Are we on the verge of having new battery technology? Well, yes and no. Yes, there are laboratories that are experimenting with some very interesting chemistries and technologies, and no, they aren’t ready yet.
One of the more promising “coming soon” battery technologies is Lithium-Sulphur (Li-S) batteries. Thanks ironically to oil production, we have a glut of sulphur available. In addition to its conductivity and high-temperature tolerance, Li-S batteries may be what is powering your next EV.
Currently, a company called Sion Power has the limited ability to produce Li-S batteries with a power storage capacity of 350Wh/Kg. For a comparison, the Lithium-Ion batteries in the Tesla Model S have a power storage capacity of 207Wh/Kg. If used in a Tesla Model S, the batter would weigh approximately 60% of the original, saving 217Kg (~480 lbs.).
Notice in this graphic that the module volume remains the same at 6.7 cubic feet (19 cubic centimeters). The Li-S technology works well with small, light form factors (as used in the Zephyr solar-powered long distance aircraft) and at lower temperatures that Li-S don’t historically work well with.
This is just the beginning. Sion also has some cells at 450Wh/Kg. Their target is 600Wh/Kg by 2016. A battery with that power capacity could easily go 300 miles on a single charge. Is this the technology that Tesla is betting on for its $30,000/300 mile range vehicle for 2016?