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IBM developing air-breathing EV battery [Video]

The lithium-air battery could be mass produced by 2030.

IBM has been working on the Battery 500 Project since 2009. The project's goal is to develop a battery capable of propelling an electric car for at least 500 miles with a single charge.

The lithium-ion batteries that are found in many of today's EVs and hybrids are not capable of performing such a task, so IBM has developed a new kind of battery called lithium-air.

The lithium-air battery works by getting oxygen from the atmosphere. The oxygen molecules react with the lithium-ions, creating electricity which is then used to power the car.

The process gives the battery an increased energy density compared to a lithium-ion unit, and it makes it lighter by eliminating heavy metal oxides.

The battery is out of juice when it has too much oxygen in it. When the car is charging, the oxygen stored is released back into the atmosphere, creating what IBM calls an "air-breathing" battery.

IBM has yet to test the lithium-air battery in a real-world situation, but the company claims that it should be able to power an electric family sedan for at least 500 miles.

That figure might sound promising, but the lithium-air battery is still many years away from being a viable alternative to the lithium-ion battery.

"A lot of other things have to be done before we can put this [battery] in a car," said Winfried Wilcke, the project's senior manager.

IBM says that if all goes as planned, the lithium-air battery could reach mass-production between 2020 and 2030.