Lithium-ion battery technology will continue to evolve and advancements in technology will lead to increased energy density and lower costs. Over time, advancements in technology at the cell level could also lead to increased range for electric vehicles. The leading Japanese battery manufacturer Panasonic is hard at work advancing its own battery cells. They recently began manufacturing a new li-ion cell referred to as 3.1 Ah 18650 format cells. As production begins on this new cell, the company has already begun development on two additional, higher storage cells.
Beginning in 2012, Panasonic will launch a similar cell with a 3.4 Ah output. This format utilizes the same nickel oxide positive electrode and carbon anode as the 3.1 Ah cell, but advancements lead to additional power.
In 2013, the company will release its new 4.0 Ah cell. The 4.0 Ah cells utilizes a silicon- based alloy electrode. The new electrode technology gives the cell additional energy density. Claimed density increase to 800 Wh/l compared to the current 2.9 Ah cells 620 Wh/l. Overall cell capacity will also increase to 13.6 Wh compared to just 10.4 Wh of the current cell.
The new cells will pack higher density and capacity at the price of lower voltage and increased mass. The new cells drop in voltage from 3.6V to 3.4V and the mass will increase 10 g per cell going from 44g/cell to 54 g/cell.
Beyond 2013 the company is sure to continue its work on lithium-ion technology. For now, the company's new cell technology shows a possible increase of 30% in capacity by 2013 with only an increase of 22% in mass. It's a step in the right direction, but advancements in li-ion happen in small steps rather than giant leaps and Panasonic appears to be aware of this and willing to take advancements one step at a time.