Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ) has come under fire of late after a couple of its batteries caught burst into flames. While the company doesn't believe this is anything to fear, it certainly is something to keep tabs on.
This is not a problem that's unique to Tesla. Both General Motors' (NYSE: GM ) Chevy Volt, and Boeing's (NYSE: BA ) Dreamliner 787, have been hurt by fires that were linked to the batteries. It's a risk these manufacturers are still trying to mitigate.
At present, the fire risk is being managed by tweaking the structural design to allow for more cooling. However, the real issue could just be the lithium-ion battery itself. It contains a flammable liquid electrolyte. According to the MIT Technology Review, if these get too hot, that heat can be the trigger for chemical reactions that could cause the electrolytes to burst into flames.
While that risk can be mitigated, it can't yet be eliminated. That said, a new battery technology is currently being developed that could not just mitigate that risk, but eliminate it completely. That's because this new battery technology uses non-toxic, non-flammable electrolyte ingredients.
This new zinc-air battery technology is being developed by privately held EOS Energy Storage. The company is also currently focusing on a battery innovation that could revolutionize our power grid. However, it's the company's EOS EV Range Extender that could prove to be a real breakthrough for companies like Tesla and GM.
The company has rebuilt the zinc-air battery that's commonly used in everyday items such as hearing aids. It uses readily available materials such as zinc, and an electrolyte ingredient that's also used in toothpaste. Because the materials it uses are readily available, it can produce its batteries for a very low cost. In fact, its batteries will cost about $12,000 vs. $70,000 for an equivalent lithium-ion battery.
Its zinc-air Range Extender wouldn't replace the lithium-ion battery completely. Instead, it would be used in combination with either a lithium-ion battery, or a lead acid battery, in order to extend the range of the electric car. EOS believes it can more than double the range on an average EV, while at the same time reducing the cost of the car by several thousand dollars.
That said, EOS is a long way off from being the next big thing in EV batteries. The company is still currently looking for partners to help it develop its proprietary EV battery. However, with the market for electric-vehicle batteries expected to more than double by 2025, it's a pretty compelling opportunity to keep an eye on. Breakthroughs such as this could one day enable companies like Tesla and GM to make EVs that are cheaper and safer.
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