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Electric Car Nano-Batteries Aim For 500-Mile Range 650

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-things-in-small-packages dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Consortium members read like a Who's Who in technology research for the Battery 500 Project which aims to use nanotechnology to extend the range of all-electric cars 200 miles beyond the 300-mile range of gasoline powered cars. IBM, the University of California at Berkeley and all five of our US National Labs are collaborating to make the 500-mile electric car battery. Within two years, they promise to have a new kind of battery technology in place for the 500-mile electric car. If that happens, then I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make the Toyota Prius look like a fad."
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Electric Car Nano-Batteries Aim For 500 Mile Range

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  • It's not news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhcaocf197912 (1430843) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:13AM (#29602105)
    until it actually happens.... This is more like a press-release rather than actual news.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hojima (1228978)

      I'm pretty sure they wouldn't make this claim if they didn't have some hard science to back it up. That's a lot of big organizations putting their reputation on the line, so I'm more worried about how much this battery will cost and how long is its lifetime, because if it is high and low respectively, then it's just as impractical as 200 mpc.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rei (128717)

        Yeah, but they're proposing to do it with lithium-air, which I find to be a very uninteresting tech. All of the "air" cells tend to be plagued with every downside in the book except for energy density (which they excel at). We're talking efficiency, longevity, power, price per watt, price per watt-hour, and flammability.

        I'm much more interested in some of the advances to li-ion (fluorinated metal or layered cathodes, silicon or tin nanoparticle anodes) and lithium-sulfur. Neither are as extreme of an ene

    • Re:It's not news (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0x15 (852429) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:31AM (#29602509)
      Exactly right. A 'statement of direction'. In fact, the poster should have read the article. IBM states that they should know in 2 years whether lithium-air technology will work or not. They didn't state a battery would be ready at that time.
      • by icebike (68054) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:17AM (#29602949)

        > In fact, the poster should have read the article.

        Slippery slope.

        Next you'll be asking slashdoters to read the whole post instead of just the title.

  • One problem I see with the 2 year prediction is that it just doesn't give people enough time to transition from gas powered cars to half-gas-half-electric cars (Prius) to electric cars. People will still drive their gas powered cars well into the next 20-30 years and so to say "I predict a mass exodus" is to predict that in two years the global economy will not only have turned around but created enough wealth that banks can lend out 40-50,000 per person to guy buy their new shiny Toyota Batterius.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by polar red (215081)

      Many people don't need 150 mile/200 Km range, and can start the switch petrol --> electric right away. I also don't see much need for a hybrid if you have 300-mile/500 Km electric cars. especially if there are battery-switch stations. You have also to realize that electricity costs less per mile/Km than petrol.

    • by Korin43 (881732)
      Replacing all of our cars as soon as this one comes out is unrealistic, but that's not what's needed for a "mass exodus". All you need for that is for the majority of new cars sold to be shiny new Toyota Batteriuses.
    • Re:2 Years (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:06AM (#29602399)

      People will drive their cars and people will eventually switch but 2 years is MUCH too soon to think that we can start tearing down gas stations.

      I expect that I'll still be driving the same car in five years, at which time it will be 30 years old.

      Would I drive a new car if I could afford it? Possibly. Would it benefit me financially to do so? Probably not.

      I've done some reasonably major repairs in the last couple of years - a reconditioned cylinder head, a wheel bearing, the distributor - but I've still spent far less in higher fuel consumption and those repairs than I'd have spent in interest on a loan and lost in depreciation on a newer vehicle.

      Yeah, it'd be nice to have a lower carbon footprint from a more fuel-efficient hybrid. It'd be even nicer to have a slightly lower carbon footprint from an all-electric vehicle (we use brown coal for most of our electricity in my corner of Australia), and even better once our Illustrious Leaders convince the Great Unwashed to let us go nuclear. Trouble is, for all intents and purposes we're a single-income household (one adult is a disability pensioner - car, diesel spill, lamp post) with two kids and all the expenses that go with that. If it's a choice between environmental righteousness and actually maintaining a functional household, the household wins. Even on purely financial terms, without using my family as a rationalisation, keeping my old car going wins.

