Electric car news: Should UK pump funds into new discovery of cheap car batteries? | Science | News


Researchers at the University of Bristol have created brand-new high-performance sodium and potassium ion batteries using sustainably sourced cellulose. The scientists have found that the new batteries are capable of matching and even beating the performance of ‘next generation’ lithium batteries, currently used in electric vehicles.

The results are expected to open up the electric vehicle market to offer low-cost and more sustainable options. As it stands, lithium batteries cost up to £5,000 to replace, but commonly last between 10-20 years. And the use of lithium can result in a number of problems, including the build-up of the metal inside the devices, which can lead to short circuits and overheating.

Another major concern with lithium batteries is that they are very difficult to recycle and could create waste contamination – but researchers at the University of Bristol hope to offer a new solution.

Steve Eichhorn, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Bristol, said: “We were astounded with the performance of these new batteries. There is great potential to develop these further and to produce larger-scaled devices with the technology.”

He added: “In light of these findings, we now hope to collaborate with industries to develop this strategy on an industrial scale and to explore whether this unique technology can be easily extended to a variety of other energy storage systems such as zinc, calcium, aluminium and magnesium-ion batteries, thus demonstrating its universal potential in next-generation energy storage systems.”

Jing Wang, the lead author and PhD student in the Bristol Composites Institute, said: “This work could offer an appealing route to promote large-scale applications of sustainable electric vehicles and large-scale energy storage grids in the near future.”

The study has been published at a time when the world is experiencing catastrophic gas and fuel shortages as well as the devastating effects of climate change.

The need for sustainable, ethical and low-cost energy solutions has never been greater and Britain has a unique opportunity to invest in home-grown sodium and potassium ion batteries.

The research produced by scientists at the University of Bristol comes in a push towards developing battery-powered transport systems – mostly replacing petrol and diesel-based engines with electric vehicles – but also for hand-held devices such as mobile phones.

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Currently, these technologies largely rely on lithium-ion batteries – but Professor Eichhorn warned against an over-reliance on the rare earth element, even though the UK has significant resources stored in Cornwall.

He told Express.co.uk: “It’s true that the UK has lithium, but its mining is not without environmental cost wherever the extraction takes place.”

Do you think Boris Johnson should invest in the development of sodium and potassium batteries now? Have your say in the comments section below.

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