatively rare but essential metal for the operation of the batteries.
The solution proposed by a group of researchers at the RMIT University in Melbourne is a hybrid battery that stores and extracts energy using proton exchanges between carbon electrodes using water as the main electrolyte. Derived from hydrogen fuel cell technology, the new battery "breaks" water molecules to produce protons that cross a separating membrane. The whole process takes place without the release of hydrogen in gaseous form, thus eliminating a potential source of volatility. When the battery supplies a consumer, the hydrogen ions stored in the electrodes are released to reform the original protons, losing electrons. Finally, hydrogen protons are combined with other electrons and oxygen atoms, resulting in water.
Compared to a hydrogen cell (a technology that has existed for many years), proton-exchange hybrid batteries do not need to be fed with hydrogen gas, the charge being made by simply applying an electric current
When the technology reaches maturity, the new type of battery will offer a comparable storage power to Li-Ion batteries, but at a much lower manufacturing cost