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Battery Researcher Suggests Achieving Next-Generation Battery Technology Will Require Interdisciplinary Approaches; A Doubling of Li-ion Capacity Over Next 30 Years

Dr. Tarascon’s view of the battery landscape for the next few decades.

In a review of the challenges facing Li-ion battery development published in an open access paper in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, materials scientist Dr. Jean-Marie Tarascon of the Laboratoire réactivité et chimie des solides (LRCS) at Université de Picardie Jules Verne, CNRS proposes a two-fold increase in energy density over the next 30 years, most likely coming from the Li–air system.

For applications from which cost and materials resources are crucial, organic Li-ion and Na-ion will play an important role in the years to come, he also projects. These predictions, he cautions, do not take into account “complete out-of-the box solutions to electrochemically store electricity, but some of the concepts related to the latter are hopefully maturing in a few laboratories.”

Although currently at Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Tarascon spent most of his career in the US, including at Bell Laboratory and Bellcore up to 1994. At the beginning of the 90s, Bellcore asked him to create a new group on energy storage, which was rapidly prolific with, in particular, the optimization of new organic electrolytes for high voltage electrodes thus allowing the achievement of the LiMn2O4/C Li-ion battery or the discovery of the plastic Li-ion battery (PLiON), which is now commercialized.

Dr. Tarascon says that the most important results to which he contributed are the stabilization of the LiMn2O4-electrolyte interface; the design of an electrochromic system resting only on the presence of electrochemically active species in solution; the pioneering role of the LRCS in the contribution of mechanical grinding to the performances optimization of the electrode materials for Li-ion batteries; and the discovery of a new reversible Li reaction mechanism in highly divided mediums.

In the paper, Tarascon notes that:

...we should be aware that a colossal task is awaiting us if we really want to compete with gasoline, as an increase by a factor of 15 is needed for the energy delivered by a battery (180 Wh kg-1) to match the one of a litre of gasoline (3000 Wh l-1; taking into account corrections from Carnot’s principle). Knowing that the energy density of batteries has only increased by a factor of five over the last two centuries, our chances to have a 10-fold increase over the next few years are very slim, with the exception of unexpected research breakthroughs.

Nevertheless, he writes, “there is room for optimism as long as we pursue paradigm shifts while keeping in mind the concept of materials sustainability”, such as new ways to prepare electrode materials via eco-efficient processes or the use of organic rather than inorganic materials or new chemistries. Achieving these concepts will require the inputs of multiple disciplines, Tarascon emphasizes.

The chances of drastically improving current Li-ion cell energy density are mainly rooted in cathode materials that could either display greater redox potentials (e.g. highly oxidizing) or larger capacity (materials capable of reversibly inserting more than one electron per 3d metal).

In the long term, improving the Li-ion technology while preserving its sustainable aspect will require out-of-the-box solutions. Metal–air systems (Zn–air, Al–air and more so Li–air) have long been recognized as great candidates for achieving staggering energy-density increases. However, despite the efforts that went into these technologies, very little progress has been made regarding their reversibility so that they rapidly fell into oblivion.

Using the most attractive Li–air system as a reversible battery must at least clear three scientific/technological hurdles: (i) designing efficient oxygen electrodes knowing that confectioning such electrodes has been a nightmare for fuel cells, (ii) ensuring the development of electrode formulations that are capable of solvating oxygen and are stable with respect to the superoxide anions, and (iii) mastering the Li–electrolyte interface that we could not solve for the last 25 years within the field of Li batteries, the reason why the presently successful Li-ion battery technology has surfaced in the first place. Solving all of these at once is a colossal task that will require several years of cooperative research.

Despite that, Tarascon notes, there is reason for optimism given the increasing number of groups becoming involved with the Li–air system. Tarascon also cited Li-Sulfur (Li-S) as a promising system. Overall, Li–air and Li–S technologies beneficially share the same problems, he writes, as any advance in Li–air can be directly implemented in Li–S and vice versa. Their penetration into the market is a few years ahead, with Li-S most likely being the first one, he predicts.

