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Nanotech Battery Claims to Solve Electric Car Woes 320

Posted by Zonk
from the down-with-woes dept.
rbgrn writes "A123 Systems claims to have invented a Lithium Ion battery that not only can discharge at very high rates of current but can be recharged very quickly without damage to the cells or overheating. From their website: 'A unique feature of A123Systems' M1 cells is their ability to charge to high capacity in 5 minutes or less. That's a significant improvement over traditional Li Ion, which typically requires more than 90 minutes to reach a similar level of charge.' Using this technology, General Motors has announced a plug-in hybrid SUV and Venture Vehicles is developing a fully electric 3 wheel vehicle. Politics aside, the main technological hurdle to mass adoption of electric cars has been a fuel station replacement when driving distances beyond a single charge worth of range. Will we finally be seeing high current recharge stations in the next decade?"
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Nanotech Battery Claims to Solve Electric Car Woes

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  • While i'm all for new tech, let's take a second to re-examine this. We're going to take electricity and power our cars... ok but this has to come from somewhere right? And it isn't like we're going to generate it on the spot. So we're going to put MORE strain on the existing power grid to power these recharge stations.

    The power itself is made from something, usually not nuclear because "oh noes it's unsafe!" [note the sarcasm] but instead things like coal. So now we're gonna have to burn more coal (whic
    • by dretay (583646) <`ude.dmu.sc' `ta' `werd'> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:03PM (#18053714) Homepage
      I believe the problem with nuclear power has a lot more to do with disposal and storage than with the safety of the reactor. Plus if the CO2 emissions are centralized at power stations rather than spread across the entire country (as is the case with cars) emission reduction techniques will probably be a lot easier.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yeah, where the nuclear material is packed into dense solid wastes that can be disposed of carefully instead of farted into the atmosphere.
      • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:16PM (#18054822)

        I believe the problem with nuclear power has a lot more to do with disposal and storage than with the safety of the reactor.
        Well, good news, the Integral Fast Reactor [wikipedia.org] solves this issue. It recycles the "waste" until it is entirely consumed and all the of the really dangerous elements are burned up as well. There is very little actual waste left over, and it is far far less dangerous than what is produced by conventional reactors. They only extract a few percent of the energy from the fuel, and throw out an enormous amount highly dangerous and useful material. By recycling this material, the IFR can actually consume existing waste! It would be a long time before any new Uranium would need to be mined.

        Another feature is that it is a passively safe design; meltdowns simply aren't possible. Anyways, the interviews in the external links of that wikipedia article are very interesting and informative.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by soft_guy (534437)
      I think you raise some valid concerns, but still this is a step in the right direction. Plus, improved battery tech is always welcome for many uses.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Teresita (982888)
      So now we're gonna have to burn more coal (which pollutes more than nuclear) to power this.

      Ah, yes, but America is the Saudi Arabia of coal. The whole idea is to wean America off the Saudia Arabia of oil, which is Saudi Arabia.
    • by MinusOne (4145) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:20PM (#18053850)
      I'm not sure why someone has to ask these exact same questions every time an electric car article shows up.

      Yes, of course you have to recharge you car from the grid. The amperage required is not any more than typical household service, particularly if you are willing to let it charge overnight. 220 volts is even better than 110 for charging cars, and it really doesn't take more than your house already has.

      As far as the generating issue, it is much cheaper and easier to clean pollution from a large single source than it is millions of mobile sources which are poorly maintained by their owners. Coal might not be that clean, but new coal-fired plants are better than old ones, and they are probably better than the number of gas powered cars it could replace. It is also more efficient, even with transmission losses, than the gas cars. Finally, if you want to make your power plant cleaner at some point in the future it is a bit easier than retrofitting a large number of cars.

      These things have been discussed to death all over the net, you obviously have not read anything about this subject at all.

      http://www.electroauto.com/info/pollmyth.shtml [electroauto.com]
      • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:43PM (#18054036) Homepage Journal
        >Finally, if you want to make your power plant cleaner at some point in the future it is a bit easier than retrofitting a large number of cars.

