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Li-Ion Batteries Hit Final R&D Phase for Plug-in Cars 238

Posted by Zonk
from the and-then-i-was-like-vroom-vroom dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Tesla finally delivered its first production model of the all-electric Roadster this month. Coinciding with that, researchers from the big automakers and their outsourced startup labs are hitting stride in the development of cheap, high-powered lithium-ion batteries. These may actually end up in our garages. Toyota, in fact, says it's got enough of the chemistry down to roll out a test fleet for the plug-in Prius before the end of 2009. It's mass production of battery tech that's the holdup — which might mean Mercedes' electric hybrids beat the Prius to market en masse by 2010 or 2011."
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Li-Ion Batteries Hit Final R&D Phase for Plug-in Cars

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  • Infrastructure? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CSMatt (1175471) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:56AM (#22332660)
    No matter how well R&D goes for these vehicles, I don't see how we can successfully convert people to electric cars without some sort of infrastructure in place. Sure, you can charge your car at home for the daily commute, but what about road trips?

    Plug-in hybrids are a good compromise, though.
  • by webword (82711) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:02AM (#22332724) Homepage
    OK, so rather than pollute the air as we burn fossil fuels, we'll fill up landfills with bazillions of batteries. Electric cars might not be as "green" and wonderful as people like to think.

    These batteries are probably recyclable but it isn't cost effective, based on what I rad. So, the potential to recycle is there but are people actually going to do it?
  • by moseman (190361) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:11AM (#22332812)
    Look, no matter what tech we use, you have to get the ergs to run the thing, be it via electricity from a plug or electrolyzed h2. You are looking at massive power plants. But for most city folks, these things are placed well out of site in the country-side, where the inhabitants do not have the political power 9due to low populations) to do anything about it.
  • by distantbody (852269) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:14AM (#22332846) Journal
    ...and hopefully good riddance. Say, did you know that an electric vehicle [wikipedia.org] was the first to travel at 100km/h...



    ...in 1899!!!
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt.lynx@bc@ca> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:35AM (#22333074) Journal
    Or, perhaps an increased demand for electricity might spur on searches for alternative ways of producing it rather than through the burning of coal. Geothermal, wind, solar, hydro and even nuclear power all hold some immediate promise in this regard as potentially more environmentally friendly alternatives. At least with an existing electric car infrastructure, as the centralized methods used for generating the electricity might slowly change over time, the infrastructure of existing cars wouldn't need to be upgraded with it.
  • by NameIsDavid (945872) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:16AM (#22333676)
    Today's cars have a single lead-acid battery, but this battery is almost completely recycled. Thus, there's reason to be optimistic about the prospects of recycling. The automobile is one of the most fully-recycled consumer products. Think about it ... you don't just toss one in the trash. There are specific permitted ways to dispose of one, meaning anyone who wants to recover value from it are able to do so.
  • by fprintf (82740) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:47AM (#22334220) Journal
    Come on. This is not always about shoving stuff down the little guys throat. There are plenty of communities that would love having a power plant in their town. For many more rural areas of the United States, they provide the only steady local jobs, provide taxes to help run the town, and sometimes even subsidized electricity (they do in the town next door to mine).
  • Re:Infrastructure? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jdjbuffalo (318589) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:55AM (#22334352) Journal

    Any car that can't be refueled both quickly and at common locations, is not likely to perform very well (in the market place) IMHO.
    I've got to disagree there. While I certainly think that gas(unleaded, diesel, ethanol)/electric hybrid will be the most popular choice for single people. I think that in multi-car families there will likely be only one car that is a hybrid and the others will be all electric (they will be cheaper). It's estimated that 85-95% of all driving is done within 30 miles of your home. This means that all electric cars become reasonable at 100 Miles per recharge. Ideally I would like to see ones that can get around 200+ Miles per recharge but we probably won't see those be mainstream and affordable for 5-10 years.
  • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @12:01PM (#22334456) Homepage Journal
    Batteries, especially 'bazillions' of them like what would be in electric cars would get recycled much like the lead-acid batteries currently are.

    The only reason NiCD and NiMH end up in landfills so much is that they're used and disposed of at home - most people can't be bothered to take them in somewhere to be reycled. Same with liIon.

    An electric car battery, even a hybrid battery is such that you're taking it to a store to be replaced - and they'll have enough to haul them over to the recycling facility that'll pay money for them in a truck big enough to at least break even.
  • Just Rent A Car (Score:5, Insightful)

    by soren100 (63191) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @12:01PM (#22334458)

    Sure, you can charge your car at home for the daily commute, but what about road trips?
    Seriously -- how often do you go on a road trip? Most people only go on road trips a few times a year due to job and other considerations. So you rent a car, and you get to drive a new car that is fully maintained by *someone else* -- you don't have to take your car to the mechanic for a pre-trip "checkover". And you better hope that your mechanic doesn't cheat you and tell you something needs to be fixed when it doesn't.

    One of the huge bonuses associated with electric cars is reduced maintenance. There are no timing chains to break, no radiators to leak, no oil to be changed. Electric motors are highly reliable and very easy to fix. In the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" they discussed that the dealers did not like the electric cars at all because of the tremendously lowered need for maintenance and repair. (Of course the mechanics loved them because the cars were easy to work and and the mechanics didn't end up covered in oil and grease all the time)

    If you really do a lot of extended road trips, you should get a gas car or hybrid, but for everybody else the electric car + renting a gas car occasionally would be the much better choice.
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @12:37PM (#22335048) Homepage Journal
    Carbeque!
  • Re:Still waiting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @04:26PM (#22339380) Homepage
    How about one that just looks like it could take off [wikipedia.org]? :) It [youtube.com] comes out next fall. I get mine in late summer of '09.

    Really, Tesla's approach is not economical for anything but the high-end market. "Laptop batteries" (graphite anode, LiCoO2 cathode) are ill-suited for EV applications. They're too expensive, and even if they weren't, their lifespans are too short, so only those who have money to burn can afford them. I think Aptera's approach is the most realistic: first, use a reasonable battery choice (lithium phosphate) -- sacrifice a little energy density for long life, a high degree of safety, high power density, low cost, and fast charging. Second, build the car light and ultra-aerodynamic. This adds extra cost, but it lets you get by on signficantly less battery power, meaning less battery expense (the Typ-1e only needs 10kWh for 120 mi). And since battery expense is the big cost in EVs, the extra you spent on streamlining is saved several times over in batteries.

    Anyways, keep your eyes out for:

    Lithium vanadium oxide batteries
    Silicon nanowire batteries
    Barium titanate ultracapacitors

    All of these promise 2-3x energy density with current tech while retaining rapid charge ability, and lower cost -- thus keeping all of the EV advantages over gasoline vehicles (noise, efficiency, home charging, pollution reduction, pollution displacement, high torque, low maintenance, low energy costs, etc), while meeting all of gasoline's traditional advantages over EVs (purchase price, range, recharge time). They're game changers. For now, we'll stick with a normal gasoline sedan for long trips (until a fast charging infrastructure becomes widespread) and our (upcoming) Aptera for daily use.

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