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Power Transportation Science

MIT's Nano Storage Could Replace Hybrid Batteries 191

mattnyc99 writes "Last week we discussed Popular Mechanics' reporting from MIT, but missed one of the coolest breakthrough of all, something scientists have been working on quietly as Detroit spends money elsewhere. The Lab for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems has been doing some mega-efficient work with ultracapacitors, which store drastically less energy than a battery but have essentially none of the drawbacks — especially via carbon nanotube arrays. Automotive experts say the new research is enough to start replacing batteries in hybrid cars, and plug-in vehicles might not be far behind. From the scientist who thinks ultracapacitors are potential competitors for the pack in his Toyota Prius: 'I try to contain myself, because it hasn't been proven yet, but it could be a real paradigm change.'"
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MIT's Nano Storage Could Replace Hybrid Batteries

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  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:27PM (#22628828) Homepage Journal
    The reality is that it will take quite a few years to test such systems for pollution, crash resistance, flexibility, and so on if used on the quantity levels required to power plug-in hybrid 100 plus mpg vehicles.

    During this time, it would be logical to buy one of the 2009 or 2010 model year plug-in hybrids that will be on the market - and then ten years down the road see if a battery pack replacement using this capacitor technology is on the market and cheap enough due to large scale production to implement.

    Do now. Not ten years in the future.

    (p.s. a cure for half of all cancers is being tested in the UK right now, but it takes almost a decade to do the trials before it comes to market)
  • Focus fusion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Scareduck ( 177470 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:33PM (#22628898) Homepage Journal
    The implications are that it still won't work.
  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:54PM (#22629148)
    you forgot two other important differences. Weight, and toxic chemicals. Super capacitors are far cleaner and easier to dispose of later. Also the Chemical that make up large battery banks are very heavy. If you can shave 500 pounds off of a car just by removing the batteries and replacing them with equal sized super capacitors then your electric car will be a lot more efficient over the long haul.
  • Re:Electricity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TinyManCan ( 580322 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @07:40PM (#22629648) Homepage
    One nice thing about electric cars is that they will typically be charging at night.

    Power demands are much lower at night, so a population charging electric cars at night might allow us to make more efficient use of the grid all day long, instead of building it to handle a peak load it only sees 2 hours a day.

  • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @08:14PM (#22630010)

    Last week we discussed Popular Mechanics' reporting from MIT, but missed one of the coolest breakthrough of all, something scientists have been working on quietly as Detroit spends money elsewhere.

    I find it amusing that the summary takes a jab at American automakers in light of the fact that Ford has an on-going partnership with MIT. Whether Ford's funding is supporting this specific project I can't confirm, but clearly they are funding these types of projects. A press release describing the partnership can be found here [mit.edu].

    And just because they aren't investing specifically at MIT doesn't mean they aren't investing in this sort of research.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @08:24PM (#22630122) Homepage
    No ripping up of massive stretches of road needed. It can be done as an incremental process. Step one, vehicles are increasingly electrified (already increasingly underway). Step two, the vehicles are designed to have inductive chargers and any new or repaved roads have chargers/meters installed. The vehicles still need to have sufficient battery or gasoline power to keep going a relevant distance when there are no suitable roads around. Step three, enough roads in some places are converted that cars can start ditching energy storage/backup engines. Those who want to be able to offroad can still get vehicles with extended range.

    Incremental changes tend to work a lot better than radical departures, especially when the capital costs are as huge as in the case of replacing our entire transportation infrastructure.

    As for the person who asked about who would pay -- that's easy. Ever seen an EZ-Pass toll booth? :) Same sort of concept. Your vehicle has an identifying chip and transponder, and the road meters you. No identifier, no juice. Or, if that proved too costly, it'd be easy enough to have the occasional random bit of "smart road" that checks to see if you're stealing power, connected to a concealed camera to photograph cheats.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2008 @08:36PM (#22630238)

    /Obviously/, the article is lacking in sufficient detail to prevent such idle speculations as yours.
    But as a result of the question, the comments on the article now contain that detail. I don't read the GP as saying anything negative about the people at MIT who worked on this. The GP asked a question about the claims of the article which caused a series of answering comments. That's just how slashdot works.

    I don't think it's true in this case, but I've also seen articles that exaggerated the claims made by the researchers. It would be quite possible for the people at MIT to have made a discovery that was useful for some other purpose but not the one in the article. In that case too, it's perfectly legitimate to point out a weakness in the claims of the article. It's not ragging on the researchers; it's ragging on the article writer.

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