Batteries for electric cars and hybrids will become smaller, lighter and significantly more energy-dense over the next few years, massively improving the practical viability of electric vehicles. That's according to Ener1, the European arm of Enerdel, one of the world's bigger manufacturers of electric vehicle battery systems. It has battery cells under development providing 30 times the energy density of today's laptop batteries (the electric Tesla Roadster uses 6831 of these), providing scope for dramatically reducing the weight and bulk of battery packs and most importantly of all, improving range.
Today's mainstream electric vehicles, which include the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Nissan Leaf and the EV models soon to be offered by Renault, have a range of around 100 miles at best, but we can expect that figure to be usefully improved upon within two-to-three years. Enerdel also believes that there will be a significant second-life role for electric vehicle batteries, which must be changed when their capacity has dropped to around 70-80percent, and that is as national grid electricity storage devices. The batteries will be used to store electricity generated during off-peak hours that can be called upon in peak times, increasing the capacity of power stations without the need to build, and fuel, more generating capacity. That used electric car batteries can have a productive second life is good news for users and owners, the potentially strong residual value of batteries allowing much lower leasing costs.
Enerdel believes that the market for pure electric cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids will account for 30percent of new car sales in Western Europe and the US by 2020, producing plenty of competitive incentive to drive battery development forward. It has battery technology supply deals with Volvo, Nissan, Fisker and Norwegian electric car maker Think!, in which it has a 31percent shareholding.