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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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  • by MinusOne (4145) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:20PM (#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. []
  • by AaronW (33736) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:22PM (#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.
  • The real deal (Score:5, Informative)

    by g00bd0g (255836) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:36PM (#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. [] []

    My EV project: []

  • by g00bd0g (255836) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:39PM (#18054002) Homepage
    The model airplane guys are on the bleeding edge of battery tech.

    Check 'em out, / []
  • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:42PM (#18054028) Homepage Journal
    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.)
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @04:44PM (#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 :)
  • Re:$1.50 a mile? WTF (Score:5, Informative)

    by josquint (193951) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:15PM (#18054292) Homepage
    There's an intersting point.

    I live in quite cold climate(last week's high was -15F), and getting gas powered cars to start and warm up is a challenge. The number ONE problem we have is batteries going dead overnight in the cold. You can trickle charge them or put a warmer on them to prevent it, but if the entire car runs on battery I would imagine the battery life to be very poor.

    Then, tack on the heater issue... Sounds pretty infeasible around these parts. Although, a possible solution would be to do what is currently done with gas cars, and pipe whatever excess heat is made by the motor into the cab. I'm not sure how much that would produce, but it would increase the efficiency a bit.

    I've seen a few cold weather tests for hybrid and turbo desiel around here. The hybrids seem to crap out about -10F to -15F and a few of the TD seem to drop out about -35F. The gas, assuming it starts, don't have issues running in cold.
  • Nope (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chmcginn (201645) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:25PM (#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 []

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

    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.

  • Why So Uninformed? (Score:1, Informative)

    by I'll Provide The War (1045190) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @06:54PM (#18055146)
    Why are so many commenters speculating on claims that have already been thoroughly investigated?

    1. "The grid will collapse."
    Electrical grid could handle millions of plug-in hybrids []

    A new study, conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and sponsored by the federal agency, predicts that off-peak electricity production is adequate for keeping 185 million plug-in hybrids on the road.

    2. "Electric cars will increase pollution."
    Plug-In Hybrids Are Cleaner (Even on a Coal Grid) []

    The "well-to-wheel" emissions of electric vehicles are lower than those from gasoline internal combustion vehicles. California Air Resources Board studies show that battery electric vehicles emit at least 67% lower greenhouse gases than gasoline cars -- even more assuming renewables. A PHEV with only a 20-mile all-electric range is 62% lower( df [])

    Nationally, two government studies have found PHEVs would result in large reductions even on the national grid (50% coal). The GREET 1.6 model in 2001( .pdf []) by the DOE's Argonne National Lab estimates hybrids reduce greenhouse gases by 22%, and plug-in hybrids by 36% (see table 2). An Argonne researcher reached consensus with researchers from other national labs, universities, the Air Resources Board, automakers, utilities and AD Little to estimate in July 2002 that PHEVs using nighttime power reduce greenhouse gases by 46 to 61 percent.

  • by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @09:30PM (#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 [] 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.

E = MC ** 2 +- 3db