The Quest for the Perfect Battery

The Economist has an interesting article on the next big thing in automotive industry: the quest in search of the perfect battery.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which helped to make the mobile-phone revolution possible in the past decade, are now expected to power the increasing electrification of the car. “They are clearly the next step,” says Mary Ann Wright, the boss of Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions, a joint venture that recently opened a factory in France to produce lithium-ion batteries for hybrid vehicles.

According to Menahem Anderman, a consultant based in California who specialises in the automotive-battery market, more money is being spent on research into lithium-ion batteries than all other battery chemistries combined. A big market awaits the firms that manage to adapt lithium-ion batteries for cars. Between now and 2015, Dr Anderman estimates, the worldwide market for hybrid-vehicle batteries will more than triple, to $2.3 billion. Lithium-ion batteries, the first of which should appear in hybrid cars in 2009, could make up as much as half of that, he predicts.


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The electric vehicles currently (!) avaialble completely miss the point. What's needed is a microvan thing with three rows of double seats, the rear two rows removable. Top speed of perhaps 50mph, range of maybe 60 miles. That'd be ideal for the school run, taking the dog to the vet, the tree to the recycling, getting the shopping and all the ordinary run-around tasks that big fuel hungry vehicles are used for now.
Manufacturers think we all want sports-car speeds and huge ranges to replace an existing hydrocarbon car. We don't, we want a second car - a utility vehicle that costs pennies a week in energy.
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The Economist has been running articles about new battery technology for over 20 years. So far, none of their predicted breakthroughs have occurred.

Of more importance, is the core ecological problem with electric cars. The electricity needs to be generated somewhere. Just because the pollution is not being generated inside the car does not mean that it is not being generated at all.
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Actually, the most promising new development is Ultra Capacitors, a non chemical energy storage method that lasts almost indefinitely and can be recharged very very quickly. Google it.
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They have a way to go....

I have a buddy with a GM Saturn hybrid - it's now on it's THIRD battery pack (thankfully under warranty - that would be about $3k-$4k!) For a 'green' car it sucks, he only gets a bit over 25mpg in the city, whereas my huge Expedition SUV gets 21mpg.

He's going to get rid of it before it goes out of warranty...
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