IBM, electric vehicle battery maker?

Some in-the-lab technology being tested by the technology giant offers higher energy density than traditional lithium-ion batteries -- potentially enabling ranges up to 500 miles.

After several years of research, a number of organizations -- including ZDNet sister site SmartPlanet -- are reporting that IBM is moving closer to a breakthrough that could dramatically extend the range of electric vehicles.

The lithium-air technology being worked on in IBM's Almaden research laboratory in San Jose, Calif., could eventually result in batteries that power cars for up to 500 miles on a charge. (Last time I checked, that would be about 200 miles more than I get on my gasoline-powered vehicle, so it should have the effect of getting people to shut up about range as a limiting factor for electric cars.

SmartPlanet Editor Andrew Nusca reports that the IBM lithium-air technology works by using carbon in the positive electrode. The catch has been that the cell is pretty unstable. But the team's research perspective has changed, with the help of some analytics that helped it identify some "alternative electrolytes."

Right now, reports suggest that the first full-scale research prototype could be available by 2013 with commercial editions emerging in the 2020. So, this isn't exactly a technology that would find its way onto roads very soon, but it does make you wonder about which technologies will be benefit from providing electric car components in the future -- and whether or not it matters if they were born out of the automotive industry.

[via SmartPlanet]