The implementation of electrodes, enlisting raw abundant elements made via eco-efficient processes or obeying the renewable concept with zero carbon footprint, together with recent advances in sustainable and green Li–air systems, is shaping a bright future for electrochemical storage over the years to come...Regardless of the fact that future predictions are very hard, it is a certainty that sustainable and greener Li-based storage technologies will no longer be science fiction in the years to come. Achieving such a next generation of storage technologies will eagerly require interdisciplinary approaches, and our success will depend on how good we are in setting cross-fertilization between these different disciplines.

Addressing energy-related issues is a worldwide problem shared by many countries. Nevertheless, while targeting similar objectives and having similar road maps, various countries have tendencies to favour national over worldwide programmes. Time is limited, and it is urgent for our politics to find means/infrastructures to enhance the cross sharing of information between national programmes dealing with energy-related matters, both at the European and international levels. Concrete actions must be rapidly taken if we want to secure a bright future for the generations to come and to our planet as a whole.


  • J.-M. Tarascon (2010) Key challenges in future Li-battery research. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A vol. 368 no. 1923 3227-3241 doi: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0112



This guy is suggesting that we won't make it to 250 Wh/kg until 2015, but Panasonic's latest LiIon 18650s are already over 250 Wh/kg and are to be used in the next Tesla.

Also, rechargeable LiS has already been demonstrated at 500 Wh/kg, although currently with cycle life problems.


Hes talking about the system not the cell...


30 years? What planet has this scientist been living on?
In that case, we'll have cold fusion before we get a
decent battery. Nonsense. I think we'll have great
batteries within 5 years.


What I don't understand is that why the non-rechargeable version of Li-air is not pursued? One of the Japanese researcher team heavily suggested it. (http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/japanese-research-examines-anti-clogging-lithium-air-battery-tech/ but there was an article about it here on GCC)

I understand that it would be fuel-cell-like but the stack would likely be far cheaper than hydrogen fuel cells and would provide very acceptable range for the typical EV.


The actual energy density of gasoline is 9000 Wh/L. So he is taking a third of that, 33%, to account for vehicle efficiency. Car engines aren't that efficient, so halve of that would seem more reasonable. That leaves only a 7.5 fold necessary improvement to equal gasoline.

But, that's not necessary if batteries can charge quickly, which they can now. Some Li-Ions can be fully charged in 10 minutes and labs such as MIT are finding new formulations now. They tend to be lower energy capacity though. Very few people would need a 500 mile battery.

I don't see in the article that he's talking about capacity of the "system." Cells already have 250 Wh/kg, so why is he talking about 180 Wh/kg. Talking about 200 years ago is meaningless. Research is a lot different these days and progresses at a much faster rate in general.

Proposing a two-fold increase in 30 years is woefully conservative.


Even if he's talking about the system, that only adds about 20% overhead as far as energy or power density. He clearly has a MUCH more conservative view than anyone else in the industry right now.

Considering that Panasonic and others are already launching batteries above what he is predicting in 2030...I'd say it's more than conservative, it's wrong.


I'd like to see Li-Air primary battery research too. Such a battery could be easy to replace, maybe just the Li part. Li is not hazardous and it could be delivered to the home like fuel oil and recycled on a monthly basis. It could be very convenient.


We will probably need to double capacity in the next 10 years. As far as lithium air primary cells, I don't think that the end user costs add up. People want rechargeable cells, they just don't want to pay a lot for them.


There is also no need to equal the energy density of gasoline to enable a viable EV.

600 Wh/kg (the current LiS target) would enable 300 mile range from a 100 kg battery.


You don't only have to measure the energy-density of the battery of of the total car.
In a BEV, the weight of the total system is much less, because you only have four in-wheel motors and some power-electronics. No heavy combustion engine, heavy mechanics, radiator, an so many other 'redundant' motor parts.
you can easily save a few 100 kg on that.


I think that cars should be offered in different ranges from 100 to 300 miles. I don't want to pay for a 300 mile range when I never, ever drive more than 150 at a time.

