IBM is Prepared to Turn the Automotive World on its Head

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IBM has seen its stock surge higher on the heels of announcing its outline for "5 in 5," which means five innovations that will change our lives within five years. However, I believe an important sixth idea was left off that list and could easily play into the company's plans sooner than many believe thanks to advances in new materials.

What am I talking about? It's my belief we could see air breathing lithium batteries toward the end of the five-year range thanks largely to new EPA mandates for automakers to achieve 54.5 mpg average fuel economy by 2025, a nearly a 54% hike from the 35.5 mpg standard put in place by 2016. Thanks to the use of lightweight carbon rather than heavy metal oxides, lithium-air is 87% lighter than lithium ion. Since lowering the weight of EVs is vital to improve range, lithium-air technology makes a lot of sense to bring to market as quickly as possible.

The clear leader in lithium-air technology is IBM through its Battery 500 Project, which it started in 2009. An IBM prototype for lithium-air batteries will likely be seen next year with full commercialization possible at the turn of the next decade. Unlike lead acid, nickel metal hydride, and other former batteries, lithium-air technology relies on oxygen, not metals, while the vehicle is in motion, and therefore it makes the battery and thus car weight much lighter than previous batteries with heavy metal oxides used in lithium ion batteries. So when talking about the future of battery storage, IBM may be a real winner since storage holds major promise for both utility players and automakers alike, especially since General Motors' new CEO Mary Barra believes the future of autos will be plugged in.  

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John Licata has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow John on Twitter @bluephoenixinc. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of International Business Machines. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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