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Electric Car Nano-Batteries Aim For 500-Mile Range

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the big-things-in-small-packages dept.

Transportation 650

An anonymous reader writes "Consortium members read like a Who's Who in technology research for the Battery 500 Project which aims to use nanotechnology to extend the range of all-electric cars 200 miles beyond the 300-mile range of gasoline powered cars. IBM, the University of California at Berkeley and all five of our US National Labs are collaborating to make the 500-mile electric car battery. Within two years, they promise to have a new kind of battery technology in place for the 500-mile electric car. If that happens, then I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make the Toyota Prius look like a fad."

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It's not news (5, Insightful)

jhcaocf197912 (1430843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602105)

until it actually happens.... This is more like a press-release rather than actual news.

Re:It's not news (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602203)

Was the moon landing not news until people landed on the moon?

If it's not to be covered by the news media, why are they called press releases?

Re:It's not news (2, Interesting)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602347)

I'm pretty sure they wouldn't make this claim if they didn't have some hard science to back it up. That's a lot of big organizations putting their reputation on the line, so I'm more worried about how much this battery will cost and how long is its lifetime, because if it is high and low respectively, then it's just as impractical as 200 mpc.

Re:It's not news (5, Informative)

0x15 (852429) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602509)

Exactly right. A 'statement of direction'. In fact, the poster should have read the article. IBM states that they should know in 2 years whether lithium-air technology will work or not. They didn't state a battery would be ready at that time.

cue exploding battery packs.... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602107)

yeah right, its going to be REAL PRACTICAL to put 500 mile range into a battery pack. the gasoline nozzle pumps 3 MEGAWATTS of energy into your gas tank in 2 minutes. try to get a battery pack to recharge that fast or hold that much energy and what you have is a BOMB (literally, a coupla sticks of dynamite)..

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602121)

The battery pack doesn't have to charge that fast. And a normal petrol tank is also a bomb.

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602325)

A bomb? Hardly- getting the right fuel-air mixture for an explosion (rather than a fire) is a 1 in a million chance.

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (4, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602505)

And a normal petrol tank is also a bomb.

Gasoline is only explosive under very specific circumstances. That's why cars have exotic hardware like carburettors and multi port fuel injection systems - to get the exact mix of gasoline and air that will ignite with the biggest bang.

Gasoline BURNS quite readily, but except for an initial "whoosh", it's not particularly explosive. In a sealed container it won't burn at all.

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (2, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602517)

The battery pack doesn't have to charge that fast.

Especially if it can go 500 miles on a single charge. The further it goes, the more likely it is that you won't need to charge it 'til evening.

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (1, Informative)

bovination (1591857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602329)

"the gasoline nozzle pumps 3 MEGAWATTS of energy into your gas tank in 2 minutes" Do you mean WATTS or JOULES? Don't know the difference? Then please don't post on technical issues.

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602413)

1.08e+10 joules is 3MWh you fucking pedantic idiot. 3MJ is nothing. do YOU know the difference between joules and megawatts ?

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (2, Informative)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602447)

32MJ/l * 50l/(2*3600s) = 222kW aren't SI units wonderful? Transferring an amount of energy per time unit is the definition of power - and it is relevant. A normal electrical socket provides only ~1% of that value, they need to solve that too.

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602557)

It's 2 minutes not 2 hours. So your figures are 60x less than what they should be.

Try: http://www.google.com/#hl=en&safe=off&q=32+megajoules+*+50+%2F+(2+*60+seconds)

About 13MW.

cue knee jerk fear-speak from big pertroleum (3, Informative)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602339)

sounds like fud from the days when people tried to introduce a clean burning hydrogen engine... Remember the Hindenburg!

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (5, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602405)

But you don't need 3 MW of power to move a car. Half the reason it uses so much energy is that A. two-thirds to three-quarters of the energy input is wasted (mostly in the form of heat), and B. another huge chunk of it is wasted lugging around that insanely heavy engine block and all the crap that it requires. You can easily get equivalent amounts of torque from an electric car that uses much, much, much less energy than a gasoline-powered car.

Gasoline contains 121 MJ per gallon, but by the time you factor in the efficiency, you're getting closer to 25-35 MJ per gallon, which is only about 8.3 kWh. With a 15 amp circuit at full capacity, every 5 hours charging is equivalent to a gallon of gas (approximately). As long as you don't *average* more than 60 miles per day, charging overnight is likely to be sufficient. And that's assuming a 110VAC charger. Most electric car chargers, AFAIK, are at 220VAC with a 30 amp circuit or larger, so it would only take two nights (or all day one day and night) to charge up a battery with a 500 mile range, give or take.

Sadly, it's not necessarily cheaper. At my current PG&E rate, even after accounting for the engine efficiency, gasoline is at a dead tie with what I paid at the pump on Monday---literally within tenths of a cent per gallon. If I could buy an engine that was 100% efficient, it would cost a fourth as much money to run a gasoline-powered generator as it does to buy power from PG&E, and that's at full retail gas prices. There's a fun stat for you, as though I needed any more proof that PG&E is screwing me.

impossible for consumers to operate it. (0, Flamebait)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602433)

It's how fast you can recharge it. If you have a 500 mile range then presumably the reason for thisis so you can use it up all in one go for true x-country travel not just commutes.

