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Nissan, EnerDel to fund auto battery research

Eyeing electric and hybrid vehicles, Nissan and lithium ion battery maker will co-fund work at Argonne National Labs to develop a better electrolyte.

Seeking out a better auto battery, Nissan Motor and EnerDel said Thursday that they will team up in support of research into a better conductive material for batteries.

The pact calls for the two companies to co-fund research at the Argonne National Laboratory to develop a new electrolyte made of a slurry liquid. The work is being done specifically for electric and hybrid vehicle batteries.

EnerDel lithium ion car battery. EnerDel

EnerDel, which makes lithium ion batteries, has agreements to supply Think Global's city car and Fisker Automotive's luxury plug-in electric vehicle, both of which are expected to be available in the next year. Nissan, meanwhile, plans to unveil an all-electric sedan next week, which it plans to make available next year.

Lithium ion batteries will power a generation of electric cars slated to come to market in the next two years, replacing the nickel metal hydride batteries used in today's hybrids.

Lithium batteries, which are also used in consumer electronics, are relatively light and allow for higher energy density. But researchers have been looking at novel approaches to improve performance and cost, including different electrolytes.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Donald Sadoway and his student David Bradwell earlier this year built a prototype of "liquid battery" that uses three layers of molten metals--two for the battery's electrodes and an electrolyte liquid in the middle.

The advantage of this method is that the liquids allow for fast charging and discharging. Batteries built this way promise to be cheaper and last longer as well.

Updated at 7:00 a.m. PT with added information on MIT battery research. Updated at 11:45 PT on October 26 with correct first name of professor Sadoway.