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Transportation IBM Power Hardware

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

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.
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:16AM (#29602121) Homepage Journal

    The battery pack doesn't have to charge that fast. And a normal petrol tank is also a bomb.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:16AM (#29602123)

    It IS a fad...

  • 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.
  • 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
  • Re:It's not news (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:33AM (#29602203)

    Was the moon landing not news until people landed on the moon?

    If it's not to be covered by the news media, why are they called press releases?

  • 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.

  • Re:2 Years (Score:3, Insightful)

    by polar red ( 215081 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:35AM (#29602217)

    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 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:53AM (#29602321)

    the 'n-word' will become popular again like in the 50s. i mean nuclear of-course.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:12AM (#29602431) Journal
    I used to be super-excited for electric cars to come out. Then I realized I have no place to charge one. I park on the street, and I can't run an extension cord from my house to my car.

    Maybe at some point in the future I'll have a house with a proper garage, but until then, I'll be stuck with gasoline.
  • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:32AM (#29602517) Journal

    The battery pack doesn't have to charge that fast.

    Especially if it can go 500 miles on a single charge. The further it goes, the more likely it is that you won't need to charge it 'til evening.

  • 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!
  • Piss poor mileage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RotateLeftByte ( 797477 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:09AM (#29602661)

    Last Friday/Sat I drove from Bergerac to Calais (both in france) via Reims. Distance covered 1070km on 55litres of Diesel in my 2004 Saab Estate.

    I'll leave it to you to do the conversions but 300miles on a tankfull is just silly.

    My 1969 Triumph TR6 Motorcycle in touring trim and loaded up with camping gear etc gets easily that distance on a 4 (uk)Gallon tank full.
    Progress pah.

  • by EsbenMoseHansen ( 731150 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:23AM (#29602735) Homepage

    yeah right, its going to be REAL PRACTICAL to put 500 mile range into a battery pack. the gasoline nozzle pumps 3 MEGAWATTS of energy into your gas tank in 2 minutes. try to get a battery pack to recharge that fast or hold that much energy and what you have is a BOMB (literally, a coupla sticks of dynamite)..

    However, you cannot fill up the gas tank at home. That is one of the killer features of the battery: no more annoying visits to the gas station, just plug it in when you get home. No more fiddling around with plastic gloves/wait for your fingers to stop smelling of diesel.

    And seriously, driving more than 800km in a day is a long stretch.

    But I do not really believe that range will be the range on a motorway for a holiday-packed car :)

  • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:31AM (#29602769)

    You're making contradictory assumptions. You can't claim that rapid charging is only for long distance trips and then claim that the 99% of commuters on highways will need to use it.

    The only people who need a quick recharge are those going more than 500 miles at once with no long stops. If they stop to sleep then that's 10 hours to recharge at a hotel/motel. If they get to their destination same thing. If they stop to eat same thing. If the car isn't driving it can be charging.

    With some rare exception even long distance trips are generally less than 500 miles one way and probably even both ways.

    It's silly to take a system designed for gasoline and apply it to electric cars with no consideration for the inherent differences. Unlike gasoline electricity is everywhere. Every street, building, house and apartment has a gigantic ever refilling storage tank of it. You don't need to have special locations with giant underground tanks and tanker trunks to deal with it.

  • by shadowknot ( 853491 ) * on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:39AM (#29602789) Homepage Journal
    That's fine for people who will only ever commute or do short trips. What about an annual or even bi-annual vacation or an emergency that requires you to drive 600 miles? The fact is that battery-powered vehicles that require a lengthy recharge time are not practical for long term future use or wide-scale replacement of gasoline powered vehicles if that is the goal. The only technology that has any promise of providing the flexibility of gasoline without the associated issues of fuel supply is hydrogen. The GM HY-WIRE [wikipedia.org] is a great concept of this technology.
  • Re:2 Years (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Snospar ( 638389 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:45AM (#29602819)

    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.

  • 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 dinther ( 738910 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:18AM (#29602955) Homepage

    No matter what the range is, there is always someone who needs to go a little further. If the battery range is 1000 miles then this author is likely to whine that he wants to go 1200 miles.

  • 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 xaxa ( 988988 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:45AM (#29603085)

    The car/battery needn't be useful for everyone in every circumstance to sell well, just useful enough for enough people to buy it. I can't go 600 miles in a day on my bicycle, but I still use it daily.

    I live in Great Britain, so the furthest I could drive without meeting water is 837 miles [google.co.uk] (and the only people doing that trip are cyclists, it's a traditional route for obvious reasons). The furthest I've ever driven in one go is ~400 miles from ~Birmingham to the Scottish Highlands. If I'm travelling alone, a train is my preferred way to go (because of comfort and cost), with more people the car gets less comfortable but cheaper.

    In continental Europe water doesn't get in the way, but still most people won't drive much more than 500 miles at a time for a bi-annual holiday.

  • 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.

  • Re:No thanks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Thursday October 01, 2009 @06:12AM (#29603407)

    Last time I checked, the Volt's gasoline engine was not part of the powertrain, but used as a generator to keep the batteries going after the charge gets low. It is only directly moving on the electric motor subsystem.

  • Mass exodus? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @06:33AM (#29603493)

    Not going to happen.