      • Re:2 Years (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hagarę (115031) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:00AM (#29602635)
        Theres nothing at all wrong with your Carbon footprint using an old car. Lets say you get a new one every 3 years, regardless of the energy consumption of the car itself, the energy and resources used in building a new car is quite alot. Pressed steel, oil based plastic bumpers, mouldings, interior parts, glass, paints, miles worth of wiring and electrical components, dozens of sensors, and the thousands of spare parts that need to be made to support a new model by the manufacturer. All produced by nice large factories who are about as carbon neutral as that brown coal power station. However you have one car over 30 years, instead of 10 cars over 30 years, and lets face it, a recon head, a dizzy and a wheel bearing arent alot at all for 30 years of use parts wise. I'd say you are doing well really. You are an automotive recycler. Be proud!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Snospar (638389)

          Mod parent up please! This point is often skimmed over or simply ignored by those people who insist on a shiny new car every 3 years. Instead you hear them claim "It's low emissions, much better for the environment" or "I've gone for a smaller engine to be eco-friendly". The stark fact is that the cost to the environment of actually producing the new car is staggering.

          Also, congrats to the GP, 30 years with one vehicle is impressive.

  • I predict the electric car produced with this battery will look like a Prius, since it has an excellent coefficient of drag, so good, Honda chose to copy it for the new insight.

  • Look like a fad? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It IS a fad...

  • what's this "the 300-mile range of gasoline powered cars" garbage?...

    My 1977 Fiat is upwards of a 400-mile range with a tiny 12 gallon tank...(heh just pre-empting the Fiat haters...)and that's without pushing it or towing it :)

  • AskOxford: Commonly Confused Words []. I suspect most people will discover that they regularly make at least one of the mistakes in that list; I certainly did.

  • Prius (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Techman83 (949264) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:26AM (#29602165)
    Well they are more of a fad/statement then anything else. You don't buy a Prius to be "green", you buy one to say "Look at me, I care about the environment". Now that may come off a bit trollish, but that certainly is the reality of the situation.
    • by polar red (215081)

      I consider myself to be green, and i concur whole-heartedly. A green person just doesn't buy a car, and if he/she does : he/she doesn't use it very much, and keeps that car for 20+ years.

      • by Techman83 (949264)
        Wonder how long Prius batteries will realistically last, especially if they don't get used often.
  • by greenguy (162630) <> on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:29AM (#29602183) Homepage Journal

    I was too distracted by "Whose Who" to absorb much after that. Of course, most of it was after that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:30AM (#29602187)

    In order to replace the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine,) charge time needs to drop to less than 10 minutes. With recharging stations nearly as common as gas stations.

    Batteries aren't going to do that. Supercapacitors will. (Or some yet-to-be-invented technology.)

    • by jrumney (197329) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:00AM (#29603141) Homepage
      Or battery swap stations. Seriously, what is needed more than range is a universal standard for batteries with built in meters, so you can swap them at gas stations, paying for what you used when you swap it out. The "recharge" stops could then be much quicker than gas stops, and it leaves gas station owners happy, as they're still where you come to when you're out of juice, as it is much more convenient than plugging in at home and putting up with the brownouts as the car sucks more current than your household circuits were designed for.
  • Ifs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:30AM (#29602189)
    Within two years, they promise to have a new kind of battery technology in place for the 500-mile electric car. If that happens,

    and the cost of the battery allows the car to be similarly priced to a gasoline car, and the charging time is reasonably short so when you run out you are not carless for 8 hours or something, and the infrastructure is in place to charge the car on the road,

    then I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make the Toyota Prius look like a fad.

    There, fixed that for you
  • by BBCWatcher (900486) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:31AM (#29602195)
    If battery engineers can actually increase energy storage densities to allow 500 mile range electric vehicles, there will be something of a stampede among car buyers, yes. However, one key remaining factor will be the range achievable with about a 15 minute quick charge (i.e. a stop for a Slurpie). If that range is, say, about 200 miles (40% of maximum), and assuming the economics otherwise work (i.e. battery costs and durability), we may finally see the end of the internal combustion engine in widespread automotive use.
  • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:34AM (#29602211)

    Electric transportation is humanity's next (and very important) step in reducing CO2 emissions. It has to happen. It will happen. But I think this (non)story is a little optimistic.

    Many great minds have been working to improve chemical energy storage devices for 50 years. It's a fantastically complex problem. We've made strides, to be sure; compare the latest commercial lithium ion polymer batteries to 80s NiCD, and the future looks bright.

    But two years is a very short time period, in battery development.

    Still, good luck IBM.

