Rhein on Energy and Climate

A team of scientists at MIT may have achieved a breakthrough in enabling lithium-ion batteries to become the centre-piece of the future generation of electric engines in light vehicles.

They found out that through appropriate design changes, it would become possible to charge and discharge these batteries 100 times faster than at present and to make them much lighter, thus overcoming two major obstacles for their large-scale use for vehicle engines.

With this breakthrough and more to come concerning range, costs, reliability and performance, the prospects for the transition from the internal combustion to the electric engine appear more optimistic. Hybrid cars should be the first to benefit from the more effective batteries, followed by plug-in light vehicles for a range of up to 250 km, and provided the total cost for lithium-ion batteries will come significantly.

Assuming these developments to lead to commercial application in the next two decades, policy makers should draw two conclusions, which would measurably help reducing global C02 emissions:

  • Tighten fuel efficiency standards for light vehicles.
    The average fuel consumption standard of new vehicles should reach three litres per 100 km by 2030.
  • Accelerate the “greening” of electricity generation.
    The electric car will only lead to a substantial reduction of C02 emissions, if the batteries are charged with renewable, CCS or nuclear energy. Policy makers should therefore introduce appropriate regulations for all new power plants commissioned after 2020 to operate free of C02 emissions, whatever the technologies applied.

Brussels 15.03 09 Eberhard Rhein

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