        Also, the power plant is not sitting in traffic on the street next to sidewalks and apartments full of people. Even if the only benefit were to relocate pollution, even if none of the other advantages existed, there'd still be a benefit.
        • by wytcld (179112)
          You don't need to retrofit cars because most cars are only on the road for 5 to 10 years, and the car makers just love it if those who can buy cars can be attracted to the latest model. You need to retrofit coal power plants, because they can keep going with the same old equipment for decades and decades, but the owners of the plants are politically powerful enough to avoid doing the upgrades, and plant component makers are already selling everything they can produce for new coal plants in China - without h
      • by drsquare (530038)

        The amperage required is not any more than typical household service, particularly if you are willing to let it charge overnight.
        Great, so you have to lay a cable all the way down the street to your car to charge it up? I can't see that taking off.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by am 2k (217885)

          The point of the tech this article presents is that the battery only takes 5 minutes to recharge. You could just install a power outlet at the fuel station. Plug your car in, browse the shop during those five minutes (regular refueling isn't really faster than that anyways), and you're back on the road.

          • I don't buy this 5-minute recharging. A car takes between 20 to 200 horsepower to run. One horsepower equals about 750 watts. So that's about 15KW to 150KW per hour of running time. First of all, if you pump energy in that range into a battery in 5 minutes, the heat loss due to resistance in the system will be fairly large. I.e. the battery will get very hot. Cutting the lifetime. Second, if you try to put in enough energy to power the car for more than one hour, that's even more of a problem. Let's say you
            • by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:30PM (#18056298) Homepage Journal
              A car takes between 20 to 200 horsepower to run. One horsepower equals about 750 watts. So that's about 15KW to 150KW per hour of running time.

              First, you forget that a car doesn't use all of it's power constantly. A gasoline engine has a huge margin over what's needed to maintain a car's speed just to enable quick acceleration. Second, Watts are a power measure, not an energy measure. The only reason you need to worry about power when it comes to batteries is that they can only release so much power at a time.

              Still, due to the wonders that is the efficiency of a electric motor(90+%) and regenerative braking, you can generally get by with 1/2 - 1/3 the horsepower rating for an electric vehicle over a gasoline one. The problem has always been one that the amount of energy you can stuff into a gas tank is orders of magnitude than a similar size or weight of batteries. Electric - Great motor, lousy storage, Hydrocarbon - Fantastic storage, lousy motor.'

              Another wierdness is that gasoline engines are rated by their maximum horsepower, whereas an electric motor is rated at it's continous duty cycle. That means that you can 'undersize' the engine even more, because it's quite possible to run many motors at 300% for short periods of time. This is because the main problem with overdriving an electric motor is simply the motor's capability to disperse heat. You can safely overdrive it for short periods, as long as you don't fry the engine. Larger engines use heavier wire, reducing heat generation and increasing heat dispersion capabilities. Larger motor's are also more efficient on average though, so reducing below a certain level doesn't gain you much.

              So an electric car can get by with a much smaller engine than a gasoline one(just overdrive during acceleration, controlled by the computer).

              As for the wattage required, the tesla roadster takes 110 watt-hours [stanford.edu] on average for a kilometer. As the article noted, the roadster is 'performance tuned', not 'economy tuned'. Still, it's a smaller vehicle, incabable to holding the cargo average users would ask of a primary car.

              That would be .176 kw/h per mile. For a 300 mile charge(It's what my 30mpg car with a 10gal tank can do), you'd need a battery capable of holding 52.8 kw/h. Let's call it 60 kw/h. To charge that in 1 hour would require 272 amps @ 220 volts. Yuck. Hello 0000 wire. 3.3kA for a 5 minute charge. Now we're talking silly. Let's kick it up to 600Volts. Ah, much better @100 amps for a 1 hour charge, though 1.3kA is still high. A 1% waste at that level would still be 13amps@600volts=7.8kw, or about 5 hairdryers. Doable with fans. Wouldn't want it to be much higher though.

              I think they're counting on an activly cooled extremely high voltage battery, that's still more efficient than stuff on the market today.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Dude, if I could get safe gasoline piped into my house then I would be happy to use a hose to get it all the way out to my car. Consider the convenience of fueling up without waiting in line for the pump, without worry that some asshole on a celphone will run you over when you walk in to pay, without waiting in line while some dickhead screws with writing a paper check to pay for his one pack of smokes, without getting short changed by the clerk or involved in a hold up.