How long does it take to charge a 500 mile battery? well this is very easy to compute.

divide 500 by 50,miles per hour gives ten hours to drain it.

it takes roughly 30 KWatts to push a honda accord size car at a stead 55Mph on level ground.

Now how long do you want to wait to recharge it? let's say 5 minutes (1/12 hour) at the filling station is the normal time to fill a tank.

30KW * 10 Hours / (1/12 hour) = 30*120 KWatts

3.6 Megawatts.

So for a perfect efficiency system (not likely!) the minimum amount of power the user is going to be connecting to his car is a 3.6 megawatt line.

No way in hell is that ever going to happen. You simply don't let people who think Sara Palin is a good idea touch even a 10Kwatt power connection, let alone a 3.6 Megawatt one.

When highly trained linemen work on energized systems even a fraction of that power they wear 40 Calorie suits and everyone stands back.

I just don't see how the hell you get around this.

Now for commuting the problem is not so bad. You trickle charge it over many hours, plus your not trying to fill it with 500 miles in one go.

Re:impossible for consumers to operate it. (2, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602493)

a few more notes. the 30KW figure for the honda is based on air resistance not engine efficiency. So unless you are prepared to lie flat in a coffin shaped car, your pretty much stuck with the crossection of a Honda as the minimum useful car. Thus there's no way to beat that power demand by more than a small percentage let alone a factor of even 2.

You might suppose then that service stations will instead swap battery packs. But that does not really solve the problem well. At any moment a filling station might have 5 cars trying to fill up every 5 minutes. (probably even more in some stations) so no matter how you slice it, you need the filling station to be delivering 5*3.6= 18 megawatts of juice. (assuming perfect efficiency which won't happen).

This is huge problem that will require massive infrastructure changes to achieve.

Re:impossible for consumers to operate it. (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602549)

I wonder if it would be possible, given the safety hazards, to simply make a battery that can be removed and replaced with a charged battery for long trips---the old battery would get sent back to a recharging station and resold. Obviously, I guess, you'd have to take into account wear and tear...

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602451)

3 MEGAWATTS!???!?!?!??????

Maybe you have that kind of energy in 1985, Marty, but in 1953 it's a little hard to come by!!!!

Re:cue exploding battery packs.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602463)

the gasoline nozzle pumps 3 MEGAWATTS of energy into your gas tank in 2 minutes. (literally, a coupla sticks of dynamite)..

Confusing Watts and Joules much?

300-mile range? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602109)

A full-size car may have a range well over 300 miles, I suspect. (Would someone with a 300+ range chime in?) Suburbans certainly get 600 miles, but they have bigger tanks. (A 30 gallon tank on more recent ones, which get 20 mpg, and a 40 gallon tank on the older ones, which get slightly less.)

Re:300-mile range? (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602223)

1986 Taurus 3.0 L V6 with 18 Gallon tank had a real-world highway range of over 500 miles.

Filled up in Phoenix and drive it home to Orange County, CA, then didn't bother to fill for a few days.

300 miles is piss-poor range for a mid-size sedan.

Re:300-mile range? (1, Informative)

johnw (3725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602403)

My Peugeot 405 Estate gets over 600 miles from a tank - over 700 if you're on a long run. Admittedly it doesn't use anything as outmoded as petrol.

Re:300-mile range? (1)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602285)

My '96 Toyota T100 regularly gets 325+ miles per tank. But that's 21 gallons worth.

'Though, I'd rather get 325+ on a third of that at the very least.

Re:300-mile range? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602429)

What do you Americans drive? I can easily get 600 (372 miles) km from 40 litres (10.5 US Gallons). If I drive like a maniac I might only get 400, if I drive *really* carefully I can get almost 800 km (497 miles).

And my car isn't even considered hugely fuel efficient by Australian standards.

Re:300-mile range? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602503)

My '96 Toyota T100...

That's nothing. I had my T1000 imitate you, then post comments on slashdot. Hah!

Re:300-mile range? (1)

captnbmoore (911895) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602435)

I squeezed 900 miles out of a ford excursion on 1 44 gal tank.

2 Years (1)

x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602113)

One problem I see with the 2 year prediction is that it just doesn't give people enough time to transition from gas powered cars to half-gas-half-electric cars (Prius) to electric cars. People will still drive their gas powered cars well into the next 20-30 years and so to say "I predict a mass exodus" is to predict that in two years the global economy will not only have turned around but created enough wealth that banks can lend out 40-50,000 per person to guy buy their new shiny Toyota Batterius.

People will drive their cars and people will eventually switch but 2 years is MUCH too soon to think that we can start tearing down gas stations.

Re:2 Years (2, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602217)

Many people don't need 150 mile/200 Km range, and can start the switch petrol --> electric right away. I also don't see much need for a hybrid if you have 300-mile/500 Km electric cars. especially if there are battery-switch stations. You have also to realize that electricity costs less per mile/Km than petrol.

