Case studies



Electric car batteries are being developed by scientists at Newcastle University that could power a new generation of electric vehicles.

The batteries which are fuelled by air could have up to 10 times the storage capacity of existing cells and the project lead, Professor Keith Scott, of Newcastle University, hopes the batteries could become commercially available within five years once all the technological challenges are overcome.

The project being carried out jointly by researchers at Newcastle, St Andrews and Strathclyde Universities has received £1.5 million funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and is already being followed with interest by Nissan, which is building a battery plant in Sunderland where it will also manufacture the LEAF electric car.

Professor Scott explained that the STAIR (St Andrews Air) battery cell under development is charged in the same way as traditional cells, but it draws in oxygen from the outside air as power is used.

“This oxygen reacts with a porous carbon component inside the battery, which creates more energy and helps to continuously discharge the cell,” he said. “The region is already leading the way in low-carbon technologies and the work of Newcastle Science City, in which the University is a partner, is playing a major part in this agenda.”

Professor Scott, who holds the chair in electrochemical engineering at Newcastle, believes cars powered by the STAIR battery could have between three and five times the range of existing electric vehicles.

The batteries could also eventually power mobile phones and laptop computers, as well as enabling electrical output from sources such as wind and solar systems to be maintained when the weather changes, or during the night.