          Shit man I can think of lots of reas
      • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@nOspAM.beau.org> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:55PM (#18054130)
        > The amperage required is not any more than typical household service, particularly if you are willing to let it charge overnight.
        > 220 volts is even better than 110 for charging cars, and it really doesn't take more than your house already has.

        Yes it would add a hell of a lot of load to the grid if everyone had an electric car cooking at home every night, but that problem is probably managable, since night time is normally lighter loaded.

        The big question nobody wants to look at is Interstate recharging. Take a look at a big fscking Roadrunner station with twenty plus 'pumps' recharging batteries in five minutes and run those numbers. Put the sucker out in the boonies between cities and ask yourself where they are going to get the power from? Now imagine everyone is running away from a hurricane/terrorist attack and those 'pumps' are going to have to be able to hammer away for 12 plus hours with a line at every pump. Onsite storage isn't an option for that kind of demand and the grid as it currently exists simply can't do it either.

        Everyone wants to think it just because 'big oil' doesn't want electric cars that the infrastructure hasn't magically appeared. It isn't. Even if the demand existed to justify it, nobody currently knows HOW to build it. These are hard problems, but we do need to keep trying to solve them because buying oil from our enemies isn't the brightest idea even if you think 'global warming' is a communist plot.
        • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@ear ... net minus author> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:18PM (#18054308)
          So the question becomes "How much range does this electric car have?" (If the batteries are good enough, then on-site storage DOES become an option, at least as a hefty ballast load.)

          I wonder how much charge a tanker-truck sized truck could carry as cargo? This might actually be cheaper than maintaining lines if the losses were lower than line loss. (Don't know how to figure that?) (And depending on how expensive the batteries were.)

          Also, the obvious way to go, if one can work out the mechanics, is to charge the vehicles by swapping batteries. It might not be the best...but also it might. This would, however, require:
          a) standardization of size, shape, and connections, and
          b) a meter built into the battery which would display how many watt-hours it was storing.
          This probably won't happen because any economic benefit would probably be marginal, and also because getting companies to agree on a standard is...dubious.
          • You have a small generator and fuel tank mounted on a trailer. For day to day commuting, it is detached, you run on batteries, recharge at home. For longer trips, attach the trailer, plug it in, start the generator. Stop and fill up with gas or diesel whenever. Additional empty cargo space as an option with a slightly larger trailer of course, making it normally useful.

            See? Range problem solved. Call it the modular hybrid approach, instead of normal hybrids that tote TWO engines (ICE engine AND electric mot
        • Nope (Score:5, Informative)

          by Chmcginn (201645) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:25PM (#18054380) Journal

          Even if the demand existed to justify it, nobody currently knows HOW to build it.

          Umm... what? You're just wrong here.

          Long-distance (100+ miles) electric transmission is quite common throughout the US. Link [wikipedia.org]

          In most states, you're rarely more than a hundred miles away from the nearest power plant, of one kind or another. Another link. [wikipedia.org]

          Yes, a commercial recharging station on a major interstate would probably need it's own substation. But the paper mills in northeastern NC I drive past on the way to visit my parents every few months have their own substations. The electric load from those is much higher than any electric roadrunner would ever need. It's not a particularly hard problem, or one that hasn't been solved before. It would put more demand on the electric grid, that's true. And if everyone in the US bought an electic car eventually, we'd definetely need to build more power plants.

          But it's not lack of a technical innovation,nor a conspiracy, that is preventing that from happening - it's the chicken/egg problem. Few people will buy electric cars before the infrastructure exists, few companies will set up infrastructure while there's few customers.

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            I have been saying for years that the problem is simple. Build cars that are all electric, but have the power source in the trunk. Make the connection to the rest of the car a simple plug (or two), and you have a perfect vehicle to support whatever future power source we decide to go with. If you just travel around town, you drop in the battery pack. You want to go across country, you drop in the gas generator. You want to head up to the mountains for a ski weekend, you drop in the fuelcell because you
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by arodland (127775)
              Now that's what I call a solution! Run my car on the finest in clean-burning propane and propane accessories!
        • by c6gunner (950153)

          Take a look at a big fscking Roadrunner station with twenty plus 'pumps' recharging batteries in five minutes and run those numbers. Put the sucker out in the boonies between cities and ask yourself where they are going to get the power from?

