In a breakthrough that might change a few minds about the battery-swap concept, Nissan says that they have succeeded in tests that would extend the range of the LEAF and other electric cars up to 186 miles on each charge, almost double today’s range with an improved battery.

Nissan has developed a new battery combination by adding small amounts of cobalt and nickel to the manganese in their current batteries. Now it’s a real mouthful: a lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide cathode battery, or NMC.

Instead of using manganese only on the positive electrode, nickel and cobalt are added, raising the capacity of the battery. In tests it has shown that it is able to withstand 1,000 or so charge cycles.

Nissan is saying the new battery will be available by 2015, and won’t cost more than current battery tech, because the most expensive addition is cobalt, but the battery only needs a little of it for a big improvement.

Whether this is true or not—that it won’t cost automakers more—is less important than whether automakers could simply provide a guarantee of not charging more. They could well wind up taking a hit on their costs initially.

Most indications are that battery technology is going to get much better over the next few years, simply because we are now so seriously investing in R&D. The US DOE alone is finally now seriously investing in a variety of research leads that look promising, and Japanese automakers have done so for several years.

But worries over being able to afford the next-gen battery might slow sales, yet, at the same time, a fast roll-out of EVs is essential to getting the new technology down in price. The battery swap idea has so far been one solution to that conundrum. Knowing the better battery is going to be the same price is another.

[Ed. Note: This is also a good reason why Nissan’s plans to lease the battery make sense. If you’re leasing a battery and a new one comes out that doubles your range, you simply swap out the old one for the new one and you don’t have to eat the cost—you keep paying the same lease price.]

Image: Nissan

Source: Electric Vehicle News