Li-ion batteries have transformed portable electronics and will play a key role in the electrification of transport. However, the highest energy storage possible for Li-ion batteries is insufficient for the long-term needs of society, for example, extended-range electric vehicles. To go beyond the horizon of Li-ion batteries is a formidable challenge; there are few options. Here we consider two: Li–air (O2) and Li–S. The energy that can be stored in Li–air (based on aqueous or non-aqueous electrolytes) and Li–S cells is compared with Li-ion; the operation of the cells is discussed, as are the significant hurdles that will have to be overcome if such batteries are to succeed. Fundamental scientific advances in understanding the reactions occurring in the cells as well as new materials are key to overcoming these obstacles. The potential benefits of Li–air and Li–S justify the continued research effort that will be needed.