18 September 2008

Charging ahead with battery development

New rechargeable batteries are now under development that could improve hybrid electric cars in the future.

Transportation is a major energy user and is responsible for around 25% of the U.K.'s total carbon emissions, said researchers at the University of Bath. As concern grows about climate change, a range of green technologies under development should help reduce carbon emissions.

Hybrid petrol/electric cars that use conventional metal-hydride batteries are already available, but they are heavy and the cars have limited power.

Professor Saiful Islam, of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath, is researching new materials to use in rechargeable lithium batteries, similar to those that help power mobile phones, laptops, and MP3 players. For hybrid cars, new materials are crucial to make the batteries lighter, safer, and more efficient in storing energy.

"Hybrid electric cars such as the Toyota Prius rely on petrol engines, with their batteries being charged by the waste energy from braking. These cars provide better fuel economy for urban driving than a conventional car," Islam said. "Developing new materials holds the key to lighter and more efficient rechargeable batteries for hybrid electric cars, reducing our use of fossil fuels and cutting carbon emissions."