Re:2 Years (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602231)

The summary was pretty misleading, the two year time frame is just for a feasability study fta: "IBM estimates that it will take two years to determine if the goals of The Battery 500 Project can be met with lithium-air battery technology." They may abandon it or we may see multiple generations before getting something usable like we have with flash drives. Whatever the case there is no 'mass exodus' coming any time soon, there will be plenty of time to write off the gasoline infrastructure

Re:2 Years (1)

crispytwo (1144275) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602267)

2 years is enough for people to buy their next car - that goes farther - as an electric, and forget about the buying the gasoline ones.

Although cars can last 20-30 years or more, the average is around 10-15. If 2 years puts these batteries into cars, AND they're cheap, then we can calculate that in 17 years, gasoline cars will be an oddity or rarity... perhaps getting gas will be something specialized, like for enthusiasts.

Perhaps mass exodus isn't all that unreal... to have a complete change over of ubiquitous technology within 2 decades is actually pretty impressive... replacing 1 billion cars in 20 years... that means 50 million electric cars a year for the next 20 years... and in 15 years, the first electrics will be replaced, if not sooner, making that number bigger. (In 2000, the global production was 41 million per year)

I think I see an investment future!

Re:2 Years (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602369)

Replacing all of our cars as soon as this one comes out is unrealistic, but that's not what's needed for a "mass exodus". All you need for that is for the majority of new cars sold to be shiny new Toyota Batteriuses.

Re:2 Years (4, Insightful)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602399)

People will drive their cars and people will eventually switch but 2 years is MUCH too soon to think that we can start tearing down gas stations.

I expect that I'll still be driving the same car in five years, at which time it will be 30 years old.

Would I drive a new car if I could afford it? Possibly. Would it benefit me financially to do so? Probably not.

I've done some reasonably major repairs in the last couple of years - a reconditioned cylinder head, a wheel bearing, the distributor - but I've still spent far less in higher fuel consumption and those repairs than I'd have spent in interest on a loan and lost in depreciation on a newer vehicle.

Yeah, it'd be nice to have a lower carbon footprint from a more fuel-efficient hybrid. It'd be even nicer to have a slightly lower carbon footprint from an all-electric vehicle (we use brown coal for most of our electricity in my corner of Australia), and even better once our Illustrious Leaders convince the Great Unwashed to let us go nuclear. Trouble is, for all intents and purposes we're a single-income household (one adult is a disability pensioner - car, diesel spill, lamp post) with two kids and all the expenses that go with that. If it's a choice between environmental righteousness and actually maintaining a functional household, the household wins. Even on purely financial terms, without using my family as a rationalisation, keeping my old car going wins.

Re:2 Years (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602455)

Learn to read. They say the new battery type is expected to be completed in 2 years. Following that there will be a mass exodus. They never give a time-line for the exodus itself.

Prius shaped (1)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602117)

I predict the electric car produced with this battery will look like a Prius, since it has an excellent coefficient of drag, so good, Honda chose to copy it for the new insight.

Batteries are history (0, Troll)

MickyJ (188652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602119)

Battery powered cars will never become popular. Who wants to wait hours (or even tens of minutes) to recharge a battery? Hydrogen powered cars are the future, not battery powered cars. Honda have already created a car that runs off hydrogen: http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity/ [honda.com]

Re:Batteries are history (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602131)

I spend all night charging my mobile phone. Its such a pain, sitting there and waiting for it to finish.

Re:Batteries are history (2, Funny)

MickyJ (188652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602171)

"Yes dear, the battery in the car is flat, I've just got to wait an hour for it to charge, then I'll be on my way home..."

Re:Batteries are history (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602215)

"Yes dear, the battery in the car is flat, I've just got to wait an hour for it to charge, then I'll be on my way home..."

Sure, why not? Still better than walking.

Re:Batteries are history (1)

boethius78 (1002975) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602491)

Where can I buy one?

Re:Batteries are history (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602191)

Yea, and when you wake up in the middle of the night and need to take your mobile phone for a 50 mile drive because your server broke down, or you dad had a heart attack, or your kid thought someone was in her house and is scared shitless, or something, you are going to wish you could pull up to a gas pump and fill your mobile phone up in a matter of minutes and not have to worry about it.

Re:Batteries are history (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602225)

A lot of the time the phone doesn't take all night to charge and it has a usable charge most of the time anyway. Thank about all that time you can save by not going somewhere to fill your car with fuel.

Re:Batteries are history (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602359)

That's nice and all, but I carry spare batteries and have a cradle charger to charge the batteries without the phone at all.

The point is that regardless of how convenient the charging might be, there will be times when it isn't. Call it Murphy's law or whatever but it's just one of those realities.

Re:Batteries are history (1)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602309)

I spend all night charging my mobile phone. Its such a pain, sitting there and waiting for it to finish.

What about situations where lack of a quick turn-around might be more of an inconvenience - like taxi fleets, or independent taxi operators? For the fleets it's probably less of an issue, as they'll have quieter times and will probably be able to rotate some of their vehicles out during those, but the smaller operators might have a problem. If you've got a taxi (as in vehicle, rather than drivers) licence and one or a few vehicles, you'll probably want to hire other drivers to keep them on the road as much of any given day as possible - there's no 12-hour downtime while you eat and sleep, or eight-hour downtime as you sit in your office, in which to plug it in at home or at the car park. Hybrids or fuelcell vehicles are likely to be more important than battery-only vehicles in those kinds of applications until a five minute recharge to 70-80% of 500-mile battery's capacity is possible.

Re:Batteries are history (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602393)

Yeah while the "charge overnight" mode is okay for a personal commuting machine its not so good for commercial vehicles which are on the go a lot of the time. Maybe, as you suggest, different architectures will be used, so there will be less cross over between commercial and domestic applications.

Builders use commercial grade battery powered drills with multiple pluggable battery packs. Construction sites have places for charging tools. Maybe the generally short usage cycles of taxis will suit shorter range vehicles. How about a battery pack with enough charge to do one job, but with faster charging capability.
 

Re:Batteries are history (1)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602473)

Builders use commercial grade battery powered drills with multiple pluggable battery packs. Construction sites have places for charging tools. Maybe the generally short usage cycles of taxis will suit shorter range vehicles. How about a battery pack with enough charge to do one job, but with faster charging capability.

One job could be from East Melbourne to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, or it could be from Scoresby to Werribee - plus however far you drove before it, plus however far you have to drive to get to a charging station.

Interchangeable battery packs with a very short swapout time at central depot might go some way towards helping with this, but being able to take a job from one end of the city to the other and knowing that you can fill up anywhere if you need to is likely to remain important to commercial operators.

Re:Batteries are history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602137)

Hydrogen fuel cells essentially are batteries. The chemical processes that occur in a battery and a hydrogen fuel cell are largely the same.

Hydrogen Fuel Stations vs. Home Electrical Socket (1)

Louis Savain (65843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602307)

Yeah, but it is a lot easier to charge your electric car in the garage now than it is to find hydrogen for your hydrogen car.

Re:Batteries are history (2, Informative)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602175)

how about witching batteries ?
http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/13/better-place-unveils-battery-swap-station/ [nytimes.com]
that's a battery swapping station, like a fuel station, except you don't have to leave the car, and it is faster.

Re:Batteries are history (1)

fireball84513 (1632561) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602375)

my faith is still in the super capacitors. coleman claims that their electric screwdriver with "flash cell" technology can charge in 90 seconds. too bad they cant make anything that puts out more power... yet

Re:Batteries are history (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602293)

Battery powered cars will never become popular. Who wants to wait hours (or even tens of minutes) to recharge a battery? Hydrogen powered cars are the future, not battery powered cars. Honda have already created a car that runs off hydrogen: http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity/ [honda.com]

Hydrogen sounds cool and it's a great PR stunt but the physics don't work. You'll never get 500 miles out of a hydrogen car. 200 miles would be an achievement and electrics can already do that. The power density is really low for what can be stored in a car. Also storage is an issue period since hydrogen loves to leak. I've been hearing about absorption based systems since the 70s but none has really proven itself. The major problem with hydrogen is it has to be extracted and it's an net energy loss extracting it. Batteries are more efficient. It'll be tough to get hydrogen to match gas prices where as electrics are already far cheaper to operate. Fuels cells are also likely to always be more expensive than batteries so it's not a cheaper option to make the cars or the fuel. Would you still want hydrogen if it was going to cost you 50% more than electric to buy and several times as much per mile? The source for the power to extract it is a major issue. I know nuclear is supposed to save us but we've yet to deal with the waste from the last 50 years and nuclear has never provided more than 14% of the power worldwide. That means 7X the waste and uranium each year to replace existing sources. There isn't enough uranium let alone waste storage for it all. It'd take decades to ramp up and we don't have that much time left in oil reserves. The economic collapse actually bought us a few years but we need new sources in five to ten years not twenty. Wind and solar may not seem as limitless but nuclear is far from limitless it's just another finite resource that can't keep up with demand. We've got to stop trying to find one magic bullet to solve all our woes and tap different sources for more long term solutions. We have two major sources of energy currently used, stored energy like mineral energy and petroleum and solar sources which include biofuels. Wind and tide power are other sources but they need to be better tapped. Solar, wind and tide are long term solutions. Mineral sources are finite and most will soon be exhausted. Even coal won't last forever just long enough to ruin the environment. One way or the other electric is the future because even hydrogen comes from electric it's just not very practical.

Look like a fad? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602123)

It IS a fad...

My 1984 Mercedes 190 goes 600 miles on a tank (1)

huckda (398277) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602133)

...so what's this "the 300-mile range of gasoline powered cars" garbage?...

My 1977 Fiat is upwards of a 400-mile range with a tiny 12 gallon tank...(heh just pre-empting the Fiat haters...)and that's without pushing it or towing it :)

Re:My 1984 Mercedes 190 goes 600 miles on a tank (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602221)

Heck, my 'anti-suv'(hah, its damn close to one) subaru outback does 380-420~ miles a tank easy. It also may survive a crash, unlike the fiat.

