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New Book On Batteries And Electric Cars Shows We've Got A Long Way To Go

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Newscom

The fundamental problem with batteries is the existence of gasoline. Oil is cheap, abundant, and relatively easy to transport. Most importantly, it has a high "energy density"--meaning that it's phenomenally good at storing energy for its weight. Today's best lithium-ion batteries can hold about 200 watt-hours per kilogram--a measure of energy density--and they might theoretically be able to store about 400 watt-hours per kilogram. Gasoline has a density equivalent of around 13,000 watt-hours per kilogram.

In addition, the amount of power that's required to speed up the process of re-charging electric cars makes it unlikely that we'll see charging stations emerge like regular gas stations, he notes.

There are some promising technologies like the lithium-air battery, but research on it has been going on for decades and yet significant hurdles still remain.

For example, a company called PolyPlus has made some progress, but has yet to figure out how to properly recharge its version of the lithium-air battery, Manjoo says.

The book is Popular Science Senior Editor Seth Fletcher's "Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy."