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Asahi Kasei and Central Glass join IBM Li-air Battery 500 project; membranes and electrolytes

Four different architectures of Li-air batteries, which all assume the use of lithium metal as the anode. The three liquid electrolyte architectures are aprotic, aqueous, and a mixed aprotic-aqueous system. In addition, a fully solid state architecture is also given. Credit, ACS, Girishkumar et al. Click to enlarge.

Asahi Kasei and Central Glass will join IBM’s Battery 500 Project team to collaborate on far-reaching research to develop practical Lithium-air batteries capable of powering a family-sized electric car for approximately 500 miles (800 km) on a single charge—i.e., a battery pack with about 125 kWh capacity at an average use of 250 Wh/mile. IBM launched the project in 2009. (Earlier post.)

As partners in the Battery 500 Project, Asahi Kasei and Central Glass bring decades of materials innovation for the automotive industry to the team. They will expand the project’s scope and, although the scientific and engineering challenges to its practical implementation are extremely high, explore several chemistries simultaneously to increase the chances of success.

  • Asahi Kasei, one of Japan’s leading chemical manufactures and a leading global supplier of separator membrane for lithium-ion batteries, will use its experience in innovative membrane technology to create a critical component for lithium-air batteries.

  • Central Glass, a leading global electrolyte manufacturer for lithium-ion batteries, will use its chemical expertise in this field to create a new class of electrolytes and high-performance additives specifically designed to improve lithium-air batteries.

To popularize electric cars, IBM says, an energy density ten times greater than that of conventional lithium-ion batteries is needed, and these new partners to the project can help drive lithium-air technology towards that goal. Lithium-air batteries have higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries, due to their lighter cathodes and the fact that their primary “fuel” is the oxygen readily available in the atmosphere.

New materials development is vitally important to ensuring the viability of lithium-air battery technology. As a long-standing partner of IBM and leader in developing high-performance electrolytes for batteries, we’re excited to share each other’s chemical and scientific expertise in a field as exciting as electric vehicles.

—Tatsuya Mori, Director, Executive Managing Officer, Central Glass

In a 2010 Perspective (Girishkumar et al.) published in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, a team from IBM Research-Almaden suggested that the transition to Li-air batteries (if successful) should be viewed in terms of a multi-decade development cycle.

This research will take place at IBM Research – Almaden in California. The Battery 500 Project research is also done in conjunction with the other Battery 500 Project collaborators, including national laboratories.


  • G. Girishkumar, B. McCloskey, A. C. Luntz, S. Swanson and W. Wilcke (2010) Lithium-Air Battery: Promise and Challenges. J. Phys. Chem. Lett., doi: 10.1021/jz1005384



"To popularize electric cars, IBM says, an energy density ten times greater than that of conventional lithium-ion batteries is needed"

This is complete bunkum.

As I have argued many times before, charging infrastructure can do much more to popularize the electric car than high energy density, because it will very much reduce the need for large batteries.

In their simplistic thinking, they applied ICE thinking to BEV's: "If a petrol car can travel 500 miles on a tank, then the BEV should be able to do that too, otherwise people won't buy it" And they also assumed that a BEV has to be superior in every respect. As if people do not weigh the pros and cons and then decide. The distinct advantages of a BEV are: low running costs, oil independence, no CO2 (with the right source of electricity), silent, fun, reliable, no more visiting petrol stations. Range is important, but you can make it too important.

Most people do not drive more than 100 miles per day on a regular basis. If you plug in your car daily (or twice per day: at home and at work), then you hardly ever need more than 100 miles of range. Perhaps a few days per year. If you have to stop for one or two fast charges on those days, most people will not see that as a showstopper. As long as there are ample fast chargers available.

Their thinking has probably been something like "A tank + petrol weighs 100 kg, so the battery may not weigh more". Completely disregarding the weight savings in other parts of the vehicle and the fact that for an EV, due to regenerative braking, weight does not impact fuel consumption as much as it does for an ICE car.

You should look at the complete picture and then ask yourself whether it's going to work or not. They just focused on a single detail, take it out of context and then these kind of silly conclusions follow.


Good post above. In addition; How about sizing the battery pack for average daily mileage requirement. For the longer trips lease or buy a small tow behind, aerodynamic trailer that contains a range extender (generator). Possibly even the new Cyclone engine that runs on powdered biomass, or any fuel for that matter?


Not saying that the range needs to be 500 miles
but somebody is suppose to supply you with a connection at work. There are 100 people at my office is the company suppose to pay for that without charging
So the company is suppose to put a few for the early adopters, and who is paying for that, obama money.

Or putting them in parking lots or having the city put them in like parking meters. Somebody has to pay for that.

A battery that can be swapped out if needed like you
propane grills if you need longer range otherwise charge at night at home


This is developing lithium air because they believe that is has a good chance of succeeding with enough time, effort and expertise. They have illustrated the car as the application, but there are others.

IBM has a lot of good scientists that have made major advances in information technology and now the company and some of them are working on this in partnership with others. I see nothing to criticize, but rather encourage.


I'm not sure what this obama money is meant to be, but I don't see value in turning everything into a political talking point. It is tedious and serves no purpose. There are other forums where you can discuss politics.


I have said this about Li-air before. I don't see how you actually get higher energy density. These guys typically make a comparison on a Ah/g basis and how you define the cathode makes a huge difference here. They typically ignore that you are adding a lot of empty volume and air flow plenums and air pumps etc. This looks a lot like fuel cells, both in that you have these air flow passages, but also it looks to be a distraction from what might actually have an impact in the near term. I have no problem with either Li-air or fuel cell research, but people who are and have worked on these are very disingenuos about the real practicalities of the technology. I might accept that Li - air could be lower cost per kWh eventually and good for grid and home storage, but I doubt it ever gets the energy density and power density needed for vehicles.


I see solid state batteries as more likely to get better energy density and cost in the relatvely short term.

The reason that I have been receptive to fuel cell technology is that I don't have great faith in the big battery paradigm, with batteries in the 80-100kwh range.

Recently electric roads with induction charging has looked surprisingly hopeful.

The whole technology is too much in flux to predict, but conservatively a pretty good solution for almost everyone might be a 40-50kwh battery pack, giving good range even in cold weather at highway speed and only an hour or so's charging time on a fast charger if you needed to go further.

One advantage of a rather bigger pack than is used today would be that, calender life issues aside, it is easier to get very good mileage out of the pack, as cycling is reduced.

The problem with using a range extender is all the extra cost and complication that entails.

I'd see then, barring breakthroughs, steady pressure to increase range, but not half so severe as the pressure to reduce costs.


It is not just kWh/g but kWh/L as well. If you get 10 fold energy density increase you do not need the same space for 100 kWh.

It is not the fact that air is lighter than carbon, you still need carbon on the cathode. It is the 1000 wh per liter that makes the difference.

I have posted before that I thought pure dry oxygen might work better than air with contaminants and moisture, but they use pure dry oxygen in the lab as a consistent base line which does not seem to make a large difference.


I think vanadium in the cathode and then sulfur in the cathode will make improvements in the shorter term. Lithium air is a LONG term proposition. It may pay off and it may not.

This is the kind of development that used to be done by national labs, because the private sector wanted a sure thing. They usually leveraged off the the public investment after it worked.


After three years of IBM super computer battery simulations, enlisting some of the world's top membrane and electrolyte firms sounds encouraging.

Suppose they fail their goals by over 50%.

Four times the present EV range could be good enough.

It's interesting to note that rural China is buying small, cheap lead-acid EVs - rather than rather than bouncing their families off motorcycles @ 70 kph.


Watch out should criminals no longer control proven large 1990's EV battery patents.



"I don't have great faith in the big battery paradigm, with batteries in the 80-100kwh range."

I agree, but 80What's the problem with batteries of that size?

"might be a 40-50kwh battery pack, giving good range even in cold weather at highway speed and only an hour or so's charging time on a fast charger"

Indeed, if the 24 kWh battery of a LEAF of today charges in half an hour, then a 50 kWh battery on the same charger will take an hour to charge. But this is not set in stone, there is nothing fundamental that prevents the fast chargers of tomorrow from delivering 100, 200 or perhaps even 500 kW.

When looking at long road trips, I think the general public would accept pausing every 250 km for a 20 min fast charge. If a 250 km drive costs 50 kWh, then the charger would have to be 150 kW, which is nothing extraordinary.

I'd see then ... steady pressure to increase range, but not half so severe as the pressure to reduce costs"



a pretty good solution for almost everyone might be a 40-50kwh battery pack, giving good range even in cold weather"

I think that will end up being the sweet spot for BEVs, nearly 200 miles of range and yet people will still moan about long distance trips.. but it will make a BEV practical for apartment dwellers with a weekly fast charge at the local garage.


(Hmm, that got posted too soon. Again, what's happening with this computer of mine)

Ok, what i was typing in my first sentence was the following:

I agree, but 80-100 kWh looks to me to be about right for the 'car of the future'. What's the problem with batteries of that size?



What happened to public chargers?


Hi Anne:
It's really mainly the economics that I can't see dropping enough soon for 80-100 kwh to be typial for most folk.

For the moment $150 kwh is still a pretty tough target, and at that kind of level you are starting to have difficulty reducing cost further because the material cost proportion is rising.

The $7,500 a 50 kwh battery pack would cost would be a lot more affordable for most, and as you argue in this thread shouldn't present serious range problems for most with fast chargers.

Also they should be able to fit 40-50 kwh into the existing battery pack space on things like the Zoe and Leaf within a few years.

I also have some secondary reservations on large battery packs, although it is mainly price, such as cahrge times, or if charge times can be reduced the heck of a load on the local transformer.

In energetic terms it ain't great either, lugging that much extra weight around.

At 150Wh/kg at the cell level you would be lugging around another 300kg or so for a 100kwh pack compared to a 50kwh one.

Serious lightweighting as in the Toyota FT-Bh should enable the range of the smaller pack to be extended pretty well in many driving conditions too.

Anyway, enough maunderings! We will have to suck it and see.

I really fancy and electric road though! ;-)


The problem with size depends on which type of battery you're talking about. Li-Ion types can charge quickly, but Li-Air types have been known to charge very slowly. So if you have a 100 kWh Li-Air for a 400 mile range, it may take three days for a full charge. This would be a problem for long distance haulers. But the average consumer isn't going to drive 400 miles two days in a row. This size battery wouldn't be good for rental cars, postal vehicles, emergency vehicles, and others that never need more than 100 mile range. There are millions of vehicles that never need more than 100 miles in one day.

A Li-Air battery would have enough density to be used in passenger planes. Cost per mile would be much less. Speed would be limited to 400-450 mph, but reliability would be very high for low maintenance cost.


EV range needs may simply follow human habits.

After a couple hours max, people will: leave their desk, use the john, exit a car, stretch their legs, watch the movie credits, recharge the car, refill their coffee mug, grab a snack, whatever... 200 mile range or less may do fine.


The majority (in USA) want their future family EV to do 400+ miles or about 650 Km between very quick (10 minutes) charges. They also want a large car with 110+ cu. ft. interior space or more and as long as they can afford to impress the neighbors. This would required a minimum of 60+ Kwh (usable) battery pack. In practice, the battery pack should be close to 85 Kwh.

The 100 Kwh mentioned by IBM is not exaggerated if you have to transport 2 or 4 heavies.

For very quick charges, the 96 Kwh pack could be split into 4 x 24 Kwh packs etc.

Roger Pham

Agree with Anne's assessment.
I think that a more realistic approach for increasing the popularity of electric vehicles should be trying to make PHEV's (and BEV's as well) as cost-competitive as possible with current non-hybrid gasoline vehicles. Make 10-kWh battery pack as small, light, powerful and as cheap as possible to enable 20-30 mile electric range is all that would be needed for a PHEV. In the latest Prius, make the fuel tank 1/2 the size it has currently, from 11 gallons down to 5.5 gallons, and put 1/2 of the battery capacity next to a downsized fuel tank, with appropriate fire insulation, of course. Put the other 1/2 of the battery capacity in the space of the spare tire, and one would have a PHEV with 300-mi range with about 20-30-mile electric range WITHOUT any loss of internal space.

At the same times, work place should provide charging sockets for certain slots reserved for PHEV's. With the cost of gasoline right now, people would not think twice about charging their vehicles twice daily to drastically cut down on their fuel bills, provided that PHEV's are available at a more cost-effective prices AND without loss of internal space like the GM Volt that also carries a very hefty price premium.

The key to mass adoption of electric vehicles is not necessarily long-range BEV's, but the key is to make electric vehicles more cost-competitive.


The issue I have with plug in hybrids is cost.
Taking cost out of the comparatively fast cycling, high power output is tougher than for the bigger battery in a BEV.

However, assuming that we could get the cost down to $200 kwh, which is pretty tough, then you add $2,000 to the car straight away.

You still need to add the charging facilities, electric motor, drive bypassing the transmission, suitable air conditioning and so on.

I can't see a premium over a conventional vehicle of less than $5-6,000, and for around that price you should be able to get a pretty good BEV in the future, and throw out a lot of the complication and components in an ICE.


The problem is small city cars are mostly gravitating to the ultra cheap side of things. That plus young people abandoning the car entirely puts quite the squeeze on this segment.

The real money and real fuel savings come from replacing larger longer range cars people use as primary car.

Thomas Lankester


For once I am going to disagree with you as I think you have taken this '500 mile' range statement too literally. The project uses this as a publicity hook. Look beyond that and you could equally see a Li-air breakthrough in charge density leading to smaller and cheaper, per kWh, battery packs for the ~100 mile range cars.

It is also worth thinking outside the 'cars' box. Demand management, grid balancing, renewable indeterminacy, etc. are all crying out for more cost-effective and materiel efficient electricity storage solutions. I am sure the 'project 500' bods won't avoid uses beyond car batteries if they make significant advances.

Higher energy density batteries would be an absolute boon for 2 wheelers where we currently have 60 mile range EVs that have to find charge points or 20 mile range EVs with removable batteries just light enough to take indoors to recharge. Imagine if all electric 2 wheelers could do 100 miles with light removable/replaceable batteries.


I'm not sure how many of these issues are real issues.

assuming that we could get the cost down to $200 kwh, which is pretty tough, then you add $2,000 to the car straight away.
A 15-mile AER at 250 Wh/mi is 3.75 kWh.  Add some margin, call it 5 kWh.  That's just $1000 at $200/kWh; we seem to be pushing $400/kWh already, so $2000 today.
You still need to add the charging facilities, electric motor, drive bypassing the transmission, suitable air conditioning and so on.
With an on-board charger, the "facilities" could be as trivial as a 220 V 30 A connection with a ground-fault interrupter; it tops off your battery in a bit over a half-hour.  The electric motor is simpler, lighter and cheaper than a combustion engine of the same power; cutting the engine to a 2-banger like Fiat looks attractive.  Electric A/C isn't an extra expense; it has long been a goal to eliminate engine-driven accessories (including water pump) and the losses and packaging issues they create, as well as to decouple the A/C performance from engine speed.

Once you've gotten rid of the engine accessory drives and all their pulleys and brackets, downsized the A/C compressor to a sealed unit with no flexible hoses, and chopped the usual V6 engine down to an I-twin, you might be looking at cost savings overall.  Even towing with a heavy load, I've never needed more than 100 HP continuous; if Fiat's turbo TwinAir can do it, I don't see why a PHEV based on a 2-cylinder should lack anything.

Li-air's inability to take fast charges is a serious disadvantage in automotive use; good regenerative braking would require a very large battery pack.  Maybe it would work well if paired with ultracaps, but that's quite a handicap unless the cost comes WAY down.


Hi EP.
I hope you are right. The Toyota PIP though comes at a stonking premium, and that is about the only real world example with a similar configuration we have to go on.

I'll reiterate that a 4-5kwh battery to run such a plug in is far from being just a scaled down version of the BEV battery, and costs can't be assumed to be anywhere near the same.

The Volt with a larger range had to have a big battery to give it a relaxed enough DOD to last for the 10 years they were mandated to do, and the problem gets rather worse for slightly smaller packs.

Something like the Li-poly battery in the Hyundai hybrid would do fine. We don't know the cost but it seems to be multiples of that of the Leaf per kwh.


Most people who buy a car are aware of the fuel costs on a yearly basis. The extra cost of a large battery in a BEV should always be compared to the savings in fuel over an ICE.

The average person drives 12,000 miles per year, so for a Volt in all-electric mode, which uses 2.8 kWh/mile and $.10 per kWh the cost to the consumer is $428. The Volt in gas mode only gets 37 miles per gallon. So at $4 per gallon would cost $1297. That's $870 savings each year. I think if you replace the ICE, transmission, fuel tank, and exhaust system with a bigger battery, the savings would be greater.

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