Re:My 1984 Mercedes 190 goes 600 miles on a tank (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602479)

I was thinking that too. "300-mile range of gasoline powered cars" sounds like something someone with an agenda would say, especially as 300 miles would be at the lower end of range and their 500 miles for batteries would be at the higher end. To translate it "out battery pack will give you 500 miles of constant 45mph speed which is much better than the 300 miles you get out of petroleum powered vehicles when they spend all day driving in stop-start city traffic".

My Citroen C4 Diesel gets up to 1200km (~700 miles?) on a 60L tank of fuel. I'm not so familiar with the US use of the word 'gasoline', but I assume it equates to petroleum and not diesel, so maybe that's not a fair comparison (diesel has more energy per L than petroleum). My previous car - a Ford Falcon Ute could go around 700km (~450 miles?) on a 70L tank of petroleum, and that was below average and is still 50% higher than the 300 mile figure quoted in the article.

Pass this on to the editors ... (1)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602159)

AskOxford: Commonly Confused Words [askoxford.com] . I suspect most people will discover that they regularly make at least one of the mistakes in that list; I certainly did.

Re:Pass this on to the editors ... (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602497)

Perhaps they *did* use it correctly, and were referring to slave-labor in technology research. "Whose scientist is that? He's so adorable!"

As an aside, the site you link is kind of precious when it comes to mentioning North American spellings.

Already A Fad (0, Flamebait)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602161)

I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make the Toyota Prius look like a fad.

The Prius is already a fad. It's dead-end technology - over complicated, hundreds of moving parts, and not really all that effective. A Prius works by trading faster-running efficiency for slower-running efficiency - i.e. it moves the optimal efficiency point from about 55mph down to about 20mph, and adds a bit of regenerative braking. Big deal. It's still very, very inefficient. It's slightly useful if you do mostly city driving, but little use on a long run. The Prius is not what you'd call a performance car - drive it hard and it's much worse than many ordinary cars. It also has a lot of embodied energy in the form of its batteries and other exotic parts that other cars lack. That's an issue that all electric cars will have to solve too though. But by ditching the IC engine, drivetrain and so on, they already have a huge advantage in terms of weight and simplicity. The Prius is the worst of both worlds - a complicated IC engine AND all the electric paraphernalia.

The Prius is pure greenwash - its (mostly yuppy) buyers think they are saving the planet, but it doesn't stack up. It might be a slightly better option than an SUV but its time is going to be very limited. Enjoy pulling the wool over everyone's eyes while you still can, Toyota!

Re:Already A Fad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602275)

I'm surprised this got modded up. You're totally overlooking the higher-speed advantage (besides low drag) - the electric motor allows a smaller ICE, which means better economy. It's not like it gets 25mpg highway.

Prius (3, Insightful)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602165)

Well they are more of a fad/statement then anything else. You don't buy a Prius to be "green", you buy one to say "Look at me, I care about the environment". Now that may come off a bit trollish, but that certainly is the reality of the situation.

Re:Prius (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602237)

I consider myself to be green, and i concur whole-heartedly. A green person just doesn't buy a car, and if he/she does : he/she doesn't use it very much, and keeps that car for 20+ years.

Re:Prius (1)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602351)

Wonder how long Prius batteries will realistically last, especially if they don't get used often.

Re:Prius (1)

tpgp (48001) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602461)

buy a car *snip* and keeps that car for 20+ years.

According to greencars [greenercars.org]

Automobiles affect the environment in many ways. Impacts begin when a vehicle is manufactured (including the production of all the parts and materials that go into the car) and end with its scrappage in a junkyard (which can recycle many parts but also involves the disposal of many wastes). Over the life of an average motor vehicle, however, much of the environmental damage occurs during driving and is greatly associated with fuel consumption. Over the dozen or so years of a vehicle's life, nearly 90 percent of lifecycle ("cradle to grave") greenhouse gas production for a typical automobile is due to fuel consumption.

[emph mine]

There is a case to be made that replacing a car with a more fuel efficient one is a green move. I am quite sure replacing many cars younger than 20 years with a newer, more efficient model would pay for itself carbon-emissions wise after a few years. I'm not quite sure where that cut off point would be however. Perhaps someone a little more knowledgeable would care to comment?

Re:Prius (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602301)

You don't buy a Prius to be green and say "Look at me, I care about the environment". You buy a Prius so you can use the carpool lane - at least in California that's the reason.

Price. Who cares about an extra 200 miles past 300 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602179)

The reason why they don't make 500 gasoline cars is not because gasoline cars can't go that far. It's not worth the money. And that's for a few dollars worth of extra gas tank.

The problem with batteries is cost.

Could someone please summarize? (4, Funny)

greenguy (162630) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602183)

I was too distracted by "Whose Who" to absorb much after that. Of course, most of it was after that.

Combination of range *AND* charge time. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602187)

In order to replace the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine,) charge time needs to drop to less than 10 minutes. With recharging stations nearly as common as gas stations.

