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Nanostructured Li-ion Batteries for Electric Cars

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the total-overkill-but-totally-appreciated dept.

Power 153

schliz writes "Researchers at the Delft University of Technology are developing nanostructured batteries that are expected to deliver more usage between charges, and shorter charge/discharge times, to mobile consumers within the next five years. The batteries will improve electric and hybrid vehicles, researchers say."

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153 comments

The first of many stories (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | about 7 years ago | (#18685705)

Battery technology will experience a sort of Moore's Law with the demand for hybrid and all-electric vehicles. This is just one of the first stories.

I'm always a bit skeptical of such items till I understand how likely it is to cause a fire in my garage while I'm sleeping or when accelerating away from a stop light. New tech is great, but means not a lot till tested in the real world.

With battery technology, the higher the density, the higher the chances of uncontrolled energy release. When it's safe and fairly cheap, then I'll be really interested.

Re:The first of many stories (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | about 7 years ago | (#18685817)

Safety is only one part of the Li-ion chemistry equation. There's also cost, lifespan (which tends to be short), and energy content. There are many variants out there that promise some, but not all, of those. Get all four in one battery, and you've got a winner.

Re:The first of many stories (3, Funny)

MarkRose (820682) | about 7 years ago | (#18685967)

Yeah, I hear those Lion batteries require a lot of mametenance. I surprised the Chrysler Prowler isn't Lion powered. Though you can be sure owners of such cars will take a lot of pride in them. They don't call you King of the concrete jungle for nothing!

Re:The first of many stories (4, Informative)

KnightMB (823876) | about 7 years ago | (#18686069)

No more maintenance that any other battery. If you want to get some feedback from people that are already using these, check out this electric vehicle forum. http://endless-sphere.com/forums/ [endless-sphere.com] I think they are already ahead of what most think is possible with electric vehicle transportation.

Re:The first of many stories (3, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 7 years ago | (#18685841)

Battery technology will experience a sort of Moore's Law with the demand for hybrid and all-electric vehicles. This is just one of the first stories.

Probably not. Ultra-capacitors [maxwell.com] will be hugely superior to batteries; more charge / recharge cycles by orders of magnitude, much higher current capabilities on both charge and discharge, environmentally friendly. They're just a little bit below total battery energy levels on a by weight / volume comparison right now. If and when they cross that line, batteries will become old-tech for applications like cars.

Re:The first of many stories (3, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about 7 years ago | (#18685941)

I will agree that there is a glimmer of hope for ultra-capacitors, but there are also some huge technical and engineering problems that will have to be overcome. They certainly don't have the energy density of batteries, and the largest problem with them is that the discharge from an ultra-capacitor is hard to deal with using normal electronics. It can be compensated for, but it isn't easy.

I also don't buy the "environmentally friendly" nature of them as well. While they may be better than NiCd batteries or the more traditional Lead-H2SO4 batteries in terms of what they will do to the environment, you can't call them a perfect solution either. The metals used in the construction of these types of capacitors have their own kind of impact on the environment just like any manufactured product.

If a "Moore's Law" were to apply to battery capacity, instead of the (presumed) 18 month half-life of procesor density and speed, it will be more like 15-20 years instead for improved energy density. While not something to ignore, you don't have to run out and buy a new battery pack every year just to keep up with changes in the battery industry. This is very hard science, using multiple meanings of that term.

Re:The first of many stories (1)

polar red (215081) | about 7 years ago | (#18686021)

The metals used in the construction of these types of capacitors have their own kind of impact on the environment just like any manufactured product.
RECYCLE !! Jeezes ...

Re:I think you missed his point entirely... (1)

reezle (239894) | about 7 years ago | (#18686397)

The Impact on the environment is in processing/refining materials to get to the desired end product.
Recycle all of the silicon you want. You're still making a heck of an impact turning raw materials into a purified silicon wafer. Same goes with any highly processed item. Energy into fabrication of materials = harm to the environment in general... I think this is what he meant by impact from the specialized metals in these caps.

Re:I think you missed his point entirely... (2, Interesting)

polar red (215081) | about 7 years ago | (#18686503)

I agree partly, i give you that extracting the raw materials can be very harmful, but the energy required shouldn't be harmful. Still, we've thrown so much material away now, should we still be short on materials ? I think much money is to be made by 'harvesting' landfills.

Re:The first of many stories (5, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 7 years ago | (#18686113)

They [ultracaps] certainly don't have the energy density of batteries

Actually, they're getting very close, and right now, there are projects projecting power densities three orders of magnitude higher than batteries, in the 100 KW/kg range. [mit.edu] So I don't think the current state of affairs (batteries > ultracaps) is going to obtain for very much longer.

and the largest problem with them is that the discharge from an ultra-capacitor is hard to deal with using normal electronics. It can be compensated for, but it isn't easy.

What? ultracaps have the same discharge curve as any capacitor does; the voltage drops very smoothly as the energy in the cap is dispensed. "Dealing with it" is nothing tricky at all, the technology has been in place for this for literally decades. Modern switching power supplies are *very* efficient at creating constant voltage outputs from all manner of raggedy inputs across a wide range of input voltages, if and when required. They can be engineered to be reliable and very long lasting. This is simply a non-problem. Also, ultracaps can absorb energy (for example, from regenerative braking) at a much higher rate, leading to less wasted energy. We have all manner of high-current switching devices with such low on-resistances these days as to be utterly amazing to an old-timer like me.

I also don't buy the "environmentally friendly" nature of them as well. While they may be better than NiCd batteries or the more traditional Lead-H2SO4 batteries in terms of what they will do to the environment, you can't call them a perfect solution either. The metals used in the construction of these types of capacitors have their own kind of impact on the environment just like any manufactured product.

You're just hand-waving here. Recycling is one issue, toxicity is another, corrosion is another, and all of them are far less critical for ultracaps - not to mention that the lifetime of an ultracap is so much longer (up to a quarter of a milling charge/discharge cycles, or more) than that of a battery, so it is that much more seldom that recycling becomes an issue. It really isn't reasonable to say that ultracaps pose the same kind of environmental issues that batteries do. They don't. Perfect? No. But what is?

If a "Moore's Law" were to apply to battery capacity, instead of the (presumed) 18 month half-life of procesor density and speed, it will be more like 15-20 years instead for improved energy density.

Yes, but (a) ultracaps aren't batteries at all, and (b) ultracaps are increasing in capacity at a prodigious rate, where batteries are not. Mind you, they're coming from behind, but they're a brand new technology with tons of new research driving the improvements, while batteries are not new and many, many avenues have been tried and abandoned for increasing battery capacity for exactly the reason you cite: It is hard to improve the current battery designs.

Re:The first of many stories (3, Insightful)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | about 7 years ago | (#18686141)

Right, but you omitted the important stat from your link: their projected energy density is only 60Wh/kg, only half that of a Li-ion battery. Who really cares if the power density is much greater? Ok, so you can get an output of 100kW/kg from your ultracapacitor, but at that rate it will discharge in just over 2 seconds/kg. This is surely useful for some applications, but not for most things we currently use batteries for.

