Battery technology is one of the biggest factors that is holding back the electric vehicle revolution. Many electric vehicles max out at a range of 80-100 miles, which discourages potential buyers. Toyota is now looking into new magnesium-ion batteries, which would provide a longer driving range than lithium-ion batteries and could finally give the ev market the boost that it needs.
Last month researchers at the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA) in Michigan published a paper in the journal Chemical Communications that describes Toyota’s experiments with a magnesium-ion battery. Magnesium-ion batteries use the same electrolytes as lithium-ion batteries, but their anode is made of tin. The new magnesium-ion batteries are also more energy dense because they have a positive charge of two, unlike one for lithium-ion batteries. In addition, lithium-ion batteries are expensive, but since magnesium is abundant, the new batteries would be cheaper to produce.
The lead author of the paper, Nikhilendra Singh was very positive about the initial results. “The potential is definitely there,” Singh says. “There are some improvements we need to make to its performance, which we’ve addressed in the paper as well. But overall, we’re very excited.”
It’s not known when the new batteries would show up in an electric car, but Takashi Kuzuya, the general manager at TRINA feels that they would show up in consumer electronics first. According to Venkat Srinivasan, researcher and manager at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies program, the commercialization of magnesium batteries is more than 10 years away. “Once you have a breakthrough, meaning you have an anode, a cathode, and electrolyte, it takes maybe five years to reach the commercialization stage, and we don’t have all that with magnesium, so it’s going to take a while,” he says.