          While the rest of your points are pretty good, this part at least has an easy solution. Large stations within cities would more than likely run their own dedicated power lines, which would hook into a private generating plant. This would be the perfect way for moder

      • In 2004 there were over 200 million cars in the US. Average mileage is of the order of 10,000 per car. Using energy density figures from wikipedia and assuming 100% efficiency (I only care about orders of magnitude) those 200 million cars will draw 8.6X10^12 MJ per year, or 273.7GW. The Russian GRES-2 power station, one of the largest coal powered generators in the world, produces 4GW. So you'd need at least 68 extra of the largest power stations in the world to keep the US car fleet running. Better get
    • by AaronW (33736) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:22PM (#18053872) Homepage
      This has been discussed many times in different circles. Even with coal power plants, the amount of pollution created by electric cars is less than gasoline cars. For one, pollution needs to be controlled in a few centralized sources, and with the proper equipment, which modern plants are required to have, coal power plants emit less pollution than the gasoline and diesel vehicles it could replace. Also, the efficiency of electric cars is higher than internal combustion powered cars, even taking into account the line losses. It is not unusual for batteries to reach 90% efficiency, and electric motors also are able to get into the high 80's and 90's in efficiency. Plus, there's much less drive train with electric, often requiring no transmission, or like the Tesla, a 2 gear transmission. Many power plants are at least 40% efficient, which is much better than what an ICE is capable of. And when power comes from sources like hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, solar or even natural gas, the pollution is significantly reduced or eliminated. Also, most people would be charging their cars at night, where there is often a vast surplus of electricity since power plants can't just shut down for the night, and hence it is a lot cheaper.

      Batteries also have come a long way and are fairly efficient for storage. It's much better than, say, hydrogen powered cars.

      The main drawback right now for electric cars is the cost, and even so they remain popular. I know a couple of people at Tesla Motors and they have already sold out their allotment of cars for the first two years, and these are going for $100K each. It sounds like they will be coming out with a 5 passenger vehicle at around $50K around 2009. With the rapid rate of battery evolution I expect they will become more and more affordable.

      One final note, the cost per mile for an electric vehicle is much less than gasoline, even without the large deductions EV owners can typically make. Last I looked, it worked out to something around $1.50/mile even with the very high cost of electricity where I live (where I often pay over $0.20/kwh).

      The solution I see for our energy needs is to not only continue to invest in solar and wind, but to also build nuclear breeder reactors and nuclear power generation. The breeder reactors will significantly increase the amount of nuclear fuel available and eliminate much of the nuclear waste which they want to bury in Nevada. And modern nuclear power plants are far safer than the ones of the past. Solar and wind alone will not solve our energy needs though they will help. Hydroelectric is mostly tapped out, though there's still a lot of room for geothermal.
      • Even reprocessing is not leagal in the US, so getting to a breeder program is going to be tough. Without that, shifting transportation to nuclear is pretty pointless since the available fuel will be exhauted before the new reactors are used for long. It is also doubtful that a useful breeder program can be done at even the rather horrendous safty record of the non-breeder program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civilian_nuc l ear_accidents [wikipedia.org]. So, what you are suggesting is both hugely expensive and ver
        • by cameldrv (53081)
          That's not true. There is enough uranium in the earth to last us billions of years at our current rate of consumption. The only issue is how much it costs to get it out. If the price of uranium were to go up by a factor of twenty, the supply would increase by about a factor of 2000. This price difference in raw uranium would only make a small difference in the overall cost of electricity.
          • by mdsolar (1045926)
            Putting fuel prices up by a factor of twenty is a sure way to swap the roles of alternative and conventional energy supplies. Let's do it!
            • by cameldrv (53081)
              It won't be necessary until we've constructed thousands of new reactors and run them for decades, and even then, one would have to assume that we didn't figure out a better way of extracting uranium. I have no problem with solar per se, but it's expensive, takes up a lot of space, and if it were widely used, it would require a lot of extra technology to keep a cloudy day from shutting down the grid.
          • by mikerich (120257)
            The Earth does contain billions of tonnes of uranium, but almost all of it is locked away in uneconomic quantities - you just can't get your hands on it for a reasonable amount of money - and never will. That's not to say it's uncommon; according to 'Uranium 2005: Resources, Production and Demand'; global uranium reserves that can be mined for less than $130/kg amount to about 4.7 million tonnes. At current rates of consumption and no reprocessing that's about 85 years of supply. Include fast breeder react
    • by jfengel (409917)
      It does take more than a good battery, but a good battery may be a necessary step. There are only a limited number of ways to deliver power to a vehicle. Gases are hard to contain and not very dense. Liquids are great, but they're expensive to ship around, and the most effective liquids we know are limited in quantity (and those quantities are concentrated in some politically unstable places.) Alternative liquids like ethanol and biodiesel are difficult to produce, and there may not be enough farmland for
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Planesdragon (210349)
      I'm all for electric cars, but we'll need a lot more than a good battery to make it practical.