    • by Sandbags (964742) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @10:40AM (#29605653) Journal

      It's NOT the next step, it;s a later one, our next step is efficincy improvements to gas engines, followed by a massive investment in grid expansion to support those electrci cars.

      It's also only going to happen for about 30% of the people in the world, since the rest have nowhere to plug-in said electreic car... even with a milti-trillion dollar investment in wind power, and 15-20 trillion in grid overhaul over 30 years, you;re still not going to change the fact that charging at the power station down the street on a fast-charge rig is going to cost twice what charging at home would, and since charging at home is only 50% cheaper per mile driven (in energy terms only, not accounting for the premium price on the car), it will be impossible for people without garrages to break even on the massive price difference of a $10K battery pack vs a petrol car.

      Chemical energy storage? Yea, it's called HYDROCARBON. Screw batteries, screw off-peak power storage, use the electricity to MAKE gasoline, using waste CO2 as input into RWGS process engines. It;s technology used since WWII, and with modern changes to catalysts, heat exchangers, recouperators, and more, it can now be done for about $3 a gallon... 100% clean gas (no sulfer wastes) and it;s carbon nuetral, and available today. Stop screwing around with technologies that can be monopolized, start using something we have today that works, and lets people keep using current cars, current mechanics, current fuel infrastducture, and in 30-40 years when the grid and the battery industry are ready, we'll start with the electrci cars.

  • by xiando (770382) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:39AM (#29602245) Homepage Journal
    What will happen on the demand side of electricity when electric cars become common? Could it be that demand will quickly outgrow supply? What, oh what, will a KWH cost then? DIE, ELECTRIC CAR, DIE
    • by PMBjornerud (947233) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:46AM (#29603091)

      What will happen on the demand side of electricity when electric cars become common? Could it be that demand will quickly outgrow supply? What, oh what, will a KWH cost then? DIE, ELECTRIC CAR, DIE

      I don't think you understand how utterly inefficient a car engine is at converting gasoline into movement.

      Basically, you could build gasoline power plant and run electric cars off the output. You'd power more cars and reduce kWh cost.

      BTW: Oil is non-renewable, which means demand is guaranteed to outgrow supply.

  • Whose-Who? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Macgrrl (762836) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:40AM (#29602247)

    I don't know to whom it belongs, but traditionally the directorty of notable identities is known as Who's Who [].

  • ... miles on a tank of diesel every two weeks.

    That is what I get now and I would want more from advanced technology.

    (yes it is a FIAT)

  • No thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:00AM (#29602373)
    300 miles is needlessly far for a city car, and still not long enough for long trips.

    If they can make such dense batteries, I'd rather have 50 mile range with 1/6 the battery weight / cost. No use dragging around excess batteries all the time.

    • No use dragging around excess batteries all the time.

      Isn't it faster to charge a larger battery to partial capacity than a smaller one to full? Could make a difference to your routine, especially if you opt for a small battery and therefore end up charging it more often.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:24AM (#29602475)

    We can have batteries that are good for 10000 miles per charge and charge in 5 minutes, and that truly would be great, but that is not enough to make electric cars a mainstream technology. The real questions is, where will the energy come from? What energy source will be used to generate all of that additional electricity that our power grids will require? In North America we already have important segments of the power grid that are under supplied during peak load. Rolling blackouts are occasionally experienced. There is no capacity in the system for this.

    The original poster states, "Within two years, they promise to have a new kind of battery technology in place for the 500-mile electric car. If that happens, then I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make the Toyota Prius look like a fad."

    This is simply impossible... without first figuring out how to generate huge amounts of additional cheap electricity.

    Oil is an incredible substance. It is abundant ( which is why we can use rediculous amounts of it ) and very energy dense.

    Creating a better battery is and exercise in developing an energy storage solution. We are talking about a battery with a high enough energy density to take us 500 miles on a charge. Thats nice but not nearly a game changer. This addresses the "energy density" problem, but not the bigger "energy supply" problem. In order to have a "mass exodus from gasoline", we have to find another source of cheap abundant energy first.

    To get us all into electric cars we would need to generate much more electricity. We could:

    - burn more natural gas or coal. In North America we burn copious amounts of that already to generate electricity. But then again,I'll stick with my gasoline engine if its going to come to that. As a bonus, in this case it is more wasteful to power our electric cars this way. We would be better of fueling our cars directly with natural gas. We would save the energy lost converting to electricity. Coal....could be complicated.

