Something better -- a lot better -- than the ubiquitous lithium-ion battery for electric vehicles (EVs) is expected to be revealed within the year.
One of these, a new "silicon anode battery," boasts it can propel a Tesla Model S to a range of 645 km from the standard 540 km using the same size battery pack. Another exciting development, a new solid-state battery, promises to increase the range of the Volkswagen E-Golf to an astounding 750 km compared to the present 300 km.
That's bad news for Tesla Inc. which is stuck with "old school" lithium-ion batteries made by Japan's Panasonic Corporation.
Startups based in California are leading this new "charge" aimed at squeezing up to 20 percent more power from existing batteries by improving lithium-ion technology or developing new types of batteries.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery was introduced in 1991 and has been used since because there's been nothing viable to replace it despite its many flaws. Chief among these is its frightening tendency to catch fire, and it's known that lithium ion batteries catching fire has been the cause of a number of aircraft crashes.
Experts agree lithium is "pretty much hitting a wall."
"If you really want to increase energy density, you have to go to a completely different paradigm," Yifei Mo, a materials science and engineering professor at the University of Maryland, told CNBC.
The world's three million EVs run on lithium-ion batteries but need something cheaper and lighter that also lasts longer on a single charge. That's where new startups, a lot of them American, come in.
A slew of electric battery startups are competing hard to build better batteries. Their shared goal is to improve energy densities and deliver better performance from a cheaper product.
Expected to introduce exciting new battery tech within the year are Sila Nanotechnologies, QuantumScape, Solid Power, Enovix and others. These firms, some of them already unicorns, are raising millions of dollars from venture capitalists and corporations such as Volkswagen to commercialize their breakthrough battery tech.
"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.
He was once the seventh employee in startup called Tesla Inc. when this was founded in 2004 and led the development of the battery system in the Tesla Roadster.
Sila will introduce its new new "silicon anode batteries" that replace the graphite in today's batteries with precisely engineered and minute silicon particles.
"This company had no web site and was stealth for six or seven years, because we didn't want to say we could make something when we couldn't," said Berdichevsky. "But now we're at the point where we're going to be in millions of devices next year."
Sila clients already include BMW and Amperex Technology, a Chinese company that supplies batteries to Apple and Samsung. BMW plans to incorporate Sila technology by 2023 to increase battery-pack capacity by up to 15 percent.
QuantumScape has taken another approach. It's developing a solid-state battery in partnership with Volkswagen. QuantumScape says its battery will allow Volkswagen's E-Golf to travel 750 km compared to the present 300 km on a single charge, making it comparable to ranges achieved by conventional gas-powered vehicles.
Volkswagen believes QuantumScape's battery will be faster-charging and much lighter than current lithium-ion batteries used by Tesla.
This article was first published in IBTimes US. Permission required for reproduction.