      The only piece missing from either all-electric or "real hybrid" is a good* battery. Every Other Problem is a question of just putting existing technology into practice.

      (By "good", I mean a battery that will let the vehicle run for at least 20 miles between charges, without adding unreasonably to the battery weight.)
      • People are already making very practical electric cars [teslamotors.com] using existing off the shelf battery technology from laptop computers.
        • $98,000 is not practical. Nor have they actually built a production model car that meets their specs. See the note on their front page:

          "* We are currently in the midst of the important and time-consuming safety and durability testing for the Tesla Roadster. While we are confident of our numbers, this testing may require design changes that affect the final specifications. Mpg is for the EPA highway driving cycle. Conversion from electric consumption to gallons of gasoline equivalent is calculated using the

    • by mark-t (151149)

      You know, this point always gets brought up as an argument against electric cars.

      But it fails to consider that centralized energy sources can still be more effectively controlled with regards to pollutants than independent mobile sources, and, more importantly, it is far easier to incrementally upgrade such centralized facilities over time to progressively use possible newer and cleaner methods of energy production when it would be impractical to distribute said measures effectively in a majority of vehi

    • What if you could make a standard for the batteries themselves and fuel stations offered quick change (not charge) capabilities where you pull in and replace your battery. A measuring device could credit you back for unused power in the battery you came in with and you would get charged for the power you take. This type of thing would have to be standardized and regulated (proper testing of batteries, quick change system and process, standard interfaces, centralized billing). Another idea might be to mak
      • by init100 (915886)

        What if you could make a standard for the batteries themselves and fuel stations offered quick change (not charge) capabilities where you pull in and replace your battery.

        What advantage would such a system have over a system where you plug your car into an electrical outlet for five minutes?

      • Why would you suggest the city provide power to commercial trucks for free? You run some kind of trucking company?
    • Why does it need more than a good battery to be practical? Are you saying you couldn't be bothered to plug your car in when you get home at night? Or even at work. Who cares if taxes the electric grid? We can deal with that. Emissions? It's easier to deal with emissions at a few centralized locations than 1,000,000 independent units. As long as it gets the Saudis' cocks out of our asses, I'm all for it. 100%.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ray-auch (454705)
        Not so much can't be bothered as can't see how. For me (and many others who live with on-street parking) I'm lucky to get my car within 50yds of the house when I get home at night.

        Sure, I could buy a really long extension cable and run it down the street. Wonder how much I'll get sued for when someone trips over it ? Probably won't last that long though - the passing drunks who usually swing on wing mirrors will find it far too tempting...
  • There was recently a story about a company in Texas that has similar claims for this type of technology. Not sure what happened to them, but if either or both of them gets it right, I'll be converting my car to electric very quickly after the technology is proven not to be a huge maintenance bill waiting to happen, or worse.

    In fact, I will probably invest in solar/other technology to supplement my use of electricity for the vehicle(s) as well. There are a couple of tax cuts for this, and I would like to not
    • EEStor is not working on batteries, but ultracapacitors. While I am not certain about them, they have perkin Klienes (Sun, Google, and others backing) backing. I would guess that those folks have done their work and believe that it has merit. They are supposedly going to deliver this year.