Re:The first of many stories (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 7 years ago | (#18686183)

I consider 1/2 lion capacity to be a very significant line in the sand; as I said, there is much going on in the field, and it is both new and expanding rapidly. My original post was clear: I said "probably", and I meant it. We're not there yet. But we certainly aren't "huge problems", as you characterize them. We're in the same zone, same order of magnitude, and honestly, I have every expectation that ultracaps will come out on top. They're just too much better on too many fronts, and they're so close in power to batteries now, that it seems more than reasonable to expect them to be right there in just a few years, perhaps 3 to 5. Just my opinion.

Re:The first of many stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686895)

Ultracap/battery combo would allow for fast energy transfer and long term storage.

It could work like this:

When you get to recharging station, you store most of charge in ultracap, fast, and off you go. Part of energy in capacitor is used for traction, part is being "ingested" into battery charging it optimally slowly by charger circuit. Capacitor is also used to accept regenerated electricity inrush from breaking, with smaller losses then those of instant charging of main battery. When your main battery is empty-ish, you stop at charging stations every so often, as soon as you have some "free space" in your capacitor. Once the battery is full, you can have full nominal driving autonomy.

IANA chemical technologist but IMHO if battery and ultracap technology could be integrated on basic construction level (so that electrodes are capacitor plates), that would probably be the best, most compact solution. However, there are contradicted goals: capacitor plates need to be well isolated from electrolyte (usually by thin layer of non-conductive chemical compound made by reaction of plate metal and electrolyte... hmmm, can same electrolyte be used for capacitor and battery then?), while in good battery we need as much plate surface in contact with electrolyte as possible. Perhaps a construction with three terminals (one being both cap plate and battery electrode and other two just one of it each) could be made?

The measure of charge would be the ratio of voltage to rate of voltage "sinking" on unit terminals - the "thirst" of battery.

Re:The first of many stories (1)

Skraeling2 (1018078) | about 7 years ago | (#18687929)

Why not both? ultra capacitors for regenerative braking and quick charges, batteries for the long haul. You'll be able to go as far as the higher-density batteries will let you, and wont loose as much energy at stop-streets and the like with the ultra-capacitor. Also if you got into a spot of trouble at low battery you could quick charge the capacitor for a few miles of range. Of course equal amounts of both will weigh too much but there should be an optimum.

6wh/KG for ultracaps vs 120wh/KG for lithium. (1)

guidryp (702488) | about 7 years ago | (#18688899)

The actual stored energy in Lithium is currently 20 TIMES greater by your own link.

Don't confuse power density with energy density. Power density is how fast you can discharge and almost a non-issue with any technology.

Energy density is how much actual energy you have stored and is the key factor, that ultracaps are behind on by an order of magnitude (20 times currently).

If all the theoretical projections make it into practice ultracaps will only halfway catch up with lithiums garden variety lithiums that exist today.

Pipe dream until that happens.

Re:The first of many stories (1)

FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) | about 7 years ago | (#18687795)

Wouldn't A large part of the environmentally-friendliness (TM) of the ultra-caps be the fact that they won't wear out nearly as fast as batteries, and be more efficient to charge and discharge (less heat by-product)?

Re:The first of many stories (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 7 years ago | (#18685879)

Batteries are nothing more than a controlled bomb. The difference being a battery releases energy over a much longer period of time. However, both a battery and a bomb may contain the same energy density.

I'm with you, these high density batteries give me the creeps.

Re:The first of many stories (3, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | about 7 years ago | (#18686027)

Batteries are nothing more than a controlled bomb.
And this is different from petrol how ?

Re:The first of many stories (3, Interesting)

trentblase (717954) | about 7 years ago | (#18686603)

Bombs are generally devastating because they release energy quickly, not because they have a high energy density. For instance, a ton of TNT has around 4,000 MJ, and a ton of coal is around 30,000 MJ. Compare to Li-ion at 500 MJ/ton.

Re:The first of many stories (4, Insightful)

ThosLives (686517) | about 7 years ago | (#18686955)

Yeah, sounds great, until you realize that gasoline (petrol) has 45 MJ per KILOGRAM - the same order of magnitude as coal, 10 times as much as TNT, and over 80 times that of the best batteries.

The reason? Things like coal and gasoline don't carry a heavy oxidizer with them. "Air-breathing" fuels will always be better than "rocket" type fuels for transportation because of the weight and storage expense of carrying both the oxidizer and the fuel on the vehicle. That's a substantial feature for "battery-like" technology to overcome for everyone who is not a short-distance commuter.

Re:The first of many stories (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 7 years ago | (#18685885)

"Battery technology will experience a sort of Moore's Law with the demand for hybrid and all-electric vehicles. This is just one of the first stories."

That was a common sentiment back in the early 90's when portable devices started to take off in a big way. It proved to be a stubborn problem that tended to ignore Moore's regulations and follow Murphy's code of natural conduct. After Murphy turned up the pundits started hyping fuel cells, that also proved to be a stubborn problem with no respect for Moore.

Given the huge effort that has gone into looking at batteries over the last few decades, I don't think we can expect to see a battery revolution any time soon.

Re:The first of many stories (1)

iammaxus (683241) | about 7 years ago | (#18685963)

With battery technology, the higher the density, the higher the chances of uncontrolled energy release. When it's safe and fairly cheap, then I'll be really interested.

You know what has a really high energy density (on the order of 50-100 times [wikipedia.org] that of a Li-ion battery)? Gasoline.

Re:The first of many stories (1)

polar red (215081) | about 7 years ago | (#18686049)

yes, but gasoline tends to prevent you being really independent. Put up some solar cells, a wind-turbine or whatever, use some batteries for your electric car ... and nobody takes your ability to drive away !

Re:The first of many stories (2, Funny)

Jedi Alec (258881) | about 7 years ago | (#18686117)

yes, but gasoline tends to prevent you being really independent. Put up some solar cells, a wind-turbine or whatever, use some batteries for your electric car ... and nobody takes your ability to drive away !

Driving back, however... :-)

Super capacitors (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 years ago | (#18686243)

Personally, I am betting that the UltraCacpacitors will kill the batteries. Two that I am intrigued with are EEStor and MIT. EEStor is horribly sketchy, but backed by KliensPerkins (a major silicon valley VC). They have a long history of backing some major players. In addition, MIT's work appears headed in the right direction. [peswiki.com] The advantage of all this, is that this would allow home owners to recharge their cars at night and then use these cars either for driving OR for powering the home. This would give us the electrical storage capacity that we need for handling alternative power.

Re:The first of many stories (1)

Sj0 (472011) | about 7 years ago | (#18687103)

I agree with you, but the other side of the coin is that we really need batteries with higher energy density before electric cars actually become practical. Sure, you can propel a vehicle forward for a distance right now, but Paying 50k for a car whose batteries will only last 2 years, whose distance won't get a lot of people to the next town, and which is completely incapable of being refuelled quickly simply isn't practical.

And before anyone gives me any "You could have replacable battery packs! You could have it so you just replace the packs at the gas station and they throw out the used ones!" pipe dreams, that'd need way more brand new infastructure than converting to most other brand new fuels. Some of the gas station attendants I've met are hardasses, but very few of them could swap out 500 pounds of batteries without special equipment to take it out of storage to the vehicle, take out the old battery, install the new battery, then take the old battery back to storage. Then there's the question of who, exactly, pays the $20,000 to replace a battery pack when it dies. The gas station? Good luck with your $30,000 fuel-ups.

Have you looked into flywheel energy storage tech? I've only looked briefly, but it seems that you can store an awful lot of energy in them, they pretty much remain capable of holding the same charge for about 10 years, and modern designs are relatively safe considering the energy stored. It seems to me the most compatible energy storage tech for EVs.

Lithium-ion is Adequate (3, Interesting)

Zobeid (314469) | about 7 years ago | (#18687497)

I have to disagree with your leading statement. The energy density of lithium-ion batteries today is adequate for making practical electric cars. Of course more is always better, and I'm optimistic that it can be improved further -- but energy density is no longer the big sticking point that it was.

The little two-seat Tesla Roadster with a 250-mile range has been demonstrated, and multiple companies are now working on more practical four-door cars which can have a 200-mile driving range. This doesn't require any breakthroughs, and it will get you "to the next town" with very few exceptions.

The critical areas that need improvement are cost and service life. Tesla Motors are projecting a life span of five years or 100,000 miles for their carefully managed battery pack. That's much better than the two years you stated. I think with the research that is ongoing, service life will further improve over the next several years. (And GM are betting on this happening to make their Chevy Volt concept workable.)

I think the requirement that cars be "refueled quickly" is overstated. The longer the range becomes, the less you need to refuel or recharge it quickly. With a dependable 200-mile driving range between charges, and the ability to recharge overnight at home, most people won't need to stop at a charging station mid-trip all that often. If you can get the range up to about 500 miles, then rapid charging would become moot for the great majority of people. (At least speaking for myself, I don't think I've ever driven more than 300 miles in a day's time, and I wouldn't want to drive more than 500 in a day if I could possibly avoid it.)

I have looked into flywheel storage technology. It looked promising several years ago, but battery technology advanced faster and has left flywheels behind. Notable problems you have with flywheels are: energy density, energy losses while the flywheel is spinning idle, and safety concerns about its failure modes.

Re:The first of many stories (1)

simm1701 (835424) | about 7 years ago | (#18687931)

Ok I'll bite on the fly wheel idea....

What kind of fly wheel are you talking about? Scale? Materials? Stored in vacuum? What kind of mass? Which plane does it spin in? How does it cope with effects of the coreolis forces?

And of course you know it would have to be stationary? Having a fly wheel with any decent level of energy storage would also have a huge resistance against turning!!

Just to throw some numbers in the air... lets say you had a 0.2m thick 1m radius disk of lead, it would weigh approximately 7000kg, spinning it would store, lets say it is spinning at 120rpm (pretty fast given how heavy this thing is) its going to store about 550KJ. However you have the aditional loss of air resistance and friction on the axle which as it wears will get worse.

What else can you do with 7000kg? Well if you heat that much water by 50 degrees C and insulate it well you could store 1.5MJ. Still you have the factor of loss.

If you pumped 7000Kg of water up to the top floor of your house - lets say 6 meters up, it would store 420KJ of potential energy - and no real worry of loss unless your tank leaks.

So fly wheels don't seem to stack up that great...

Unless you are talking about some serious speed... lets say you can get it running with minimal friction and 3600rpm - thats only double what some washing machines do on the spin cycle. Now you are talking in the region of 125MJ of stored energy... but your losses due to friction and air resistances also increase, not to mention the complexity of gearing a motor to feed energy into it and a generator to extract energy from it. Oh and to give that more useful numbers, 125MJ is about 35KWh, somewhat less than the average household daily usage...

Maybe you could get it going faster than that without significant losses - I don't know - obviously energy stored would quadruple when you double the rotation rate so it has got potential... if you have any links to research I'd be interested in seeing it!

Re:The first of many stories (1)

StressedEd (308123) | about 7 years ago | (#18688323)

lets say it is spinning at 120rpm (pretty fast given how heavy this thing is)

As you elude to, the energy of a flywheel is (to a good approximation): $1/2 I \omega^2$ where I is the moment of inertia (not the mass) and omega the angular speed. The mass can be surprisingly low, if it's all concentrated away from the axis of rotation. With modern materials and engineering one can obtain very high angular speeds.

There's an overview of this technology with links in the Wikipedia article on flywheel energy storage [wikipedia.org]. It's not a new idea, having been used in the 50s to power busses in Switzerland, but with modern material technology it will doubtless undergo a resurgence.

Re:The first of many stories (2, Insightful)

guanxi (216397) | about 7 years ago | (#18688367)

Battery technology will experience a sort of Moore's Law with the demand for hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

Demand helps, but physics (and return on investment) has limits. If technological progress (like we experienced with semiconductors) depended only on demand, then the energy market would have experienced a revolution long ago. Instead, we're still using fossil fuels and copper wire -- technologies that are at least a century old. We also still have cancer, AIDS, people dying of the flu, I can still hear my neighbor hammering, and my mail client interface still sucks.

I read an historian of science (can't remember which one) who pointed out that, contrary to popular belief, we can't create technological revolutions on demand, simply by applying resources like money and talent. His example was wireless energy distribution, to rid ourselves of the ridiculous distribution infrastructure of wires connecting every room in every building and batteries -- if it could be done, it would have been long ago. Think of it this way (and maybe this would make a good 'ask Slashdot') -- If we could choose the next technological revolution, what would it be? Free energy? Teleportation? Photosynthesis for humans (for nutrition)? Brain-wave interfaces? Reliable lie detectors? ... etc.

Patented to Death? (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#18685819)

Will this patent monopoly on the new tech be used to kill it, just like NiMH batteries were prevented from powering cars [google.com] by the car and oil corporations?

Re:Patented to Death? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18685933)

Absolutely! Well put Doc. The battery component, both in safety and charge time, in electric cars was in no way actually associated with their "mass market failure". The technology is there. Unfortunately the will to sell cheap safe electric cars in the face of raging oil profits and overpriced replacement part costs is not.

Be Well

N

Re:Patented to Death? (1)

*weasel (174362) | about 7 years ago | (#18688835)

Is Chevron really the problem?

Or is it the 30-80 Wh/kg?
And the long recharge times.
And the cold weather performance. (specifically: the lack thereof)

But hey: NiMH's cheap, right?
Which probably explains why so many hybrids have NiMH battery packs. (Toyota Prius, Saturn Aura, etc)

So I'm not sure how you can intimate that Chevron is suppressing NiMH technology in cars, when it's already there in all the applications that don't rely solely upon the battery pack. (i.e. hybrids)

Battery Life? (1)

Eddi3 (1046882) | about 7 years ago | (#18685825)

"Researchers at the Delft University of Technology are developing nanostructured batteries that are expected to deliver more usage between charges, and shorter charge/discharge times"

Doesn't that mean the battery life has gone down? I thought that was a bad thing. Can someone please explain?

Re:Battery Life? (2, Informative)

andy_t_roo (912592) | about 7 years ago | (#18685857)

it means that you can pull the energy out of the battery faster - "expected to deliver more usage between charges" would seem to indicate that actually the capacity is significantly increased.

Re:Battery Life? (3, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 7 years ago | (#18685869)

Doesn't that mean the battery life has gone down

It could mean that, but that isn't what is meant here. It can also mean that the battery can take in higher current during charge cycles and so reach the same state of charge sooner, and that the battery can release more current without failing or overheating due to its internal resistance, therefore making more energy available to the motors on demand - though yes, this latter capability does mean that the battery will be discharged sooner, given the same capacity battery, it is still better - because it can do what the old battery did (release at the old rate of charge) if that is what you want - but it can also give you more of a power surge for passing, towing, accelerating, getting out of (or into) trouble, etc.

Also, because a higher safe rate of discharge usually implies a lower internal resistance, it means that the battery wastes less energy when delivering current to a client device - the more internal resistance a battery has, the more heat is generated as a direct power loss, so most higher-current capable batteries tend to be a little better in this regard.

Re:Battery Life? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18685873)

Doesn't that mean the battery life has gone down? I thought that was a bad thing. Can someone please explain?
"battery life" is measured in ampere-hours (Ah) and is the measure of how many hours it'd take to discharge a fully charged battery at a current draw of 1A. So a battery with 20Ah capacity will allow 20 hours of use at a current draw of 1A. Note that this is never an accurate measurement as voltage levels of the battery fluctuate depending on charge level and different levels of current draw will result in different battery capacities. A 20Ah battery discharged at 1A will provide more energy than the same battery discharged at 20A.

Batteries have internal resistance which limits their current handling ability, so some types of batteries (NiMH for example) can not sustain currents of more than 2x the capacity of the battery (an 1800mAh NiMH AA battery shouldn't be discharged at more than ~3.6A). Higher current draw = higher battery temperatures = bad.

This also affects charging time, as you are again limited by battery temperature. You can't charge a battery in 1 minute at 50A because of the internal resistance of the battery. You CAN charge capacitors very quickly at very high currents, because their resistance is extremely low.

Re:Battery Life? (1)

Anpheus (908711) | about 7 years ago | (#18685923)

Perhaps they're saying that they can control how much current is discharged, and thus these new batteries may be more suitable for applications which may require short bursts of very high current without requiring many batteries in parallel. Anything that requires a spark could fall under this category.

Also, electric motors are limited by the voltage that goes into them, if these new batteries have a higher discharge rates, we could see more stories about electric cars beating gasoline equivalents in time trials.

it's explosively fast (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | about 7 years ago | (#18685849)

batteries that are expected to deliver more usage between charges, and shorter charge/discharge times

I believe Sony has perfected the battery with the absolute fastest discharge time. I don't see how this can compete.

Re:it's explosively fast (2, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | about 7 years ago | (#18686515)

Actually they have reduced the discharge time to milliseconds. That's the good news, the bad news instead of rating the discharge in volts they rate them in megatons.

What's wrong with... (3, Informative)

Lord Kano (13027) | about 7 years ago | (#18685883)

Lead Acid batteries?

They have good energy density and can deliver considerable voltage for their size, and we've been using them for a very long time. It seems to me that perhaps someone should try researching different formulas for the acid and the chemistry of the plates.

Sure, they're heavy and there's always the danger of a rupture but they are good at doing what batteries are supposed to do, storing and releasing electricity.

LK

Re:What's wrong with... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18685945)

Lead-acid batteries are a lot worse in comparison...

Lead-acid batteries [wikipedia.org]
Energy/weight 30-40 Wh/kg
Energy/size 60-75 Wh/L
Power/weight 180 W/kg
Charge/discharge efficiency 70%-92%
Energy/consumer-price 7(sld)-18(fld) Wh/US$ [1]
Self-discharge rate 3%-20%/month [2]
Time durability 6 months
Cycle durability 500-800 cycles
Nominal Cell Voltage 2.0 V

Lithium-ion batteries [wikipedia.org]
Energy/weight 160 Wh/kg
Energy/size 270 Wh/L
Power/weight 1800 W/kg
Charge/discharge efficiency 99.9%[1]
Energy/consumer-price 2.8 Wh/US$
Self-discharge rate 5%-10%/month
Time durability (24-36) months
Cycle durability 1200 cycles
Nominal Cell Voltage 3.6 V

Re: (3, Interesting)

dragonquest (1003473) | about 7 years ago | (#18685953)

Lead Acid Batteries must always be stored in a charged state. If the battery is left in a discharged state, a condition known as Sulfation occurs which makes charging the battery again difficult.

Several things (4, Informative)

Flying pig (925874) | about 7 years ago | (#18686013)

The main benefit of lead acid batteries is that they are cheap to make and easy to recycle. However, they do not have very good energy density. A 110AH lead acid battery weighs about 30kg and cannot be repetitively discharged below about 70% of capacity without a severe reduction in life. At 50% discharge you are down to maybe 100 charge/discharge cycles, go very far below that and you will rapidly destroy the battery. The AH rating is about as meaningful as those "200HP" engines in US cars that turn out to have an SAE rating of 55HP.
Effectively it is about a 35AH battery with a total energy delivery of 12V * 35AH = 420WH. The equivalent LiIon batteries would weigh, I guess, around 4kg with packaging. As a result, lead acid batteries are unsuited to any automotive use except those where they can substitute for ballast, such as boats and powered wheelchairs where the batteries help lower the centre of gravity.

Quite a lot of research has gone into the lead/peroxide cycle, especially given the constant desire to make them smaller and more reliable. It hasn't been hugely successful. You can have high discharge rates and long life at the expense of much more weight and much higher cost, but the nature of the cycle itself (the production and destruction of large amounts of lead peroxide) makes it hard to design a system that can handle many charge/discharge cycles without very large and heavy storage arrays.

Re:What's wrong with... (1)

NerveGas (168686) | about 7 years ago | (#18687003)

They don't deal well with being discharged deeply, and drivers don't deal well with having to recharge every time their battery is 30% drained. Use the full rated capacity of a lead-acid battery every time, and you're going to replace it VERY soon.

You can make them somewhat more robust for that sort of operation, but it involves compromises that don't really go over well when you put them in a car.

Broken Link? (1)

Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) | about 7 years ago | (#18685889)

the link just goes the the computerworld homepage...
and doing a search on their site for the word "battery" yeilds no results...

and upon trying to click it again the site appears to have gone down...

and here I actually wanted to RTFA

Re:Broken Link? (1)

Mortiss (812218) | about 7 years ago | (#18686041)

Typical slashdot. Takes over 30 comments before someone notices that. Goes to show how many people RTFA.

Fp HOmo.H. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18685905)

arg0ed by Eric

i just hope (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | about 7 years ago | (#18685911)

i hope that these nice batteries could be available to buy retail or something like that. I have been wanting to build an electric roadster but access to good batteries is the problem.

Uh huh, right after the plugin hybrid (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#18685973)

Yep. I'll believe there are advances in hybrids happening when you can actually go to a dealer in the US and buy a plugin hybrid without having to mod it yourself.

Re:Uh huh, right after the plugin hybrid (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 7 years ago | (#18688703)

There is already one car dealer in the US that does it. OK, it's a roadster (Tesla Roadster), it is expensive (as are all roadsters and new technology) and you can just plug it in to the 110V plugs or your 220V plugs (the ones modern homes have for washing machines etc.) the range is reportedly great (100 miles/charge) but I doubt that any ol' gas station is going to let you use their electricity hookup for a few hours to charge your car on a road trip. It's great for local city driving, probably going to work, going to the club and picking up a hot girl, but not for going off to Mexico with that same girl.

electricity - alas (3, Insightful)

N3wsByt3 (758224) | about 7 years ago | (#18686025)

It's a not too well known fact that, in the beginning, a lot of things *were* actually powered by electricity, *before* something else took it over. That something else wasn't necessarily better then the batteries they'd replace, but, sadly, history is full of examples where a less good alternative wins over the market (betamax vs VHS, anyone?). Somtimes electricity did win (it replaced gas for lightening homes/streets) but sometimes, alas, it didn't.

The same was true for cars. Many would think cars were always powered by diesel/petrol, but nothing is further from the truth. In fact, there were many fuels used to drive cars when they were first developped, and electricity-driven cars were actually a rather considerable percentage of cars. But then petrol came and took it over for reasons that are unclear (it has been speculated that it might had something to do with the sound, strangely enough; it made for a more impressing 'look at me, here I am!' - not unimportant to the late-victorian elite of that time. Heck, even today half of the gadgets are bought to show off (blu-ray, HD-DVD, anyone?). In that time, battery- or oildriven cars were in fact ahead of the petrol ones, but that rapidly changed the more popular the petrol-using cars became. In a few decades, the rest was all but gone.

If that hadn't happend, it is obvious we would be FAR ahead of our current state of developement where batteries and electricity-storage is concerned (just like petrol-injection has come a long way since the 19thy century). Just imagine the state of technology now on the same scale as petrol has improved, and all what we invent now (including the nano-tubes) would probably have been developed ages ago. It would have led to efficiencies and yields we can only dream of today. And also imagine the impact it would have had on other areas; a lot less - or none at all - CO2 from cars (and maybe the petrol-industry as a whole would not have reached the peak it has today) and all the problems associated with that would not exist (maybe even les wars)! (Arguably, one would - maybe - have had a environmental problems with acids and such, from the batteries; in that respect, vegetable oil would have been best, perhaps.)

It's funny (well...) to think how one little thing in our history can lead to such huge (and possibly devastating) consequences for humanity more then a century later.

Re:electricity - alas (1)

drsquare (530038) | about 7 years ago | (#18687269)

That post is completely ridiculous.

Re:electricity - alas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18688855)

I thought it was rather interesting, really. Well, to each his own opinion. At least his post wasn't ridiculous to the point of just saying some other post was ridiculous.

Re:electricity - alas (3, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | about 7 years ago | (#18688183)

Gasoline has a far, FAR higher energy density than even the best batteries we have today, let alone what was available 100 years ago. It has nothing to do with the Victorian elite, it's to do with having a useful driving range and fast refuelling time.

Re:electricity - alas (1)

N3wsByt3 (758224) | about 7 years ago | (#18688327)

And electric motors often achieve 90% conversion efficiency over the full range of speeds and power output and can be precisely controlled.

The Victorian-elite argument was made by a historian, and I'm not completely convinced by it neither (at least, not as sole cause). It doesn't explain the vegetable oil-driven cars went away, for instance.

That said, back in the 19th century, a lot of other fuels were used to drive the first cars, and had we gone one way or another, our future might have been completely altered (probably in a good sense). And also true is the fact that, had we kept using batteries or electricity, we would have been much further with that technology than we are today.

Of course, we would be less developed in (petrol)combustion, but seen the problems these give, I wonder if that would have been such a bad thing.

Next best thing since... (0, Troll)

Yev000 (985549) | about 7 years ago | (#18686075)

Another article about a new battery technology that promises to beat everything currently on the market. When will they realise that unless its charge time is (A) the same as or close to pumping petrol into a container and (B) doesn't loose energy (or close to it) when doing nothing.

Fuel, whether it's in electrical or chemical form it is still fuel. A car does not become "greener" if it uses electricity. At the moment the likelihood that the electricity was produced by environmentally friendly means (IE not oil, not dams which destroy vast eco systems, not wind farms which kill birds) are very slim.

Currently the most efficient way to store and transfer energy for vehicles is chemical fuel of some sort that can be used in an internal combustion engine. There are diesel cars that get more MPG than hybrid cars. So why are we jumping on electricity when it is more expensive to produce (it would be cheaper for a power plant to produce hydrogen and deliver it to a petrol station than deliver the same electricity to your car) and carries with it a longer charge time (not to mention all the idle time discharging issues and being totally unusable below -15C). Then there's the issue of all the new infrastructure that needs to be put in for electric cars.

By all means develop better batteries, but please don't advertise them as replacement for liquid combustible fuel.

Re:Next best thing since... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686209)

Waterfalls kinda destroy ecosystems too, oil spills probably kill a lot more birds? At least the wind and water power have lower emissions.

Re:Next best thing since... (1)

rshimizu12 (668412) | about 7 years ago | (#18686219)

You are making the assumption that all energy is produced from combustion...!! In the short term nuclear is probably the only energy source that is capable of ramping up quickly.. Solar is a good technology, but I am not sure if there is sufficient energy production from a long ROI. The question then becomes is what price will drop cells drop to if they are produced in mass quantities. It will be hard to get consumers to adopt solar cells on a large scale when there is still a 20-30 year payback. So the government would have to step in and subsidize them until they dropped significantly in price. Another factor to consider is that a lot of home owners have borrowed to the hilt so they are unlikely to take out big loans. Another factor to consider is that interest rates are likely to rise. The more likely scenario is that corporations will adopt green energy. Personally I don't understand why natural lighting has not caught on more. The Timkin museum in San Diegohas used a skylight for years and the natural light is simply beautiful.

Re:Next best thing since... (1)

Yev000 (985549) | about 7 years ago | (#18686283)

I'm making the asumption that we will not see [nuclear] (insert other ways to produce electicity) powered cars any time soon...

As for [electric] (Read energy producing/distilling) powerplants/refinaries that produce energy and store it in liquid form (i.e. NOT electricity which IMO is not suitable for moving vehicles as per reasons stated in my previous post) for portable use/consumption in moving vehicles then yes, i am making THAT asumption.

Re:Next best thing since... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686879)

So a car powered by an electric outlet, overnight, cannot be considered nuclear? You readily accept that it might be coal/water/hydro powered by association, but literally, a car without it's own nuclear reactor isn't?

Re:Next best thing since... [parent troll?] (2, Informative)

olden (772043) | about 7 years ago | (#18686349)

...[electricity] produced by environmentally friendly means (IE not oil, not dams which destroy vast eco systems, not wind farms which kill birds)
...nor, say, solar cells, because most are sealed and won't allow poor spiders to nest in them?!?
Watch out, your computer screen is surrounded by something called reality. Common-sense may come in handy should you chose to visit it sometime.

