Are the batteries for the Volt here already? If GM wants to get new technology into a car within the next five years, the batteries need to be ready today so that they can get into the business of making them cheaper and high-performance in series.
And if the batteries are here today, it is likely that the nanoscale electrode A123 li-ion batteries are them. These things have higher power density, lower weight, won't explode in an accident and opperate from -20 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. These batteries are already being used in power tools. Interestingly, hobbyists have already started using those power-tool batteries to create their own electric cars.
Signs seem to be pointing to A123's batteries as the source of the power for GM's next generation hybrids and beyond. Not the least of those signs is the announced partnership between A123 and GM. All of this adds up to a pretty positive scenario for the Chevrolet Volt
. The only question now is: how long before these things cost less than $10,000 a pack?
The first ten batteries have been delivered to Phoenix
Motorcars from Altair Nanotechnologies. These lithium ion packs use a
new ceramic nano-material that, while lowering the power density, makes
the batteries much safer. Altair says that the batteries can be
over-charged with a nail driven through them and they still won't
Adding to our suspicion that the Phoenix Sport Utility Vehicle
will be rather expensive, the cost of the tof the first shipment was
roughly $750,000. However, most of that so it's hard to imagine that
these vehicles will be available for less than the $100,000 Tesla
pricetag. But most of that has to be engineering fees. The per-battery
cost has not yet been released, but is probably between $15,000 and
$20,000 a piece. They will have a smaller pricetag and a longer range
than any other EV on the road, but they will be more expensive and have
a shorter range than any similar gasoline powered car.
Unfortunately, reports that the Phoenix SUT was the perfect
electric car are premature. But it is a step in the right direction.
The new batteries can also charge extremely rapidly at 400 volt
charging stations, but will take several hours to charge at a
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is from 2006. To see our take on Bloom Energy from a 2010 perspective, check out our new article Bloom Energy: Should you Believe the Hype?
Since hearing that John Doerr and the CEO of Bloom Energy are going to be appearing together on Charlie Rose, I've been putting some pieces together. First, KPCB, Doerr's venture capital firm, has been saying repeatedly, "we've been investing in some very interesting alternative energy opportunities."We know that they've funded Eestor
, who makes the long-charge supercapacitors that will be powering the Zenn city travelers. But we also knew that that couldn't be all their investing in. KPCB is one of these multi-billion dollar venture capital firms, and they've been (very intelligently) focusing on clean technology recently.
After a bit of research, I'd like to offer some speculation about what Bloom Energy will be doing.
We already know about the technology the company is based on. In short, K. R. Sridhar created a kind of fuel cell that can combine water, oxygen and an energy source, like natural gas or ethanol, to produce power extremely efficiently.
My guess is that that the profitability of these devices lies in distributed power.
I think Bloom Energy is looking to install 100 Kilowatt power units in everyone's houses. These will be flex-fuel, but likely running mostly on natural gas. They will also probably produce heat, and cooling, as well as power, making the devices roughly 85% efficient (thus generating two times less greenhouse gas emissions than a power plant per unit of power used.)
I don't want to say that they will also be used to create hydrogen, but the technology allows for the fuel cell to easily produce hydrogen if 100% of it's power isn't needed. This could then be used to fill up your new Honda FCX
. As a last piece of wild speculation, I will ask: If these units have such wonderful energy densities and efficiencies, could we put one in a car? Bloom Energy's current website
says absolutely nothing about anything. But, it does finish up with a pretty picture of the earth and the tagline "Be the Solution," which lends credence to everyone having their own super-efficient little power plant in their basement.
I can't wait to hear what K.R. Sridhar has to say for himself tonight on Charlie Rose.
No matter what you get for your loved ones this Christmas, you're likely to need some batteries for it. Whether the devices comes with on-board in a proprietary casing, or a "batteries no included" label, it's important to consider what juices your gifts.
First Rule of Holiday Power Supplies: Never buy anything that has standard batteries included
. Alkalines are evill and, if they're included with a device, they are likely also horribly cheap and inadequate.
Second Rule: Avoid Alkalines.
At all costs! Anything that is expensive, made of heavy metals and disposable is bad for you, your bank account and the environment. You don't have to bother as much with recycling if you use can re-use your batteries.
Third Rule: If you do use alkalines, buy an alkaline recharger
. "Alkaline recharger?" you ask? Yes, they do exist
, and though they're fairly expensive, they're great if you can remember to never charge them all the way down. At that point, the batteries become unusable. But if you keep some juice in them all the time, you'll have the batteries for 10 to 15 times longer.
Fourth Rule: Try to Stick with the standards.
While on-board proprietary battery packs often provide more power per gram, they are more expensive to produce, and thus more expensive to replace. They're also a heck of a lot harder for the recycling folks to handle. If you're not dealing with a super-high powered, necessarily light-weight device, it's best to buy something that can take AA or AAAs.
And the Final Rule: PRECHARGE.
There's nothing worse than that three-hour Christmas morning charge, when you know you've got a fancy new digicam, but you can't actually use it because the gift giver didn't have the courtesy to pre-charge some batteries for you.
Of course, the precharge can now be avoided if you include some Hybrio
's on your christmas list. These standard-size rechargeable NiMH's hold their charge as well as alkalines and thus can be used the moment you open the package.
Finally, here's my battery ranking based on cost, performance, toxicity and recyclability.
4. Lead Acid (which you probably will never see anyway)
Note: Li-ion batteries do come in standard sizes, but shouldn't be used in unapproved devices.