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Electric Vehicles Surge on with a Water-Based Battery

Scientists at GE Global Research and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have collaborated to develop a new kind of battery for electric vehicles. With the exception of Tesla, most electric vehicles on the roads today can travel around 50 to 80 miles on a single charge. However, with the development of this new, water-based battery, the scientists believe that they can propel a vehicle around 226 miles—the same distance from New York City to Washington, D.C.— in one charge. 

Currently, Tesla is the exception to the rule within the electric vehicles category. Tesla’s Roadster can travel around 200 to 300 miles on one battery, while the Model S can exceed 400 miles if the conditions are right (constant speed, flat ground, weight in vehicle, tire pressure, etc.).

This is not the norm for electric vehicles on the road today. For example, Nissan’s electric car, the LEAF, has an EPA average of 75 miles. While they have extremely different ranges, the electric vehicles from Tesla and Nissan all use a lithium-ion battery. The water-based battery that is being developed by the scientists, however, will put more vehicles near the Tesla range.

Engineers from GE say that the water-based battery, unlike lithium-ion and other batteries, uses solutions of inorganic chemicals that supply high energy density by transporting more than one electron at a time. The system is known as a “flow” battery because both discharge and recharge occurs in electrochemical cells that are away from the energy storing tanks, thus making them safer.

“We envision a flow battery with applications for both transportation and large-scale energy storage,” said Grigorii Soloveichik, who leads the project at GRC and serves as the director of the GE-led and Department of Energy funded Energy Frontier Research Center.

The scientists from GE Global Research and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory plan on developing a working prototype of the battery to test its feasibility.

“The DOE wants a battery that can power a car for 240 miles. We think we can exceed that goal,” said Soloveichik. He went on to say that the battery could be 75 percent cheaper than what’s available today and it could possibly multiply the current electric vehicle driving range as well.

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