Electric cars: Travel further and for longer with new powdery battery developments

A future where we see electric vehicles being able to travel for hours upon hours without needing to be charged is set to be more possible thanks to American scientists who have developed new battery technology.

Researchers have created lithium-sulfur batteries that use a unique powdery nanomaterial.

At present electric cars are struggling to take-over the commercial market partly due to how much energy their lithium-ion batteries can store, which puts some potential customers off.

The lithium-sulfur battery could provide an answer to this problem as it can hold four times as much energy than current lithium-ion batteries.

This would enable electric vehicles to drive farther on a single charge as well as being able to store more renewable energy.

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Scientist Jie Xiao, of the US Department of Energy, said: “Lithium-sulfur batteries have the potential to power tomorrow’s electric vehicles, but they need to last longer after each charge and be able to be repeatedly recharged.”

“Our metal organic framework may offer a new way to make that happen,” she added.

The researchers developed the batteries by adding the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery’s cathode, an positively charged electrode, to stop lithium-sulfur batteries from failing after very few charges.

Although one hurdle which still needs to be jumped is still increasing the lifespan of the batteries as they can’t be charged as many times as lithium-ion batteries.

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It is hoped that the battery advancement will help to convince consumers that electric cars are value for money.

In London, UK, the reluctance to own electric cars can be seen from charging points being unused despite a high cost of installing them.

Across the whole country £16m has been spent on installing the points, with more than half of this money being directed towards London’s charging points.

More than 1,000 of 1,3000 charging points on the city’s streets were not used over a three month period in 2013.

However it has to be remembered that the distance an electric car can travel on one charge is largely dependent on how it is being driven.

For example one Telsa Motors car that runs on an 85kWH battery can travel for 300 if it is constantly travelling at 55mph.

Telsa says on its website that driving range becomes predictable based on routine and driving style.


Image 2 courtesy of DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


In Pictures: Designs for the World’s First 3D Printed Electric Car

US car manufacturing maverick Local Motors has launched a competition to design the first 3D printed electric vehicle, and with entries already rolling in the final design is expected to wow.

The competition, which is open for entries until 13th May, will be voted on by members of the Local Motors online community and judged by a group of experts including MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis.

The chosen design will then be 3D printed using a Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine, the first large-scale 3D printer of its kind, at September’s International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, US.

“This vehicle may well be the coolest vehicle on the planet, at least to those of us in manufacturing technology,” said Rick Neff, manager market development for Cincinnati Inc, the company providing the BAAM machine.

With over $10,000 in prize money, the competition has already attracted some strong contestants, with designs ranging from sophisticated but traditional to cool and zany. Here we profile some of our favourites from the entries so far.

Spider Net by Chavito

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This design is still in progress, but is shaping up to be pretty cool. According to car buffs in the Local Motors online community, the design could provide good structural strength while keeping the overall weight low.


View full entry.


Lithos by Lulu

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Taking inspiration from classic racing cars, this design uses opposing tapered elements to crate a rigid triangulated overall structure. Some areas of the vehicle are kept soft to provide added protection if an impact occurs.


View full entry.


3D Printed City Car by Vasilatos Ianis

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With a design that resembles a mashup between a Borderlands Outrunner and a Tron bike, this dune buggy-style vehicle is our favourite of the entries so far. The designer, Vasilatos Ianis, has already submitted another more steampunky design, so we’re expecting to see his name somewhere amongst the winners.


View full entry.


Hantig Concept by Gabriel Hantig

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Intended to be manufactured from just three components, this design forgoes doors in favour of a sleek, unbroken body complete with seats. With a front that some commenters have compared to designs by legendary Italian car design firm Pininfarina, this vehicle ties traditional design with a modern finish.


View full entry.


 3DPCarXperiment by Braunarsch

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Another work in progress, this design is interesting because it plays up the 3D printed aspect by incorporating the characteristic additive lines into the vehicle’s finish. The vehicle has a look that is quite reminiscent of a bumper car, so we’re interested to see how this design progresses.


View full entry.