Energy Department researchers see enough promise in the battery in your flashlight, and the one under the hood of that rusting junker in your front yard, that they’ve put them on the list of cheaper, safer, more reliable successors to lithium-ion.
“The new focus areas bring in zinc manganese-dioxide, which has been around for a while as a primary battery, but we are talking about a rechargeable version,” said Imre Gyuk, director of energy-storage research in DOE’s Office of Electricity.
The new version will be a relative of the alkaline batteries that have been around for decades and, said Gyuk, “hopefully one that uses both available electrons, and we may go as low as $50 per kilowatt hour.”
Compare that to the $100 anticipated cost of lithium-ion batteries, which have such known deficiencies as a tendency to catch fire, to die in cold weather, and to degrade rapidly with time and use.
“Lithium ion batteries currently are at a level of $100 per kilowatt hour. This is talking about cells only, and I suspect once we consider the importance of recycling and the various ecological issues, these prices may go up slightly.”
DOE conducts research into a variety of energy storage technologies, often in collaboration with industry partners, to improve their technological and economic performance. So they set ambitious but attainable cost goals.
DOE is also working on an advanced version of the lead-acid batteries traditionally used in cars, which could cost as little as $35/kwh, Guyk said Thursday in a presentation to the Clean Energy States Alliance. In the past, lead-acid’s low price has depended on dubious recycling practices overseas.
Of course, DOE is looking at newfangled technologies too:
- It expects flow batteries to compete with lithium ion. They cost $300/kwh, including the stack and electronics not included in the lithium-ion cost.
- “Aqueous soluble organic redux flow batteries, again, stack and power electronics, can be expected to go down to $125 per kilowatt hour,” Guyk said, and
- Low-temperature sodium sodium-iodide batteries could cost as little as $60.
“There are options in the works for batteries that are fairly inexpensive, and presumably fireproof and safe,” he said. “This is what we can look forward to in the future, and with new technology solutions the cost will go down, safety and reliability will increase.”
Guyk’s list of promising battery technologies and their cost targets: