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IBM Charged Up For Extended Range Electric Vehicle Battery Technology

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U.S. Green Technology | Where Main Street Meets Green Street


While green technology enthusiasts and scientists are currently the biggest proponents driven toward seeing more electric cars on the road, the question and issues of design limitations still remain solely focused on the battery technology required for EVs to successfully compete with internal combustion engine (ICE) cars that most consumers still prefer. IBM is now taking measured steps to create a new option that may prove more than just a dream of hot air.

IBM’s latest Battery500 Project which began in 2009 is an innovative research operation to enable an extended range of 500 miles for zero emission electric cars so they can finally compete in the marketplace when people look to make a major vehicle purchase. All things being equal, fuel costs are not part of this equation, as all EV lovers like me already understand it’s really been about range anxiety, not the 2-3 cents per mile for electricity.

Since highway capable electric cars use lithium-ion batteries, and the niche market of neighborhood electric cars often uses lead-acid batteries, neither of these options permits extended transportation ranges comparable to ICE automobiles. IBM has found a lithium-air cell may be a better performer for long range driving, because rather than heavier metal oxides, lithium-air cells use a lighter-weight carbon reacting with oxygen, thereby creating the electrical power.

This green technology is not without problems to solve and is still in its infancy, however with IBM’s dedication and Smarter Planet philosophies, there’s no doubt researchers and engineers are heading in the right direction. IBM’s goal is to increase by ten times the energy density deliverables inherent in typical battery technology so that a 500-mile range can be realistically and safely achieved.

As part of the large effort at IBM’s Almaden, California and Zurich, Switzerland labs, research teams are hard at work trying to come up with solutions. Those interested in green technology jobs should take note as IBM proudly shows an extensive roster of employees located in Almaden working on this program. There are other global participants also contributing to this effort, including the additional laboratories of Argonne National, Lawrence Livermore National, Pacific Northwest and Oak Ridge National.

A visual depiction of how this green lithium-air battery technology works is posted on IBM’s Battery500 Project web page: http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/smart_grid/article/battery500.html. It’s quite impressive to see a concept set to potentially deliver us the one thing everyone agrees can drive us forward to a new era in transportation. Surprisingly, there aren’t many companies showing up when performing an online search for “lithium air”.

In a brave business move for IBM, the company is banking this green technology will fuel the exponential demand from the rising growth driven by future international transportation needs, particularly from China and India. IBM and its team verbalize on a website video how our current levels of transportation with ICE vehicles are unsustainable once more global consumers have the financial resources to purchase individual automobiles.

The project’s Senior Manager Winfried Wilcke admits there’s still a ways to go before lithium-air batteries are rechargeable, and also for charging measurements to be quantified. The latter is like being able to see how full your gas tank is, except now we’re talking about electric cars that use electrically-charged power measurements. Hopefully IBM’s Battery500 Project will succeed in making the difference with extraordinary green technology that will forever change our world.

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