Seeo is a start-up which has developed a lithium-ion battery. This experimental development is based on U.S. Department of Energy laboratory materials. These batteries could have a profound impact on the electric car market as they store twice as much energy as the batteries you will find in the majority of electric vehicles.
According to the CEO of Seeo, Hal Zarem, these batteries could ensure electric cars have a range of 200 miles which would certainly make them a lot more popular for consumers. One of the biggest issues preventing the electric car revolution from really taking off is the 100 mile range limit on most vehicles. Add in a price tag of $31,000 (£20,000) and a lack of charging stations and it is easy to see why many people still purchase gas-guzzling cars.
Another possible use of this new technology is to halve the size of existing batteries. This would reduce the weight of the cars and decrease production costs which means electric cars would be significantly cheaper while still having a range of 100 miles per charge.
Seeo is based in California and has raised approximately $15 million (£10 million) from investors such as Samsung Ventures. It hopes to start shipping its new batteries to possible customers for evaluation in 2015.
The Seeo prototype is a ‘solid-state’ battery which means a solid electrolyte replaces the liquid one currently used in electric car batteries. The Seeo battery is made with pure lithium so it can store more energy. While other organisations have created pure lithium batteries with solid electrolytes, none of them have managed to come close to the energy storage capacity of the Seeo invention.
Normally, solid electrolytes are unable to conduct ions as well as their liquid counterparts and pure lithium forms metal filaments that result in short circuits. By incorporating lithium into another substance (like graphite), this problem can be prevented. However, the Seeo electrolyte has a soft polymer layer to conduct ions and a hard layer to create a barrier between the electrodes thus preventing the aforementioned short circuits.
Other companies that have created similar batteries have been forced to make other changes to the battery which reduces storage capacity. Seeo has managed to circumnavigate this issue and is understandably remaining tight-lipped about the process. According to Zarem, the standard equipment used to create lithium-ion batteries can be used to make the new Seeo battery.
Of course, there are still a number of unanswered questions. For example, Seeo is unable to tell us how often their new batteries can be recharged before running out of power permanently. While prototype cells have lasted 100 charges in testing, 1,000 charges is the real target if Seeo want their battery to be a genuine contender. Additionally, lithium-ion batteries are getting better and less expensive. For example, manufacturers such as Panasonic and Tesla Motors are hoping to create electric cars that cost just $31,000 (£20,000) and have a 200 mile range.