I know you need a certain minimum battery size to spread the power load around, but anything over 24kWh should be ok.


I find this research problematic on many levels. In 2008 Silicon nano wires opened up a whole range of research approaches that dramatically increase Li-ion battery performance. Tarascon seems to ignore most of these, although they are more likely than Li-air to be ready in the next 4 years.

Also, many battery approaches can recharge a battery to ~50% in not much more time than people spend at a gas station. If the battery can go 150-180 miles on 50-60% charge, that's almost as good as gasoline for most uses in one day (drive 1 full charge + 1/2 charge in a day).

Alain is right that balance of system for BEV is pretty reasonable, even if the battery system and motor weighs 250 Kg. ICE radiator, engine, fuel tank, muffler, exhaust system, transmission, fluids can easily weigh the same.

Stan Peterson

Electrified vehicles are entering into the range of genuine useability now. But the costs are marginal. A further doubling of battery power density makes them absolutely competitive. Even if it takes thirty years, an estimate which is suspect.

It goes to show that the worry warts are all wrong about Energy. We are already synthesizing about 15% of our oil needs,and rising rapidly. When EVs really arrive, petroleum demand will fall to about 20% of present demand anyway. Our real need is to get a reliable, clean, method of base load electric generation and that too is coming. All the windmills and solar fancies don't satisfy need that in any way.


The article seems to be talking about a doubling of the energy density not from the batteries currently on the market, but from the base-line of the ~twice as powerful batteries due to come into car use in the next 5 years.
Costs are also coming down fast.
So we are talking about how ling it will take to double capacity from a car capable of perhaps 200 miles at reasonable cost to something even better.


EV batteries will have to go from 25 Kwh usable to 50 Kwh usable to extend driving range from 150 Km to 300 Km between charges. That should be reached (and more) before 2020. Since the improved 50 Kwh batteries will not weight much more than the older 25 Kwh unit, the total vehicle weight could be less if lighter materials and improved design are used.

The following EV generation batteries will go from 50 Kwh usable to 100 Kwh usable and the driving range will go from 300 Km to 600 Km between charges. That should be reached (and more) before 2030. Here again, total vehicle weight should not have to go up but may even go down.

Most users/buyers will be satisfied with 600 Km e-range and the majority will seriously consider replacing their old ICE vehicles with EVs. ICE vehicle production will be quickly reduced and should be phased out by 2040.



That sounds like geometric progression, not a forecase based on the incremental evolution we've been seeing for the last couple decades. As much as we all hope Dr. Tarascon is being too pessimistic, why do you think your numbers are better than his?

Also, We have 50 Kwh packs today...they just cost way too much.


In order for it to go forward the packs need to getg alot smaller yet hold alot more energy AND give out more power.

There is a big problem tho.

Say you make the pack 1/3rd the size but twice the capacity... That requires a pack that is around 1200 wh/kg AND around 4x the power per kg as current packs... And we cant do both. AND it would have to be about 1/6th the cost per kwh and last alot longer so they didnt need to test the pack so much in manufacture...

And that still doesnt make for a very good CAR.

And worse yet that car will cost more then current models do as by then all the massive subsidies will be gone....

It will flop.



...That leaves only a 7.5 fold necessary improvement to equal gasoline.

But, that's not necessary if batteries can charge quickly, which they can now. Some Li-Ions can be fully charged in 10 minutes and labs such as MIT are finding new formulations now....

What I think is far more important and overlooked by the commenters here is that a gasoline car needs to be taken to a special place for recharging. Such a place is called 'gas station'. An electric car can be recharged almost anywhere. This convenience more than compensates for the shorter range. Fast charges will be rare.

I wouldn't be surprised if you spend less time recharging a 150 km range EV than an 800 km range ICE car.



Whatever your feelings about about electric cars may be, the Tesla Roadster is currently a competetive car in its segment of the market. I can't think of an ICE car in the $ 100,000 price range that does 0-100 km/h in 4 s. And it generates a profit, so it doesn't depend on subsidies.

