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The Battery that Could be King

July 1, 2010

Our hope for at least some energy independence depends on a new battery. Not an ordinary flashlight battery, but a new and more efficient battery, or possibly capacitor, which can store large amounts of energy.

The Plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) is seen as a way to cut our dependence on foreign oil.

It will use a Lithium-ion battery. Unfortunately the current Li-ion battery is way too expensive.

Launching new PHEVs with existing Li-ion batteries is doable, but PHEVs using today’s Li-ion batteries won’t be affordable for most people.

The Li-ion battery costs around $10,000. It will add $10,000 to the price of a PHEV unless the manufacturer or government absorbs some of the cost. Tax credits are the current method for reducing the cost of PHEVs, though it is the public who is paying for the credit with taxes.

Renewables, such as wind and solar, are hopelessly expensive and unreliable. The electricity they produce must be used the instant it is produced or it is wasted. For example, wind farms produce electricity at night when it isn’t needed. (The U.K. recently decided to pay wind farms not to produce electricity at night because it destabilizes their grid.)

For wind and solar to play more than a nuisance role in our energy structure there must be a method for storing the electricity they generate.

Again, a very efficient battery with the ability to store large quantities of energy is needed to store the electricity generated by these renewables.

If government money is spent anywhere, it should be spent on the research and development of highly efficient batteries with large storage capacities. We should cut research and development for wind and solar –industry can do the applied research these devices require.

The money saved by cutting the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s budget could pay for battery research.

If we are to realize the benefits of PHEVs, and of wind and solar generated electricity, we need highly efficient batteries with large energy storage capabilities.

We have long talked about king coal – well, there could be a new king, the highly efficient battery that could be king.

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