    - pepper the world with renewable energy generation projects. I sure hope we do this. I'm pretty sure we will, but it will take time and a very large investment. Germany is WAY ahead of everyone else on this and still, they only hope to realize a goal of 45 percent renewable energy in Germany's total energy mix by 2050, and they don't think that will be possible without major conservation efforts. So, don't strap your buick to the backyard windmill just yet.

    - innovate - find new power sources. I hope we do this too. Although the next big breakthrough could happen tomorrow, this will probably also take a lot of time and money.

    Oil is an incredible substance. It is very abundant ( which is why we can use rediculous amounts of it ) and very energy dense. Replacing it will be a big challenge.

    By the way, we already have an energy storage soltion that has a far greater energy density that of gasoline....hydrogen. Hydrogen is just like a battery. It is an energy storage medium (a very good one too) but not a source of energy. There is no freely available source hydrogen. Like electricity, we have to create it using some other source of energy.

    • by MrMista_B (891430) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:58AM (#29602861)


      Comparatively cheap per megawatt, and per megawatt, the most enviromentally friendly power source we've yet discovered.

      • by mdsolar (1045926) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @08:13AM (#29604045) Homepage Journal
        Nuclear costs upwards of $8 million/MW for a power plant and then you have to pay for fuel. This is more than four times as much as for thin film solar PV. You might be thinking that the cost of energy rather than capacity is low. Not so. It is also the most expensive on a kWh basis. []
      • by MrKaos (858439) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @11:24AM (#29606341) Journal


        Comparatively cheap per megawatt, and per megawatt, the most enviromentally friendly power source we've yet discovered.

        At least in SyFy books. In real life however the actual evidence points to a net energy deficit when the entire fuel cycle is taken into account. But for some reason as soon as someone says something good about nuclear power on slashdot they instantly get modded up. I simply don't understand why there is a collective drop in IQ when the available scientific *evidence* and an examination of the legal and political constructs demonstrate statements like these are complete fantasy. So lets examine them;

        Comparatively cheap per megawatt

        Operative word "Comparatively", but what about some institutional assesments?

        Standard and Poor's assessment of the Nuclear industry's financial viability "the industry's legacy of cost growth, technological problems, cumbersome political and regulatory oversight, and the newer risks brought about by competition and terrorism keep credit risk too high for even federal legislation that provides loan guarantees to overcome"

        an assessment supported by Britain's Royal Institute of International Affairs "even with an explicit tax on carbon-based power generation, new nuclear power plants cannot be economical without government subsidies"

        The breakdown of U.S energy research and development reported by the US DOE is roughly 60% for nuclear, 25% to fossil fuels and 15% to SUSTAINABLE energy sources. In addition to what I mentioned above you can add the 2005 U.S energy bill which provided another $13 billion dollars worth of subsidies, revocation of the Public Utilities Holding Company Act (PUHCA) which was put into law in 1935 to stop a re-occurrence of the 1929 stock market crash. The Price-Anderson Act to underwrite the Nuclear industry with $600 Billion of Taxpayer money and closer to a trillion if you factor the huge amount of land you are going to lose in the event of an actual accident.

        Half a billion dollars worth of subsidies for procuring companies (i.e oil companies) proposing "pre-approved" reactor designs, even if they don't build it, and a 1.8 cent per kilowatt hour tax credit if they do. The reality is if the Nuclear power industry was forced to cover it's own liability and fund itself it would cease to exist. I could go on and on but the bottom line is how can America, of all countries, continue to justify this form of corporate welfare?

        the most enviromentally friendly power source we've yet discovered.

        Ok, lets look at radioactive isotope emissions only. Over the entire industrial process radioactive isotope emissions are inevitable. Here are the *authorised* effluents not the accidents.

        Mine tailing: radioactive mine tailings from open cut mining where ever it has occurred, radon 220, radium 226, thorium etc.

        Enrichment: U-238 or DU. Used as weapon projectile, is pyrophoric and burns into a radioactive powder. Groundwater contamination from leaking Hexafluoride tanks []

        Reactor facility: tritium, iodine 131, xenon 141, 143, 144, cerium 141, 143, 144, tritium, tritium and tritium AND Noble Gasses Which Decay Into More Dangerous Daughter Products (Xenon 137, Krypton 90, rubidium 90, strontium 90, Xenon 135, xenon 133, krypton 85, Argon 39). Of course no epidemiological studies have been performed on the noble gas venting which are released hourly from *all* Nuclear reactors. (did I mention tritium) 4000 gallons of primary coolant water PER DAY containing plutonium 238,239,241, technetium 99, iodine 129, carbon 14 and *ahem* tritium which is highly mutagenic once it's in the foodchain.