      Personally, I would skip the solar for a residence. They really do not make sense. For starters, you are generally at work with your car during the time that Solar is working. That means that you will send the majority of
  • Here's another three wheeler one of my customers told me about http://www.zapworld.com/ZAPWorld.aspx?id=188 [zapworld.com]. They are doing this with lead acid.
    --
    Run you car from your roof. http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • Probably not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Flying pig (925874) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:01PM (#18053698)
    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for this particular development. But the sort of power you are looking at to charge batteries at that rate is enormous. Figure it out. If you have a battery that can, say, deliver 50KW for one hour, then to charge it in five minutes will require to deliver about 20% more than you get out (conversion efficiency) or a charge rate of 720KW. That's nearly 1000 horsepower in Library of Congress units. You aren't going to be passing that through a handy, easy to use electrical circuit any time soon.

    On the other hand, overnight charging of the batteries (when power stations have spare capacity) is an extremely good idea, and indeed the dual hybrid concept good at good write up last year.

    So my suggestion is: Yes, this is a really good idea, yes it is progress in terms of better flexibility of power supplies, yes it goes some way to resolve the problem that you cannot easily store electrical power by allowing it to be stored in a big distributed network of vehicles - but ten years is for too soon for it to take over as a technology.

    The progressively replacement of gasoline engines by Diesel in Europe has been going on for over 20 years now, and that's probably a realistic timeframe. 20 years to get market penetration of battery vehicles, and then, only if renewable fuels turn out to be a failure, the progressive development of very high power charging stations.

    • If the issue is quick charging during the day with electriciy generated at night, why not use a flywheel at the charging station? This system http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/11/beacon_po w er_re.html#more [greencarcongress.com] (thanks Ron Backman) is well along in development. A bank of these should provide both the amperage and the capacity to run a commercial charging station with load shifting.
      --
      Make you car run on the Sun. http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
      • That's a load regulation technology. It's there to absorb and give out relatively small amounts of power to maintain frequency and harmonic performance of power systems. In other words, it's a capacitor rather than a battery.

        The root problem is this: it makes far more sense to store surplus energy in batteries than in some intermediate, but that implies relatively slow battery charging since otherwise you have fluctuating high loads. Your solution would mean that, at any moment, the flywheels are being char

        • by shmlco (594907)
          Just because it's possible to charge at that rate doesn't mean you must. To me this sounds as if the battery technology is a lot more robust, which in turn means you might not have to "baby" it as much as you do existing batteries in hybrids (never discharge below 40%, never charge above 70%).

          And to me, for the near future, pure electric cars aren't going to be practical. Give me a high-efficiency plug-in flex-fuel/diesel hybrid. Overnight charging covers most driving, and the hybrid is good for longer trip
          • Plug-in Hybrids that are mainly oriented towards the electric propulsion side of things would be a good idea. Because people would naturally be inclined to use the plug-in electric overnight charging, since it's cheaper. But for those times when you're running out of juice on the road, it would obviously be desirable to be able to pull into a fuel station for a quick and convenient refill. If liquid fuel helps you do that refill more efficiently and conveniently than an electric recharging station when you'
        • by mdsolar (1045926)
          I'm not sure I see the problem. The issue was how do you do a quick charge, and for that a fast out supply like a capacitor or a flywheel makes sense. Both of these can trickle in so that basically solves the problem. Are you worried that there would be loss during storage? The design specs on the flywheel say it is to deliver 100 kW and hold 25 kWh, so that's a full discharge in 15 min.
    • Cruising down the freeway takes on the order of ten kilowatts or a little less. As Flying Pig points out, getting a quick recharge puts you close to a megawatt.

      Every electric drive system I've seen from the Prius to electric dragsters winds up at a design optimum of 200-400 volts. We're therefore talking 2500 to 5000 amps, which is out of wire territory and into busbar territory, before allowing for inefficiencies.

      Which may be the real problem. Pump a megawatt through something, and every percentage point o
    • A similar calculation...

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline#Energy_cont e nt [wikipedia.org] we see that a litre of petrol yeilds 30 MJ energy. Filling a tank of a small car with 40 litres of fuel takes perhaps 2 minutes to put 1.2 GJ into the the tank, which works out as a power input of 10 megawatts. A bit surprising for something so familiar, but there it is. If you are charging your car at home, you are unlikely to match that.