Why would a battery pack need to be 1200 Wh/kg? That's a 600 km range from a 100 kg pack. You're simply plucking your benchmarks out of thin air. And you seem to overlook the weight savings: ice + cooling system + exhaust system + gear box is much heavier than an electric motor and power electronics.

The mistake you are making is that new technology has to be better in every respect to succeed. Not so. New technology can succeed as long as the advantages outweigh the drawbacks. High battery weight and price and limited range are indeed a drawback of the EV. The advantages are: lower energy cost, less maintenance, silent, low emissions, home refuelling, better performance.

Eventually, the public will decide whether the pros outweigh the cons.



My 94 Cougar only has a 100 mile range, meaning I never have more than 5 gallons of gas in the tank. That lasts me a week. When EVs are widely used, most people will have only small batteries because they need only 40 mile range. But if they want to take that rare 150 mile trip for vacation, they will need to recharge along the way. That will take a quick charge station capable of supplying 50-100 kw. You can't get that anywhere.
Also delivery trucks, taxis, police vehicles, that are on the road all the time will need fast chargers or battery swappers. These may not be needed if Li-Air becomes reality or Li-Ion cell capacity goes up 4 or 5 times. The batteries may be so small, all vehicles will have 500 mile full-charge range and can be slow charged at night.


Actually I'm contradicting myself. I don't like the idea of carrying around a lot of dead weight in batteries. If you need only 60 km/day, why have a 800 km battery in your car all the time? Just rent some extra batteries when you need to take a long trip. Or keep the batteries in the house for use in your off-grid photovoltaic system and to recharge the car battery. When the 800 - 1200 km battery (Li-Air) is about the size of a shoebox it will be more practical to keep it in the car. Taxis and other vehicles may need quick-chargers for many years.

I've always been an advocate of promoting EVs based on their lack of moving parts (low maintenance), no exhaust system, home charging, no explosive gasoline, low cost of electricity, etc. Those are all consumer issues. The gov't needs to push those issues because the car companies are still trying to sell horsepower and range.


Nice to see someone present a paper addressing the outlook on battery development who isn't wearing rose colored glasses.


@ Zhukova,

The theoretical capacity of Li-Air is ~5,000 watts/kg. If you get even half of that, you'll still need ~70+ kg of battery to go 800 km.

Your larger point, that I expect Anne is aware of, is that people will make different tradeoff decisions about how much battery to get when weight and volume are no longer the limiting factors.

The other limiting factor is cost. I'm guessing 400 km range is the natural size.

Most people, even on vacation, don't drive more than about 800-1,000 km in a day, but they will take 30-90 minutes of rest breaks throughout the day. Any battery we're talking about will probably recharge rapidly up to about 50% capacity.

A 400 km battery, starting out full and recharged from 20% to 50% 3 times during a long drive will take you 680 km in a day (320km + 120km+120km+120km), and never drop below 20% depth of discharge.

I expect it will be common for roadside diners on the Interstate to put a charging station in most of their parking space to make money from their parking lot.


Sorry HealthyBreeze, 5,000 wh/kg includes oxygen. But, the selling point with Li-Air is that you can use oxygen from the air. In other words you don't need to carry a tank of air supply for the cathode.

In that case the theoretical capacity is 11140 Wh/kg, or 40.1 megajoules per kilogram that's almos the same as gasoline, which is 44 megajoules per kilogram. I don't know if a 800 kg Li-Air would fit in a shoebox, but it will be a lot smaller than anything else. 70 kg is very small, same as 20 gallons of gasoline.

My company should have recharging stations in the parking lot. If they do this, I could charge while I work and would need only a twenty mile range battery (since I never take a vacation).


"Knowing that the energy density of batteries has only increased by a factor of five over the last two centuries, our chances to have a 10-fold increase over the next few years are very slim..."

That may be, but there are enabling technologies that were not available. I could see a 2X increase in the next 10 years. The market is potentially huge and the enablers are here.

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