    The people who are complaining that 200 miles isn't enough for their daily commute will then complain that 500 isn't enough either. Get to 5,000 and they'll complain about charging time, get that down to an hour and they'll still complain.

    As good as won't win over masses. Better than won't win over masses either if they have to change anything. Just look at how much people bitch if you suggest they buy a smaller model engine for the same car to save money on gas and purchase. Even if you're talking about a 350 BHP vs 400 BHP model. They'll whine about how they couldn't possibly tow their four ton trailer that they only need once every four years.

    People really REALLY love to whine and complain. And that won't change any time soon.

  • Re:It's not news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lxs ( 131946 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @07:29AM (#29603771)

    There doesn't have to be. There is enough in seawater [wikipedia.org] to make up the difference.

  • Re:It's not news (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @08:28AM (#29604189)

    Apparently they don't know the difference between "Funny" and "Flamebait". Take heart, most artists aren't appreciated in their own time.

  • Re:It's not news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ost99 ( 101831 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @09:51AM (#29604995)

    I already pay $8 / gallon, so do most of Europe, and it's WAY to low. There's just no incentive to save fuel.

    A recent study on the impact of price on fuel consumption concluded with a recommandation of trippling existing fuel costs (to about $24 / gallon).

    If you civilization requires gas prices below $4 / gallon to survive, you should start planning for it's demise. It will not survive, nor should it.

    Oil is a finite resource, and it's price will rise faster than the growth of the global economy in the coming years. In addition the cost of repairing the damage caused by burning oil must be included in the price.

  • Re:2 Years (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blueZ3 ( 744446 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @10:32AM (#29605491) Homepage

    The problem is that everyone seems to think "Oh, I'll switch to electric, because petrol is so heavily taxed" but you're forgetting that once everyone switches to electric, they're going to have to find another tax to pay for all the road funds... which I predict will be a tax on either electricity or directly on your vehicle. Plus, cars containing a battery and electric motors are pretty much always going to have a significant cost premium over those running on internal combustion.

    That's not saying we won't all make the switch eventually. But thinking that long-term you're "saving money" is probably not the best bet. Sell it on how "green" it is, or reducing dependency on foreign oil is a better (and more accurate) pitch.

  • 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.

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

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday October 01, 2009 @10:53AM (#29605851) Homepage Journal

    Next you'll be asking the moderators to read the comments before modding them!

  • Re:It's not news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:39PM (#29608229) Homepage

    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 energy density increase, but they don't carry along the associated problems of air cells. And the problem isn't really energy density; it's battery cost. We can design a car to hold three times as many cells as even the Tesla Roadster carries. It'd be heavy, but we could build it and make it work well. The problem is, that pack would cost an utter fortune.

    The key is price per watt hour.

  • Re:It's not news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JWW ( 79176 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:50PM (#29608381)

    The problem is that while an incremental increase over time in the cost of gas will be dealt with and adapted to by the populace.

    Wholesale drastic increases like what you're proposing, have ENORMOUSLY destructive consequences.

    It's like "Field of Dreams". If you build it they will come. It IS sadistic to destroy the transportation infrastructure you have by pricing it out of everyones reach when the replacement technology IS NOT READY!!

    If the endeavour highlighted in this article is successful, then no matter what the price of gas, these batteries are going to put the internal combustion engine out of business. Once this technology gets implementable and begins to be utilized, it will replace the old. But you can't put the cart before the horse and punish people for using gas when there are no real alternatives.

    And yes, current electric/Hybrid cars are not true alternatives. Hybrids don't get that much better mileage than some of their pure gas counterparts, all telsas are waaaay to expensive, and the Volt isn't here yet.

    I am certain we will all have electric cars in the future, I just don't want to see the chaos of your proposed gas prices happen first.

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

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @01:52PM (#29608407) Homepage

    Especially when it's battery technology, which hasn't improved much in... how many decades?

    I guess we have to hit every myth in the book on this thread, no?

    The best secondary cells on the market in 1989 were the newly introduced Nickel Metal Hydride cells, which, at introduction, boasted 40Wh/kg. Today, the best secondary cells on the market are 200Wh/kg li-ions (which are *way* better than the li-ions from 1999). We're talking a 4.5x increase in energy density and a 10x increase in power density in 20 years.

    It's true that for much of the 20th century, battery tech largely stagnated. However, then came along the consumer electronics revolution of the 1980s, and people actually started putting real money into rechargeable batteries. That, combined with our modern understanding of materials and fabrication allowed for a boom in battery technology, which today is about a 10% increase in energy density per year. And that rate is rising, not falling. And EVs will probably make it rise even faster.

  • Re:It's not news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:03PM (#29608561) Homepage

    One of the nice things about EVs is design flexibility. GM puts them down the center tunnel in a T-shape. Aptera puts them under the seats. Tesla puts them right over the rear wheels. Mitsubishi puts them under the floor. You can basically put them wherever you have spare space that's ideal for your weight distribution to ensure a good ride, rollover resistance, wheel traction, aerodynamics, style, and so forth.

    It's also one of the downsides to conversions -- they can't take advantage of this flexibility, so they have to put something bulky and heavy in a preexisting space. In a well-designed EV, due to the flexibility of pack layouts, having the batteries onboard almost becomes a design advantage in comparison to an ICE-equivalent vehicle.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama