Battery Technology is Key

The sales of electric cars are poised to take off in America subject to the progress of battery technology. At present, the lithium-ion battery can only provide a range of 80 miles for the medium-priced Nissan Leaf, and 200 miles for the high-priced Tesla Model S. In the area of bicycles and tricycles, the Chinese market has succeeded in replacing most of the gasoline engines with electric motors in the urban areas.

So far, electric battery has not produced a breakthrough similar to solar and wind that have resulted in a dramatic price drop. The requirements for an efficient car battery are: small size, low weight, low price, fast recharge, and long life. Right now, the energy density of battery cannot compare with gasoline (150 watt-hours per kilogram vs. 12,000 respectively) despite the internal combustion engine only delivers 20% of the gasoline energy.

Battery technology is being developed in earnest which involves mainly material chemistry. The following are the major materials involved according to Sierra magazine, July/August 2014:
* Lithium-sulfur: cheaper, lighter and more powerful than current lithium-ion.
* Lithium-oxygen: abundance of oxygen.
* Sodium-oxygen: cheap and plentiful.
* Magnesium-based: cheaper than lithium.
* Liquid-based: molten metals cannot break like metal battery.

Most drivers like the quietness, power, low maintenance and free emission of the electric car. The only handicaps remain are the price and the driving range. It all depends on battery technology to overcome these two challenges.

According to the experts, the industry needs to boost the current battery energy density three times to 450 watt-hours per kilogram in order to eliminate the range anxiety of the consumers. This will take several years assuming incremental technological progress. However, technology often gives us disruptive progress rather than incremental as occurred in electronics due to unexpected sudden breakthroughs. So we’ll see.

August 2014

This entry was posted in 21st Century, Business/Investment, Environment, Game Changer, Inspiration, Science/Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

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