For many years, battery technology has been the laggard in technology. And this has a direct impact on the usability of today’s electric cars as the time to charge and the running time of a battery have been barriers to making truly usable electric cars. While other forms of technology, such as processors, memory, etc. have increased capacities at a rapid rate battery technology has been very slow to evolve. It now appears that the adaptation of a relatively new material, known as graphene which has the potential to pave the way for drastic improvements in battery technology.
Graphene is similar graphite, which is at the center of good old “lead” pencils. The material is laid out in a regular lattice pattern like graphite, the difference being that graphene is only 1 atom thick and is essentially 2 dimensional. Another way to view graphene is that graphite is composed of multiple layers of graphene. Obviously making a material only 1 atom thick is non-trivial and only recently has the technology become available to make quantities of graphene that can be useful.
Graphene has some very interesting electrical properties as it is a semi-conductor but maintains its extreme strength due to its lattice structure. There is much buzz in the scientific community and some good scientific graphene information resources available for those who want to keep up with this technology.
One of the more interesting ideas, which could greatly impact car battery technology, is the potential to create graphene “supercapacitors”. This technology won’t show-up in cars for another 5-10 years, but it has the potential to dramatically change the usefulness of electric cars.
Another technology which may be a little closer to reality, is that of enhancing the cathode conductors in lithium-ion batteries. This technology creates a hybrid electric storage device somewhere between a battery and a supercapacitor. The net effect is to increase the capacity while decreasing the charging time which would go a long way toward solving the drawbacks of current electric cars.
Lastly, for those interested in the potential of graphene technology in general, it is being described as the “New Cotton” by some in the business world. Not only is graphene interesting in its own right, but when applied to automobiles it has the potential to be a real game changer.