There’s a promising new entry in the race to build cheap batteries for storing energy from solar panels and wind turbines. Stanford researchers led by Yi Cui, a professor of materials science and engineering, have demonstrated a partially liquid battery made of inexpensive lithium and sulfur. Cui says the battery will be easy to make and will last for thousands of charging cycles.
Cui believes that the material and manufacturing costs of the battery might be low enough to meet the Department of Energy’s goal of $100 per kilowatt-hour of storage capacity, which the DOE estimates will make the technology economically attractive to utilities. Existing batteries can cost hundreds of dollars per kilowatt-hour of capacity, although several companies are working to commercialize cheaper ones (see “Ambri’s Better Battery” and “Battery to Take On Diesel and Natural Gas”).
Most experts agree that prices for energy storage will fall in coming years, but disagree over how far and how quickly. This is an important debate because a significant drop in battery prices could have wide-ranging effects across industries and society itself. In particular, cheaper batteries could enable the broader adoption of electrified vehicles, potentially disrupting the transportation, power, and petroleum sectors.