Batteries aren't going to do that. Supercapacitors will. (Or some yet-to-be-invented technology.)

Re:Combination of range *AND* charge time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602555)

That requirement is stricter than reality for the vast, vast majority of individuals, if we're talking 500-mile batteries here. The average commute distance, rounded up a bit for safety's sake, is still only 25 miles in the US (and shorter everywhere else). Assuming zero infrastructure change, everyone's just going to plug in when they get home after work and let it trickle charge overnight. But even if you forget several nights in a row, you won't run the batteries dry. Even averaging say 75 miles per day, that's 6 full days worth of power with some charge still left over. That's enough for damn near everyone to switch. Hell, even if you have an insane 100-mile commute, you still have enough extra capacity to cover if you forget to plug it in one night.

The real tipping point here is that a 500-mile battery allows for long trips too. At a lead-footed 85mph, you've got 5 hours and 40ish minutes of range (or a round trip with 2 hours and 50 minutes of driving each way). Fantastic. That's essentially unlimited range for a family taking a long distance trip; drive fourish hours, take an hour lunch break to let it charge, drive four more hours, let it charge while you're at a motel, repeat the next day and for however many days it takes to get where you're going. Using the 85mph leadfoot as our benchmark, that's 340 miles in 4 hours, and that puts our charging speed target at +68% in an hour. Probably more than the wall socket in my garage can handle, but a reasonable target to expect a highway rest stop charging station to do.

This may not be suited to dump trucks or fighter jets, but probably has enough energy density to handle everything smaller.

Ifs (4, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602189)

Within two years, they promise to have a new kind of battery technology in place for the 500-mile electric car. If that happens,

and the cost of the battery allows the car to be similarly priced to a gasoline car, and the charging time is reasonably short so when you run out you are not carless for 8 hours or something, and the infrastructure is in place to charge the car on the road,

then I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make the Toyota Prius look like a fad.

There, fixed that for you

500 Mile Range=Revolutionary (2, Interesting)

BBCWatcher (900486) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602195)

If battery engineers can actually increase energy storage densities to allow 500 mile range electric vehicles, there will be something of a stampede among car buyers, yes. However, one key remaining factor will be the range achievable with about a 15 minute quick charge (i.e. a stop for a Slurpie). If that range is, say, about 200 miles (40% of maximum), and assuming the economics otherwise work (i.e. battery costs and durability), we may finally see the end of the internal combustion engine in widespread automotive use.

Re:500 Mile Range=Revolutionary (1)

Sabriel (134364) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602365)

Plus what it would do for portable IT if the new battery tech scales down to phones and laptops...

Re:500 Mile Range=Revolutionary (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602529)

I believe laptop and phones batteries are scaling up to cars. In fact they are either rip offs of laptop batteries or cordless drill batteries atm. And laptop batteries learn from phones. It is hard to compete on battery tech when the industry sells 1m hybrids a year vs 1.1billion cellphones and 70m laptops.

In any case improving battery life will help make a lot of products better. I think once life gets long enough we will work on eliminating cords with wireless power so you NEVER have to think about it rather than once a day giving you even more freedom. I don't know if I'd want wireless charging tech on my car though, that s a lot of energy in the air. Mebbe an automated robotic plug underneath.

Re:500 Mile Range=Revolutionary (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602431)

I used to be super-excited for electric cars to come out. Then I realized I have no place to charge one. I park on the street, and I can't run an extension cord from my house to my car.

Maybe at some point in the future I'll have a house with a proper garage, but until then, I'll be stuck with gasoline.

Re:500 Mile Range=Revolutionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602571)

There are two problems with this scenario. The first problem with this "electric car" is that it is self-defeating, high tech game. Once circumstances get competitive for the electric vehicle some brave percentage of people (say X) will convert to the electric car. But in honor of this global warming travesty, we will have raised coal (electric recharge) prices and usage so much so the charging rate will become counterproductive. Moreover, the price of gasoline will drop by X to compensate for lower use. The electric car owner will then have a vehicle that costs more to run than those who use hydrocarbon fuels. The second problem is that greater storage densities combined with a 500 mile trip will lead the user to encounter impractical recharging times. The bigger the battery density, the greater the recharge time. Who wants to spend hours of a trip at an electric recharge station?

Doc John

Prediction (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602209)

"If that happens, then I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make the Toyota Prius look like a fad." I doubt it. Nano batteries sound expensive. Electric cars don't have much muscle (People like muscle). People don't (shouldn't, learn your lesson you fools!) run out an buy cars every 3 years. The original Prius' uptake was actually slow, and it was limited by production (I expect this would be more so). The Prius is kinda like the iPod. It wasn't always the defacto standard.

Re:Prediction (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602271)

Electric cars don't have much muscle

wrong. TGV: top speed : 574 kph (350 mph). tesla roadster : 3.9 seconds to 60mph/100kph.

Re:Prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602501)

Wrong.
Towing capacity: LOL.

