For powering your smartphone or your Tesla Model 3, there's currently nothing better than the lithium-ion battery. Since its introduction in 1991, the rechargeable lithium battery has been the standard for everyday tech devices and electric-vehicle power. Many of the world's more than 3 million electric vehicles run on lithium-ion batteries. But as the world races toward an electric future, it needs something better than the lithium-ion battery in order to keep pace.
"Lithium is pretty much hitting a wall right now. If you really want to increase energy density, you have to go to a completely different paradigm," said Yifei Mo, a materials science and engineering professor at the University of Maryland. More energy density means cheaper, lighter batteries that last longer on a single charge.
Fortunately, there are battery start-ups trying to build better batteries, ones with lower costs, improved energy densities and better performance for supercharged industrial products and consumer technology, as well as electric vehicles, which would charge more quickly and travel longer distances. Starting this year, several start-ups with batteries they believe are big improvements over current lithium-ion technology will introduce their cells to the commercial market.
"It's taken us eight years and probably 35,000 iterations of our material synthesis just to have something that's commercially ready," said Gene Berdichevsky, CEO of Sila Nanotechnologies.