Re:Next best thing since... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686499)

I want to take you objections one by one.
>Another article about a new battery technology that promises to beat everything currently on the market. When will they realise that unless its charge time is (A) the same as or close to pumping petrol into a container and (B) doesn't >loose energy (or close to it) when doing nothing.
Its not so much of an inconvenience to charge one's car at night-- just grab the plug and stick it in. Many electric car drivers said they like not having to find a gas station every 200 miles. No American needs rapid charging. I dont think point B is sufficiently substantial to require refutation.

>Fuel, whether it's in electrical or chemical form it is still fuel. A car does not become "greener" if it uses electricity. At the moment the likelihood that the electricity was produced by environmentally friendly means (IE not oil, not >dams which destroy vast eco systems, not wind farms which kill birds) are very slim.

This is called the long tailpipe theory. If you do the math, an electric car entirely powered by coal or oil is still far more efficient than a gasoline car. Also, your computer requires electricity too, doesn't it? Are you running out to buy a gasoline generator to power your Internet? Electricity is simply better. Either start living in a cave, or join us in the modern world.

>Currently the most efficient way to store and transfer energy for vehicles is chemical fuel of some sort that can be used in an internal combustion engine. There are diesel cars that get more MPG than hybrid cars. So why are we jumping on >electricity when it is more expensive to produce (it would be cheaper for a power plant to produce hydrogen and deliver it to a petrol station than deliver the same electricity to your car)

It is not cheaper for a power plant to produce hydrogen. Fuel cell cars and Hydrogen-ICE are far less efficient than electric cars.

>and carries with it a longer charge time (not to >mention all the idle time discharging issues and being totally unusable below -15C). Then there's the issue of all the new infrastructure that needs to be put in for electric cars.

The weather is very rarely that cold in most of the united states, and in those situations most gas cars won't start anyway (battery, anyone?). The infrastructure question is a non-issue. Most of the infrastructure already exists in the form of power lines. The government in California installed a few thousand charging stations in the mid-90s that never got used. It costed very little and required only a little maintainance, unlike any gasoline, diesel, or hydrogen refueling station. In fact, Costco installed some as a convience for its constomers... other stores would probably do that too if electric cars became popular. Worst case, you can carry around a device that will plug into a standard american outlet that will charge your car for you.

>By all means develop better batteries, but please don't advertise them as replacement for liquid combustible fuel.

No. I have the right to advocate a reasonable and educated position. Electric cars are a perfectly practical alternative, even better in some ways.

Re:Next best thing since... (2, Insightful)

Yev000 (985549) | about 7 years ago | (#18686677)

My point is simple. It takes too long to charge.

If the car is fully electric it requires A LOT of new infrastructure (which is especially problematic in big open spaces where caves are more common than your "modern world")

If the car is a hybrid it's simply less efficient than diesel at the moment. Advances in battery power will improve efficiency, but it will not remove the need for petrol.

I see nothing wrong with electric cars, but with the current state of technology +5 years is not going to bring about a revolution, hence my irritation of this [false] advertisement. It's just a lot of hype about nothing of consequence and everyone joins in the "Hi Ho, it's off to greener earth we go".

As for the "tailpipe" argument, I fully acknowledge your point of view and the proof behind it. I do not, however, believe that building the necessary infrastructure for this is feasible in the foreseeable future (read my life time). Not all of us live in big cities and/or "modern world" countries. It takes 5 years to design a power plant, let alone build it and the supporting infrastructure and agree with all the relevant parties who/what the said plant will be supporting. A car manufacturer is simply not going to make something for less than 10% of it's customer base unless it's a PR stunt or it has money to burn.

Take a reasonably developed country like Russia. It has huge CO2 production, there's no way in hell you'd get anyone there to use an electric car. In USA where people drive to their neighbours, you still have vast distances to cover. A car that has 300 mile range and takes 2 hours to charge is not feasible. Who will buy this car? City dwellers? Where is the need? Most of the people I know in cities don't own a car... How will the charge time reduce? Make a hybrid, charge it with petrol and we've gone full circle.

In closing I'd like to state that in a perfect world I would love it if we would start building the said infrastructure for electric powered [everything] using the most up to date and efficient technology available at the time. Be it nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal or gravity as long as it's renewable. But we don't live in a perfect world and it takes a long time to take theory and put it into practice.

Of course no one really cares about reality and just wants to get on the environmentally high horse and pipe on about electric cars. Show me some news about something actually practical, like someone developing a way for people to stop commuting to work.

Re:Next best thing since... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686789)

Well, it sounds like you don't live in America. Trust me, Americans can do perfectly well with electric cars... in fact, if people were educated about how they work, many would say they would be willing to buy one for a reasonable price. The idea that Americans are addicted to SUVs and will never get an electric car is not true. I don't know about a country like Russia, maybe a different approach is required, but in the US, it's a very practical solution. Also, most american city dwellers have cars. I wish they used mass transit, but they don't.

Anyway, We already have technology for practical electric cars. In the mid 90s, the california government built an infrastructure pretty quickly. The infrastructure, in the form of unattended charging stations, is pretty cheap and easy to put up. The power plants and grid are already built.

Also, People think they need rapid charging but they really don't.

And finally, what is this "long time"? I plan to be alive and driving cars in five years. I'm going to want a choice.

Re:Next best thing since... (1)

Yev000 (985549) | about 7 years ago | (#18687009)

I agree with your point of view, but I made my first post to illustrate that a new battery technology that is theoretically marginally better than current technology, a technology that may or may not be available in 5 years time should not be advertised as the solution for EVs (as the original article and all of its kind seem to [always] suggest). I am NOT against EVs, I am simply against the hype associated with battery tech.

Re:Next best thing since... (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 7 years ago | (#18688255)

Most people I know in the United States have at least two vehicles (or sometimes, even three). They commute in one, and use another for trips. The car used to commute with can easily be electrified.

Re:Next best thing since... (1)

smchris (464899) | about 7 years ago | (#18687333)

Then there's the issue of all the new infrastructure that needs to be put in for electric cars.

What on earth are you talking about? I know where to get electricity. And since hybrids still ultimately run on gasoline, I know where to get gasoline. Where is the hydrogen production and distribution system for my friendly local hydrogen station you are advocating?

Re:Next best thing since... (2, Informative)

Zobeid (314469) | about 7 years ago | (#18687605)

Quick and dirty rebuttal. . . .

1. fast recharge isn't needed if driving range becomes long enough (say 300 to 500 miles)

2. electric cars pollute much less than gasoline cars, due to their energy efficiency

3. tens of millions of electrics can be charged using off-peak power without building any new power plants

4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5kkU23bfEc [youtube.com]

Re:Next best thing since... (1)

Yev000 (985549) | about 7 years ago | (#18688171)

Unfortunately I cannot view YouTube at work :(

1. Faster recharge will be your selling point, long recharge = no sale no matter how much it doesent matter.

2. Please look up "dust-to-dust" or "Cradle-to-Grave" energy consumption of electric or hybrid cars compared to, say, range rovers and I think you will find that no matter how "clean" the end procut is, the production method makes it a LOT less attractive. There was an article not too long ago about a toyota battery production factory being under investigation for producing too much polution. Here is an example after a quick search:http://www.motoring.co.za/index.php?fArticl eId=3528666&fSectionId=1645&fSetId=381 [motoring.co.za]. And here is the factory link:http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/arti cles/news/news.html?in_article_id=417227&in_page_i d=1770 [mailonsunday.co.uk]

3. Yes but tens of millions electrics dont use as much energy as a car.

At the end of the day electric batteries for use in car are not and will not be up to par for mainstream use for a very very long time. Hydrogen on the other hand may provide some more efficiency than petrol in the long run. More efficiency = more environmentaly friendly.

Re:Next best thing since... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18688123)

I really shouldn't have to post something like this on /., but it is all about efficiency.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Roadster#Fuel_e fficiency [wikipedia.org]

There are several different ways to calculate the efficiency of the car. They range from 49mpg to 329mpg. Internal combustion engines (ICEs) are terrible for efficiency, turbines (used in electric production), and the electric grid are much, much better. You mention H2 being better, but I'm sorry it will introduce a lot of the inefficiencies found in ICEs. You are simply not thinking of the complete cycle from generation/refinement/H2 production to where the rubber meets the road, and there is no better way to do that then electricity. The only problem now is storage in the car. It is the one link in the chain that is simply missing. That's the only reason that gas was able to dominate in the first place. The second a battery is developed with enough capacity and a low enough weight, the ICE will be a thing of the past.

By the way the last calc used in the wiki article was what economists call opportunity cost, and it yielded 300mpg. So guess what if the price of electricity doubles due to increased demand, the car will still get the equivalent of 150mpg.

In about 5 years (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | about 7 years ago | (#18686265)

In about 5 years we will have easy cyborgization sets, holographic tv, batteries that run your laptop for week between charges, fuel cells, 80 core processors, actually good hybrid/electric vehicles, good speech recognition engines, solar cells with 90% efficiency, solar cells with $5/square meter, and flying cars. Oh I forgot, also vista will be after sp2, and running stable and smooth on then normal computers. But It will be always currentYear()+5 :/

Re:In about 5 years (1)

jigyasubalak (308473) | about 7 years ago | (#18686435)

Exactly! I for one do not like to be titillated with news like
in 5 years we will have this and that technology. Tell me about
it when we can buy such technology. Till that time I am blissful
in the ignorance that such technologies are possible.

Re:In about 5 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686533)

Vista? In five years, everyone will run Kubuntu with KDE 4 or later. And windows still won't work correctly.

A123 competitors already on the market? (2, Informative)

nietsch (112711) | about 7 years ago | (#18686519)

Nanoscale Lithium battery technology leads me to think A123 cells. The cell from this startup are already on the market, powering handheld screwdrivers and model airplanes. They use a patented LiFePo4 reaction(or was there some sulfur in it too, dunno) and their process is much more ideal for automotive transport than NiMH(not enough energy density) or LiPo(Lithium polymer, it's what's making laptops go up in flames the last few years). LiPo has the highest energy density, but is very unsafe when punctured in a crash(or when overcharged): all energy in them will release in a short time, possibly causing fire as the decomposing polymer inside escapes as a flammable gas. The other drawback is that they have a very short lifespan: Max 500 charge-cycles (better count on 100-200) or 3 years (cells degenerate even when not in use). Thus far LiPo cells are prohibitively expensive, and no hybrid owner would like to fork over a few K every year for new batteries.
the A123 process is much more resilient wrt to abuse: you can run them down completely unlike LiPo or lead-acid, the stand overcharging much better, and if punctured they don't go up in flames. The company rates their cells as being able to deliver 2000 cycles, which is much more than lipo, NiMH, NiCad or Lead-acid.
And as far as I know, they have no ties to Delft University, but I have not read TFA yet...
They are here [a123systems.com].

They're not the only ones... (2, Informative)

hazydave (96747) | about 7 years ago | (#18686551)

Toshiba announced [technewsworld.com] research on a technology for fast charging li-ions over two years ago. This was using nanotech materials for an improved anode (maybe cathode too), enabling fast charging (80% charge in one minute) and long life (99% capacity after 1,000 charges). A similar approach [newscientist.com] was also annouced, about the same time, by Altair Technologys in Reno. It's all about increasing the effective surface area of the anode, and perhaps making it from stronger stuff.

In traditional Li-ion cells, a big wear factor is that the anode can form a parasitic battery with the electrical contact, causing the terminal to eventually wear out, faster as you approach full cycling the battery. Heat is also a factor, in both terminals and the full cell... the higher internal resistance of the Li-ion vs. NiMH (or better still, NiCAD) limits peak power, and also increases the risk of damage or, particularly in quesitonably made cells, explosions.

Dramatic improvements in both of these are necessary to enable practical (in a commerical sense) pure electric vehicles (BEV). There's no conspiracy necessary... traditional NiMH cells are a problem for full electrics.. which the actual reason none of these cars have been successful. Not to mention the expense... the Toyota EV-RAV4, for example, cost $42,000 and gave you about 100 miles on a charge.. and that with Toyota still selling them at a loss (as they did in the early days of the Prius, too).

In a hybrid, the batteries are only partially cycled (my 2003 Prius runs the NiMH cells over 40% of their capacity range; Toyota extended this to about 60% on the models starting in 2004), and that keeps them very long lived. Natrually, better batteries make a better hybrid, but the fact my Toyota can only go about 2-3 miles on a full charge doesn't impact its general use; the issues around battery technology today make the BEV a small niche product.

But the energy density is just too low even full cycling NiMH to make a BEV with mass appeal... most people would demand at least 200-300 miles of range, charging times on-the-road similar to that of petrol fueling (not the minimum of 15-30 minutes you'll have with today's cells), and long life (full cycling NiMH, they're good for about 500-1000 charges).

Once you have a higher density cell that doesn't wear out and can be charged in under 5 minutes, full EVs will be practical enough for a mainstream automaker to POSSIBLY launch a full production car, not just an experiment. This is critical technology for improving hybrids as well, and keep in mind that all practical FCEVs will also be hybrids (fuel cells suck at peak power demands, they like to be slow and steady, so you need a battery or supercapacitor to enable the peaks).

5 minute charge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686715)

only matters when you're having to "fill up" mid-journey.

If you travel less than the "full charge" each day, you can top up overnight.

Just one small technical problem (3, Insightful)

Flying pig (925874) | about 7 years ago | (#18686903)

Have you considered the electrical power needed to charge a practical vehicle cell in 5 minutes?

Let's assume an average cruising consumption of about 15kw for a small car. At 60mph with a 300 mile range, that's 75kwh. To charge those cells in 5 minutes, assuming an 80% efficiency, will need 75 * 12 * 1.25 =~ 1.1 Megawatts. At 440V, even with a 3-phase charger, that's over 1000 amps. At 11KV it's a more reasonable 100A, but the weight of the inverter gear and the shielded connector in the car is considerable and you are going to spend rather more than 5 minutes padlocking the interlocks and cross checking before and after charge. At 440V the main issue will be the weight of the cables. Three cores of around 400mm cross section each are rather heavy.