Re:Prediction (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602507)

Putting aside the fact that the TGV doesn't run on batteries, are you suggesting that because the Tesla roadster has enough "muscle" to do 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, a tractor trailer, cargo van, or heavy-duty pickup equipped with a comparable number of lithium-ion batteries will perform similarly?

Well I wish them luck (2, Insightful)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602211)

Electric transportation is humanity's next (and very important) step in reducing CO2 emissions. It has to happen. It will happen. But I think this (non)story is a little optimistic.

Many great minds have been working to improve chemical energy storage devices for 50 years. It's a fantastically complex problem. We've made strides, to be sure; compare the latest commercial lithium ion polymer batteries to 80s NiCD, and the future looks bright.

But two years is a very short time period, in battery development.

Still, good luck IBM.

More bad news for your electricity bill (3, Insightful)

xiando (770382) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602245)

What will happen on the demand side of electricity when electric cars become common? Could it be that demand will quickly outgrow supply? What, oh what, will a KWH cost then? DIE, ELECTRIC CAR, DIE

Re:More bad news for your electricity bill (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602321)

the 'n-word' will become popular again like in the 50s. i mean nuclear of-course.

Re:More bad news for your electricity bill (0)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602553)

No. Electricity produces in a very efficient factory is and will always be much much cheaper than in a car. I mean if that were the case couldn't you just stick a gas generator in your house? I'm pretty sure that nuclear power will provide energy at a fraction the price and I doubt there will be and major issues over growth. This is not an issue in 1st world countries.

That said I have heard stories about corruption in the US over energy. I believe some company in California was producing rolling blackouts to increase the price or some such.[citation needed] But that doesn't have much to do with supply and demand.

Whose-Who? (2, Informative)

Macgrrl (762836) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602247)

I don't know to whom it belongs, but traditionally the directorty of notable identities is known as Who's Who [wikipedia.org] .

It's an economic/market issue not engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602311)

My cheap old Nissan Maxima has routinely gone more than 500 miles without filling up. I figure 530 to 550 is about the limit, but I haven't been brave enough to drive it to the point it's completely empty.

Yes, it definitely costs more drive a gasoline powered car 500 miles, but if you want more range get a bigger gas tank. If you have an electric car and you want more range, get a bigger battery pack. There's no fundamental limit at 300 or 500 miles; the reason cars typically don't have a 500 mile range is most likely because the market doesn't demand 500 mile range. That is, if you're building a car and can choose between an extra two inches of legroom or an extra 100 miles of range from a bigger gas tank, you're likely to sell more cars if you put in the extra legroom.

Once you have enough range, adding more doesn't help.

Of course you can also easily and quickly add additional range to a gasoline powered car by simply pouring in more gasoline. With electric vehicles, assuming you cannot charge quickly or swap battery packs, extra range might add value, but probably only as protection against getting stranded or stopping for several hours for recharge.

Electric cars with moderate battery-only range coupled to on-board generators seem like a natural solution.

http://images.slashdot.org/hc/33/7af330d71f79.jpg [slashdot.org]

300 miles??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602319)

My car can do 800km (500 miles) with 40 liters of diesel. Where did they see a car with a 300 miles range? it was in the 80's! But maybe the situation is different in the USA?

It's already been done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602343)

http://www.engadget.com/2007/12/19/stanfords-nanowire-battery-leapfrogs-li-ion/

Unless this is a continuation of Dr. Cui's research, in which case I humbly redact my comment.

685... (1)

realkiwi (23584) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602349)

... miles on a tank of diesel every two weeks.

That is what I get now and I would want more from advanced technology.

(yes it is a FIAT)

Kill 2 birds with one stone (1)

wesslen (1644543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602367)

To solve the problem of recharging such a crazy big battery system I propose a merger of the 2 "greenest" technologies. Just have a passive recharge system based on hydrogen. Fuel hydrogen tanks, easy to store and fill up and then use those hydrogen tanks to recharge the battery as you drive (preventing megawatt recharge stations). That way you get ridiculous range, 0 emissions (except water) and unless you're driving continent to continent no real urgency to fill up the tank. Synergy FTW!

Re:Kill 2 birds with one stone (1)

Hyvtti (530561) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602439)

Producing hydrogen is not a very efficient or emission free process, whichever way it is done. Either you use natural gas, which is not very sustainable, or you use electricity, with poor efficiency.

No thanks (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602373)

300 miles is needlessly far for a city car, and still not long enough for long trips.

If they can make such dense batteries, I'd rather have 50 mile range with 1/6 the battery weight / cost. No use dragging around excess batteries all the time.

Re:No thanks (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602427)

No use dragging around excess batteries all the time.

Isn't it faster to charge a larger battery to partial capacity than a smaller one to full? Could make a difference to your routine, especially if you opt for a small battery and therefore end up charging it more often.

it will be good if i could afford those.. (1)

cjzlducls (1643807) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602381)

i think this is just for the high classes, when will i drive or have the car like this? when im 80? i can't even handle the battery that's in my car:(

solar cars? (1, Interesting)

fireball84513 (1632561) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602441)

maybe we could incorporate this into that plan to make solar panel roads. cars built with big antennas that scrape along a metal wire above and a metal wheel that runs along the conductive yet somehow transparent material below. everyone will want fords new trollymobile and all of our energy problems will be solved!