      • Most of that energy is wasted by the internal combustion engine. Most are between 20 to 30% efficient. Even more is lost in the transmission. Every time you brake in a conventional vehicle, you are throwing kinetic energy away by converting it to useless heat in the brakes.

        So an electric vehicle does not need to go full hog. You probably need something like 10-20% the energy in that gasoline at best.

    • Don't get me wrong, I'm all for this particular development. But the sort of power you are looking at to charge batteries at that rate is enormous. Figure it out. If you have a battery that can, say, deliver 50KW for one hour, then to charge it in five minutes will require to deliver about 20% more than you get out (conversion efficiency) or a charge rate of 720KW. That's nearly 1000 horsepower in Library of Congress units. You aren't going to be passing that through a handy, easy to use electrical circuit

  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:02PM (#18053706) Homepage Journal
    All of the schemes for a high capacity, fast charging battery paired with fast charging stations suffer from the chicken and egg problem. The car buyers won't buy cars until there are lots of stations to stop at, and the service station owners won't convert revenue generating gas pumps to chargers until there are lots of cars that need them.
    The solution is to build hybrids with fast charging batteries. Then car buyers can invest without fear of getting stranded. Once a large fleet is on the roads, service stations will start to convert.

    BTW, this all asumes that TFA and similar techs are not vaporware.
  • "...Will we finally be seeing high current recharge stations in the next decade?..."

    Personally, I doubt that will ever happen in USA and here's why:

    Huge influential oil companies like EXXON-MOBIL made profits of close to US$90 million per day in profits last year. Racking in almost US$33 Billion for the year. Now, who in their right mind can allow such a revenue stream to get suffocated by so called new technology?

    I am of the opinion that we'll begin seeing this in "more pragmatic" Europe than here in these United States.

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:44PM (#18054042) Homepage Journal
      because not all their profits are from gasoline.

      hell, quite a few oil companies don't even own refineries anymore. A lot of the gas people buy today comes from independant refineries.

      I don't think we will outgrow carpet, plastic bags, and the millions of other items that currently use oil.

      Plus, they have all that land now, think about it, ready made recharging stations :)
      • by MrZaius (321037)
        Also, nearly all of the major gasoline/diesel retailers have either a tiny margin or no margin at all on their fuel, making the vast majority of their profits from the candy-store side of the operation. Also, most such outfits in the United States are franchises. If the major oil companies throw a fit when the retailers feel the need to offer high voltage electrical outlets, they can and will de-brand.
    • by drsquare (530038)

      Huge influential oil companies like EXXON-MOBIL made profits of close to US$90 million per day in profits last year. Racking in almost US$33 Billion for the year. Now, who in their right mind can allow such a revenue stream to get suffocated by so called new technology?

      Who says it'd be the oil companies pioneering this? There are many other companies who'd love to get into it, such as power companies.
    • by c6gunner (950153)
      *sigh*

      Congratulations, you've just won both the "Really stupid comment" and "Fear-mongerer Extraordinare" awards with a post that clocks in at under 500 characters. You are a truly talented individual.

      You'd have to be totally ignorant of how capitalism works in order to make such a silly comment. It's almost as bad as all the dumbasses who claim that drug companies have developed the cure for cancer, but won't sell it because of the amount of money they're making by selling the current crop of cancer-figh
  • Cost? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NorbrookC (674063) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:09PM (#18053770) Journal

    While this is interesting, I have to wonder about the cost of these batteries. I've seen many of these stories before, about some wonderful electric vehicle that's going to replace the gas-burner real soon. Except that the batteries needed cost more than any vehicle currently on the road. But it'll be practical "as soon as we get the costs down!"

    I'll get excited when someone announces a reasonably priced, high-density, quick recharge battery. Until then, I'm going to regard it as yet another prototype - an interesting idea, but one of many.

    • Current generations of lithium-ion degrade quickly: they lose about 20% of their capacity per year, starting from the day they are manufactured, whether or not they are used. In three years your car can go half as far as it could when you bought it.

