Getting Water in the Electrics
Investors know electric motors will power cars in the future. Investors don’t know whether that’ll work through anti-matter, supercapacitors, hydrogen fuel cells, lithium-ion batteries, or a new idea from IBM, seawater!
The automotive industry’s sleeping giants are being dragged kicking and screaming into the new decade. The transformation of car-makers into tech companies marks a paradigm shift set to crown new winners in markets.
However, time is of the essence for Tesla’s competitors to mass-produce their own electric hits. With consumers also new to electrification, the onus so far has been on winning side-by-side car comparisons. That usually means choosing lithium-ion batteries!
The main advantage of lithium-ion batteries is their lightness, key in lifting performance figures. They also have no memory effect, which means car owners aren’t left waiting excessively long for the batteries to charge. However, this tech is expensive and reliant on cobalt, a dwindling natural mineral. It’s found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which isn’t the most straightforward place to do business (see ‘Africa’s first world war!’).
With a sector stuck, IBM has been on recon for a solution. Yesterday, it returned from its escapades, claiming it could extract minerals from seawater to power car batteries. That would reduce our reliance on cobalt to zero.
Jeff Welser, vice president of IBM Research reckons a “cheaper, faster-charging, and more energy efficient prototype is about a year away.” A year is a long time for an industry innovating this rapidly, but if what Jeff says is true, another mass-produced hit to rival Tesla may not be far off!