LAS VEGAS — Mercedes-Benz is working on a vehicle battery that will use seawater and agricultural waste in place of rare earth minerals such as cobalt, lithium and nickel.
The development is part of a concept electric vehicle unveiled here at CES last week, called VISION AVTR.
The four-seat showcar, inspired by the 2009 Hollywood movie Avatar, touted a 110-kWh battery capable of delivering 435 miles of driving range. The battery uses highly concentrated seawater and a graphene-based material sourced from agricultural waste, such as composted bananas and coconuts.
"It's carbon-dioxide-neutral," Andreas Hintennach, senior manager of battery research at Mercedes-Benz AG, told Automotive News at the electronics show.
Eliminating the need for rare earth minerals significantly reduces the battery's cost and avoids the supply chain complications of sourcing the raw materials around the world, Hintennach said.
The proposed technology would deliver a driving range similar to that of lithium ion batteries and is capable of charging at least 50 percent faster. Mercedes estimates the organic-tech battery technology can recharge in 15 minutes or less.
"We could make batteries smaller," reducing weight and the size of the vehicle, Hintennach said.
The technology is in lab testing and is about 10 to 15 years away from commercialization, he said. The ongoing research is focused on the longevity of the organic batteries, which must last at least 10 to 15 years, and on making sure they can be manufactured affordably.
"We need to find the production technology," Hintennach said.