      That means humongously expensive and wasteful replacement cycles; Lithium-ions are not so environmentally friendly for dumping in landfills, and not so economically useful for recycling. This is bad enough with cellphones and laptops, how bad will it be when t
  • The real deal (Score:5, Informative)

    by g00bd0g (255836) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:36PM (#18053972) Homepage
    These A123 cells are already in production and use. They are standard in the DeWalt 36V industrial battery pack. Most of the model airplane guys find it cheaper to ebay these and pull 'em apart for the cells than to buy them individually from A123.

    They do perform extremely well, with about 2/3 the energy density of Li-Po, but with the dis/charge abilities of a good Ni-Cd. They are also supposed to have a very good service life, over 1000 complete charge cycles. At about 1/2 the price of Li-Po's I'm looking at picking some up for an upcoming EV project.

    http://www.a123systems.com/html/home.html [a123systems.com]
    http://www.a123racing.com/ [a123racing.com]

    My EV project:

    http://www.easyracers.com/pod/ [easyracers.com]

    Gabe
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:39PM (#18054012)
    A couple comments referred to gas stations needing to replace their pumps. Actually, a car that runs primarily on electricity with gas/diesel as a backup would be ideally suited to get charged at grocery stores, movie theatres, shopping malls, restaurants, etc.

    Plug in, order amount of electricity, go do your shopping/etc. and come back to a car ready to go. Employers could also do this at their offices, at first offering it as an employee perk and down the road as an additional revenue stream.

    This could create competitive advantage in the near team and additional revenue long term for many companies.
    • by ray-auch (454705)
      Not suitable at all - see the many comments on the high current / power electric infrastructure you'll need to put in place for fast charging. Not going to happen except for dedicated charging stations (aka gas stations...).

      Sure, you can charge some EVs from a "normal" power socket - OVERNIGHT. When was the last time you went to shopping/movie/restaurant overnight ?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by matt21811 (830841)
        A 12 hour charge is the same as a full tank of fuel.

        You can insert sarcastic comments here about how it always takes me a full tank of fuel to get to the cinema or go to work or drive to the shops.

        In reality the cinema is often less than 20kms away (,mine is only 2kms), which is takes less than a movie to re-charge. This means the grandparents suggestion is totally suitable.

  • Dr. Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.
    Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
    Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams.
    Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
    Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
    Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"?
    Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
    Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
    Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. Al
  • by sorak (246725) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:55PM (#18054640)
    This may be a noob question, but why can't electric cars run on a system (especially now), where gas stations become changing stations, like what is often done with propane? We show up, replace an existing battery (which would have to be made easier to replace, I admit), with a freshly charged battery and pay the station for the service.
    • by Dan Ost (415913)
      I don't know how strong you are, but I'd have some difficulty swapping out 100+ pounds of battery.
  • Pedestrian safety? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by A Friendly Troll (1017492) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:35PM (#18054984)
    This is surely going to get lost in all the replies, but nevertheless...

    How are electric cars going to impact pedestrian safety? They run very quietly; you can get hit by an electric car without knowing it's right behind you, whereas with classic cars you can at least hear the combustion engines from some distance away and take notice. What about kids? Blind people? Even animals might have problems - they stay away from noisy roads, but if the roads aren't noisy anymore...

    On a sidenote, it would be pretty cool not to have noise pollution. I imagine a city with electric cars and without smog would be a very nice place to live in for humans and small animals, such as birds and squirrels. Perhaps we'd see more rare bird species in such a city. The quality of life would definitely improve.
    • by tftp (111690)
      Since future cars are supposed to have low power collision avoidance radars, pedestrians can wear tiny receivers which will detect these radars at a good distance, and can beep to warn the wearer. I suspect only older [Koreans] will need these devices, though. Even today a good portion of a vehicle's noise comes from tires, and not from the engine - especially at low speeds. Modern non-hybrid cars are very quiet.
  • Politics aside, the main technological hurdle to mass adoption of electric cars has been a fuel station replacement when driving distances beyond a single charge worth of range.

    Seems to me that the biggest hurdle to the adoption of electric cars in this country is the compelling need to haul around 6000-lbs of vehicle with you at all times.
  • by hack slash (1064002) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:14PM (#18056226)
    Surely I'm not the only here to have seen that US documentary film about electric cars called: Who Killed The Electric Car? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0489037/ [imdb.com]

    Go watch it.

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