Nuclear battery for electric cars: Is it really feasible?

nuclear battery for electric cars

What is a nuclear battery? Can we use a nuclear battery for electric cars?

Electric vehicle revolution happens since the environmental pollution and depletion of fossil fuels started affecting the automotive industry. World’s major vehicle manufactures stepped into electric vehicle production.

The drawbacks that pull people away from the electric vehicle is the reduced range and time to charge the battery. What does a nuclear battery do with this?

What is a nuclear battery?

A nuclear battery (atomic battery) is a device which uses the energy from the decay of radioactive isotope to generate electricity. An atomic battery does not use a chain reaction to generate electric energy.

The natural decay of radioisotope generates heat and then it is converted to electricity. In oppose to nuclear reactors where artificial triggered nuclear fission or fusion happens, the nuclear atomic battery uses only spontaneous decay of the isotope. [Reference]

The commonly used radioisotopes for atomic battery are

  • Pu-238
  • Cm-244
  • Sr-80

The characteristics of the three materials are

  • They produce high energy during the decay
  • The radiation can be easily absorbed and converted to heat (preferably alpha radiation)
  • The half-life of the radioisotopes are high and they last long

#1 Other names of Nuclear battery

A nuclear battery is also known as

  • Atomic battery
  • Tritium battery
  • Radioisotope generator

#2 Advantages of nuclear battery

  • The nuclear battery has a very long life (10 to 20 years) compared to all other battery technologies
  • High energy density is another notable characteristic of an atomic battery
  • The battery is highly reliable
  • Efficient use of post products from nuclear fusion and fission in the battery

#3 Disadvantages of nuclear battery

  • But they are costlier than all other batteries.
  • The energy conversion technologies are not matured enough.
  • Disposal of the used battery, even though life is decades, is a concern.

#4 Classification of nuclear batteries

Based on the energy conversion technique, atomic batteries are classified as #1 Thermal converters and #2 Nonthermal converters

#1 Thermal converters: A thermal converter includes thermoelectric and thermionic generators. The output power is a function of temperature differential.

#2 Nonthermal converters: A nonthermal converter extracts a fraction of incident energy as it is being degraded as heat, rather than using thermal energy to run electrons in a cycle. The output power is not a function of temperature difference.

nuclear battery for electric cars

Nuclear battery for electric cars – challenges

The nuclear batteries are used in unattended sources that must operate for long periods of time. Space crafts, underwater systems, pacemakers, etc. are a few example applications of atomic batteries.

The experiments to use atomic batteries in electric vehicles are in the initial stage. Even though it has advantages, the use of the battery in the automobile is restricted due to many reasons.

  • The technology is still under development
  • The heat generated from the battery is more than that from other battery technologies
  • The initial cost is very high for nuclear batteries
  • Economical reasons
  • Environmental and health issues due to the radioactive substance


Nuclear batteries are widely used in space, military, underwater, and medical applications. They are the long-lasting sources of electricity. The possibilities to use the nuclear battery in automobiles are still being studied.

Will the atomic battery be used in electric cars in the near future? What do you think?

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Key points

  • A nuclear battery make use of spontaneous radioactive decay for heat generation
  • High energy density
  • Decades of life
  • The use of nuclear battery for electric cars are still being experimented

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1 Comment

  1. We want to do research on Atom battery for automobile. There is huge market in India. I want collaboration from present manufacturers.

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