Winfried W. Wilcke On Building A Bigger Battery For The Electric Car

Here comes the next generation of innovators revolutionizing batteries. Winfried W. Wilcke uses nanoscience to boost the storage capacity of electric-car batteries while keeping them lightweight.

Winfried W. Wilcke | Photo by Alex Farnum
Photo by Alex Farnum

Winfried W. Wilcke
Senior Manager of Nanoscale Science and Technology, IBM, San Jose

Wilcke, 61, uses nanoscience to boost the storage capacity of electric-car batteries while keeping them lightweight—a perpetual struggle when designing cars without gasoline.

"There's a trade-off with electric cars: You can either have small batteries and spend a lot of money to build charging stations, or you can build a big battery to get away with the infrastructure you have. We're working on lithium-air batteries that would be big enough to hold energy content comparable to a gas tank's. With a battery that big, you wouldn't need to build a major infrastructure. Lithium-air batteries are good for things that need a lot of energy but don't go through it very quickly. So if they're going to work for cars, they would probably need to be combined with small lithium-ion batteries that can provide quick power during acceleration spurts. I haven't the foggiest idea of how expensive these batteries will be. And that's, of course, as important as the energy density."

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