Lithium-ion batteries will most likely power the next generation of electric vehicles, but Arizona-based startup Fluidic Energy is already looking further into the future. The company, which is betting on a metal-air ionic liquid battery, has received a $5.13 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to kickstart its plan.
Metal-air batteries aren’t exactly new, but existing models use water-based electrolytes that are prone to evaporation, and in turn, premature battery failure. Water-based batteries also start to decompose when the cell exceeds 1.23 volts, making existing metal-air models virtually useless for EVs.
But Fluidic Energy thinks a simple fix– swapping water-based electrolytes for liquid salts (AKA ionic liquids)–can supercharge metal-air batteries so that they have 11 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries and cost a third of the price. A car running on metal-air could potentially travel 400-500 miles on a single charge, making an extensive EV charging infrastructure a luxury rather than a necessity.
Still, metal-air ionic liquid batteries aren’t quite ready for prime-time. Ionic liquids are expensive because they are often made in small quantities. That could easily change if metal-air becomes the battery of choice for EVs, but until then, Fluidic Energy faces a cost barrier. And with lithum-ion battery facilities ramping up production around the world, it’s unlikely that an entirely new type of EV battery will find its way into facilities any time soon.