        Reactor decommissioning: cobalt 60, iron 55, nickel 63.

        Radioactive Waste: Plutonium, Strontium 90, Iodine 131, Cesium 137 and on and on

        • by BlueParrot (965239) on Friday October 02, 2009 @12:29AM (#29613893)

          In real life however the actual evidence points to a net energy deficit when the entire fuel cycle is taken into account.

          This is how far I read because if you seriously think Nuclear power ends up in an energy deficit you are either completely ignorant about the subject, your sources are rubbish, or you are deliberately lieing ( or possibly a combination of the three ).

          To give a slight idea of just how much energy is released in a nuclear reactor, the main limit of a reactor's power rating is how high temperatures the construction materials and cooling system can cope with. The reaction itself is limited only by the temperature at which the ceramic fuel rods and steel cladding melts, and at any time the fuel present in a large reactor contains more energy than entire countries consume in a year. If that is not enough to convince you, consider that the energy bound in chemical molecules like gas or petroleum is measured in electron volt, while the energy released in a fission reaction is hundreds of millions of electron volt.

          Or put another way, one atom of uranium when fissioned will release an amount of energy equivalent to hundreds of millions of molecules of conventional fuel. Even if you take the fuel that has the highest chemical energy/weight ratio there is ( hydrogen ) it still releases only 1.53eV per atomic weight unit, while uranium fission is closer to a million eV per atomic weight unit.

          For nuclear power to end up on an energy deficit the energy needed to extract, refine, burn and dispose it would have to be hundreds of millions times larger ( per atom counted ) than the energy needed to extract and refine conventional fuels. Now I accept that handling, mining, burning and disposing uranium and the waste products may be more involved than say coal. I'll even let you say 100 times more energy intensive, or heck why not say 10.000 times just for the hell of it, lets even assume coal is used 100% efficiently, and that only 1% of uranium is burned. You would still have THREE ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE to account for.

          Really it is hard to grasp the energy released in nuclear reactions. A few kilograms would be enough to turn an entire city to ash, a couple of metric tonnes correspond to entire nations' annual energy consumption. Even though most reactors today only burn about 5% of it the amount much power you can tap from it is limited only by how much energy the cooling system can safely transport away, and the energy content is enough that a reactor can run for years without refueling.

  • by ldcroberts (747178) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:33AM (#29603041)
    I sold my car, and bought an electric cycle this year, and I'm pretty impressed with it. I commute on it - charge it overnight once or twice a week, and don't get a sweat up even on hills into a head wind. Costs $5 per year to charge it, and $12 to insure it. Compared to my car it's ridiculously cheap - and because most of the time I'm passing cars that are waiting for other cars ahead, I get to work in around the same time as a car (12 minutes by bike. When there's no traffic I can do it 10 minutes in a car, but a normal morning is 15-20 minutes). I've seen those tuk-tuk's around where a bike pulls a carriage and takes a couple of people in the back. All you need is a carriage on it and a bigger motor and you could go anywhere in the city on it all weather, but to be honest it's not too hot to wear rain gear on the bike anyway as you aren't working, the battery is. I had to go out of town on a bus instead, but cost about the same as petrol for the trip would have or maybe even cheaper. Not quite the same freedom as having a car, but at less than 10% of the cost, I'm happy enough. I would say that within 3 years, at least 30% of the population will move to electric simply because of the cost. And I think it will be bikes not cars that show the biggest growth.
    • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @07:33AM (#29603797) Journal
      I completely agree. Also, people will find it much more efficient to have one electric bike for commuting and an electric Trike pulling a small trailer for shopping. The far flung suburbs will need to be plowed under as farmland - the end of cheap oil is going to have a significant impact on our ability to move fresh food at a low cost. A lot needs to happen, and quickly. This battery system from IBM et al I think it going to be MUCH more useful for trucking companies. Also: keep an eye on Eestor. They're working on an ultracapacitor, which, if it works, will eliminate the slow charging problems of batteries.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @08:28AM (#29604193) Homepage

    > I predict a mass exodus from gasoline to electric powered cars that will make
    > the Toyota Prius look like a fad.

    It was.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.