It's possible to imagine a world in which fuel stations supply exchange cells, but given the natural nervousness of most drivers when close to empty, it's unlikely to be practical or cost effective.

The model is wrong. You have to imagine a world in which car parks have charging stations that charge at reasonable rates, as do hotels and houses. You will need a general beefing up of the electricity distribution network, and you will need plenty of nuclear, solar and wind energy sources. And people will have to plan maybe a little further ahead than they do at present. Long trips will mandate an overnight stop. Probably a good thing as the only accidents I have ever had were after driving too long in a day.

On that model with a more reasonable 10-hour charge, the necessary charging rate is about 9KW - still a heavy cable, but with a socket about the size and complexity of the sort used for portable machines in factories and for boat shorepower.

Just don't try to use your wind turbine. In our location, to run my small car on its current, fairly low usage cycle, I would need a 6M diameter turbine on a 40M pylon, and I suspect the neighbours would object.

Re:Just one small technical problem (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 7 years ago | (#18688217)

Just don't try to use your wind turbine. In our location, to run my small car on its current, fairly low usage cycle, I would need a 6M diameter turbine on a 40M pylon, and I suspect the neighbours would object.

That would be a very small turbine. Why not go for something like this one [vestas.com], 82m diameter with a 59m tower? That should power a few cars, and it's a good mid-size turbine for use in areas where you cannot depend on a strong, regular wind. Place it half a mile or more from houses, of course, otherwise the sound can be a bit tiring. If the neighbours object, offer them a part in the project -- people are much more receptive to such things if they make money from them.

Re:Just one small technical problem (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18688517)

Charging the car in 5 minutes becomes much less of an issue when the car can have a "full tank" every day. However, that still doesn't solve the problem of long trips. However, if you look at the tesla roadster, it goes 250 miles on a single charge. If somehow the energy density of the batteries are doubled, then probably 90% of the trips people take are possible. If a true breakthrough is made and the energy density is increased by an order of magnitude, then virtually all long trips become possible.

You mentioned that vast expenses will have to be made to the electrical grid/ power generation to accommodate the new demand. This is true, but with the increased efficiencies produced by switching to electric vehicles not only will there be less pollution, but people should have more money in their pockets to pay for the upgrades. Then after the upgrades to the infrastructure have been made the improved efficiencies should help to continue to increase the standard of living, and improve the economy.

Re:Just one small technical problem (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | about 7 years ago | (#18688583)

All of this makes a BEV difficult to deploy, and that is why PHEV will win out. A pluggable hybrid electric vehicle can use existing infrastructure, charging overnight when rates are low. Sure, they will only be able to go 40 miles or less on a charge, but this is of no consequence... If we converted our entire fleet to PHEVs we would not NEED more than that.

Most driving in the US is done on a daily commute. Trips longer than 40 miles are rare. Assume that 80% of your miles are within 40 miles of home. In that case, 80% of your miles can be done WITHOUT USING ANY CHEMICAL FUEL! Further, for the 20% where you DO have to go farther than 40 miles, a traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) can provide that capability. Further, it can be fueled with some mixture of either traditional gasoline, or even pure ethanol.

If we reduced all of our miles by 80%, then the average driver would only burn fuel for perhaps 2500 miles per year. At 25 mpg, that is 100 gallons of fuel PER YEAR! Think about that... since we produce about 25% of our own oil in the US, we would not need to import ANY oil for transport. Further, since we already do upwards of 10% ethanol today, 50 of those 100 gallons could actually be ethanol rather than gasoline (traditional 25mpg car, 12000 miles per year = 480 gallons, 10% ethanol = approx 50 gallons of ethanol) So even using today's ethanol content, we can cut the gasoline we currently produce in half and still drive our 12k per year

The naysayers will say that the electrons we are replacing the gas with are not free, that they are dirty, that they require upgrades. And some of that is true. But the real value here is decoupling the energy source from the usage. Today you can heat your house with oil, nat. gas, coal, wood, and electricity. Tommorrow, theoretically, you could drive your car on those same sources 80% of the time. The implications are staggering - no more dependence on foreign oil, no more dependence on the Persian Gulf, etc.

Now we just need GM to deliver on its VOLT promise and we can start down that road...

Re:They're not the only ones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18688027)

Don't forget mPhase [mphasetech.com] - Their design separates the chemicals while the battery is off - this drastically extends shelf life because there is no current seepage.

Is lithium really the best idea for cars? (1)

NerveGas (168686) | about 7 years ago | (#18686979)

Lithium doesn't really pack *much* more energy density (in terms of volume), but does do it with less weight. That's terrific.

But while lithiums handle deep discharge much better than lead-acid batteries, they're still not as good as NiCad or NiMh. They're also a lot more expensive. And, probably the best argument against them... look at the fires that happen when laptop (or even CELL PHONE) lithium cells are damaged or shorted. Now, imagine a car packing a thousand times more getting in an accident... Sure, you'll say, they can put over-current protection on them. But the batteries in laptops have the same protection, you have to think of *damaged* batteries.

Shame on GM (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 7 years ago | (#18687227)

Every time I read about improvements in traction batteries I get angry at the way they missed their opportunity. If they had just kept manufacturing the EV-1 and selling it to the long waiting list of buyers, they could be riding the wave of improving battery technology.

Probably 80% of the cars I see on the road during that drive are commuting less than a hundred miles round trip.

To date, I've seen exactly one EV-1 on the road.

It was about five years ago that I saw my first Prius on the road. It was two years ago that I bought mine. I used to honk and wave to the other Priuses I saw. Now I can't even count the number I see on my commute.

If GM had developed the Prius in 2001, they probably would have cancelled them and crushed them in 2002 for "lack of demand."

Re:Shame on GM (1)

TomorrowPlusX (571956) | about 7 years ago | (#18689001)

I recall walking along a street in LA back around 2000 or 2001 and in the corner of my eye I saw a silent car roll up on my left. I turned to look at what it was and saw it was an EV-1. It was beautiful, and broke my heart a little, since GM had already made it clear the EV-1 was on its way out.

I've got a fairly efficient 7 year old 2dr hatchback with manual transmission which I only drive for trips and groceries and the like ( since I walk to work ). It's got 55k miles on it, and my hope/goal is to put at least another 50 or 60k on it, before I buy a new car. My hope is I can buy an electric, but, well, I'm pretty confident that won't happen. For two reasons:

1) I'm not rich. I'm a web designer, I made a decent living, but there's no way I'm spending more than ( in today's money ) 15-20k for a car. I don't think cars are worth that much money, since I generally prefer walking/bicyling.

2) I'm an apartment-dweller! How the hell am I going to plug the thing in at night? Admittedly, I might luck out in the future and have, say, an alley behind my apartment which I could run an extension cord to, but you can't bank on such a thing.

Probably, in 2012 or so when I buy a new car I'll get a diesel smart or something which gets 90 to 100 mpg.

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