Strap your Buick to the backyard windmill.... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602475)

We can have batteries that are good for 10000 miles per charge and charge in 5 minutes, and that truly would be great, but that is not enough to make electric cars a mainstream technology. The real questions is, where will the energy come from? What energy source will be used to generate all of that additional electricity that our power grids will require? In North America we already have important segments of the power grid that are under supplied during peak load. Rolling blackouts are occasionally experienced. There is no capacity in the system for this.

The original poster states, "Within two years, they promise to have a new kind of battery technology in place for the 500-mile electric car. If that happens, then I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make the Toyota Prius look like a fad."

This is simply impossible... without first figuring out how to generate huge amounts of additional cheap electricity.

Oil is an incredible substance. It is abundant ( which is why we can use rediculous amounts of it ) and very energy dense.

Creating a better battery is and exercise in developing an energy storage solution. We are talking about a battery with a high enough energy density to take us 500 miles on a charge. Thats nice but not nearly a game changer. This addresses the "energy density" problem, but not the bigger "energy supply" problem. In order to have a "mass exodus from gasoline", we have to find another source of cheap abundant energy first.

To get us all into electric cars we would need to generate much more electricity. We could:

- burn more natural gas or coal. In North America we burn copious amounts of that already to generate electricity. But then again,I'll stick with my gasoline engine if its going to come to that. As a bonus, in this case it is more wasteful to power our electric cars this way. We would be better of fueling our cars directly with natural gas. We would save the energy lost converting to electricity. Coal....could be complicated.

- pepper the world with renewable energy generation projects. I sure hope we do this. I'm pretty sure we will, but it will take time and a very large investment. Germany is WAY ahead of everyone else on this and still, they only hope to realize a goal of 45 percent renewable energy in Germany's total energy mix by 2050, and they don't think that will be possible without major conservation efforts. So, don't strap your buick to the backyard windmill just yet.

- innovate - find new power sources. I hope we do this too. Although the next big breakthrough could happen tomorrow, this will probably also take a lot of time and money.

Oil is an incredible substance. It is very abundant ( which is why we can use rediculous amounts of it ) and very energy dense. Replacing it will be a big challenge.

By the way, we already have an energy storage soltion that has a far greater energy density that of gasoline....hydrogen. Hydrogen is just like a battery. It is an energy storage medium (a very good one too) but not a source of energy. There is no freely available source hydrogen. Like electricity, we have to create it using some other source of energy.

I think you mean... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29602535)

Consortium members read like a Whose-Who in technology research...

I think you mean Whose-Whom.

Recharge time is more important (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602551)

The range of electric cars is only a major issue because it takes a long time to recharge them (and because there isn't a publicly available infrastructure to recharge away from home, but that is a technically easier problem.) If recharging away from home is very slow and/or difficult, then whether the range is 200 miles or 500 won't have a huge effect on demand: if you believe you'll want to take trips longer than the battery range, you won't buy one as your primary car. If you expect to take trips over 200 miles, chances are fairly good you also expect to take trips over 500 miles.

If easy recharge is available, a 200 mile range is also not a big deal: you want to take a break from driving that often anyhow, and extra time on long trips will more than be made up for by time saved by recharging at home instead of going to a petrol station to refuel. (Note: the alternative range of 200 miles is just a guess on my part.)

Conclusion: long range is nice to have, but is not make-or-break for electric cars, so long as you have enough to drive around town.

Changing the topic, the article is about using lithium air batteries with the air contact area made very high by nanoscale structure. I'd expect this to require some serious air filtering to avoid gumming up that nanoscale structure with particulates.

Finally, lithium-air batteries might be safer. A (charged) standard battery needs to have an oxidizing agent and a reducing agent in close proximity to each other (a bit like a rocket) whereas the air battery only holds a reducing agent (like a standard fuel tank). In any catastrophic failure, the energy release rate will be limited by access to air (i.e. it will burn, like petrol does.) (Any concentrated source of easily available energy will have dangers almost by definition.)

Whats in it for the average joe (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602559)

As a 9-5 working stiff what will this car offer me if its costs 20-30K CDN when I can get tons of compact used cars for 2-4K that get 30mpg+ and this still leaves me with $15-25K+ for gas and car maintenance which I'd be hard pressed to use up for years and years.

Say I take my '74 BMW 2002 and say it costs me $200 per month to drive to work and back I'd be spending $2400 per year on gas which still leaves me tons of leeway for car maintenance costs and gas price inflation. Now substitute a 1995+ Honda Civic for my BMW and my maintenance costs go down even further. So unless all electric cars make a big fast difference in our average working joes life I don't see that huge amount of people dropping their daily drivers.

Now if they can get me that kind of electric battery millage for my 88 Bronco with 35" mudders I'm game for an electric Bronco conversion.

Hate to say it but... (1)

MikShapi (681808) | more than 4 years ago | (#29602565)

The exodus [betterplace.com] is already here [cnet.com.au] .

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