Battery Breakthrough?

by Richard T. Stuebi

I recently was sent an article about electric cars. It profiles the Lightning GT, a 700 hp electric sports car that can accelerate to sixty mph in four seconds. To me, the news is not so much about the Lightning GT as it is about the batteries being used in the car.

The claim is that the battery, a Lithium-ion (Li-ion) type called Nanosafe being developed by a company called Altairnano, is able to provide a useful operating range of 250 miles, a full recharge time of 10 minutes, and a useful life of 12-20 years through 15,000 charge/discharge cycles.

If a battery can produce this kind of performance, and if large-scale production can enable the battery pack to be profitably sold at a few thousand dollars, mass adoption of electric vehicles cannot be far behind. This is because recharging an electric car from an socket produces a “fuel” that costs about the equivalent of $0.60 per gallon — about 1/6th the current cost of gasoline at the pump.

That’s a game-changer that could end our addiction to oil. While potentially a big threat to the big petro-companies, such a development would be a huge boon to electric utilities, which all of a sudden would have a major overnight load to soak up off-peak excess capacity.

And, the big long-term winner would be the environment. Even if the electricity comes from coal, the emissions profile of an all-electric car is much better than even a highly-efficient gasoline or diesel car. If the electricity is produced by renewables such as solar and wind, then we’re talking about virtually a zero-carbon car.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

12 replies
  1. Wife Off The Grid
    Wife Off The Grid says:

    You might be interested in our latest book “The Zero-Carbon Car: Building the Car the Auto Industry Can’t Get Right” by William Kemp. Our website for more information iswww.aztext.com

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Richard,Just would like to point out that Altairnano is one of many companies in the industry who are gradually moving the ball forward in terms of cycle life, safety and energy and power density. To charge in 10 minutes, you need a cable the size of my forearm. For a 220VAC with 50 amps – similar to a hot tub connection at home – it will take 3 – 4 hours. There are a couple companies like Altainano in the industry whose claims are more harmful than good.Lithium-ion batteries are the future of automotive power but it will be a steady progression.

  3. adrian2514
    adrian2514 says:

    Hey thanks for the great blog, I love this stuff. I don’t usually do much for Earth Day but with everyone going green these days, I thought I’d try to do my part. I am trying to find easy, simple things I can do to help stop global warming (I don’t plan on buying a hybrid). Has anyone seen that http://www.EarthLab.com is promoting their Earth Day (month) challenge, with the goal to get 1 million people to take their carbon footprint test in April? I took the test, it was easy and only took me about 2 minutes and I am planning on lowering my score with some of their tips. I am looking for more easy fun stuff to do. If you know of any other sites worth my time let me know.

  4. Jim
    Jim says:

    I do hope that it catches on. I bought an entry-level ZAP PK mainly just to support the idea of the future of electric cars. I don't think that the ZAP will be the leader , but I do feel that these fledgling companies need to be supported or we won't see the generation. It really does cost 3 cents per mile to drive. I use it every day to drive back and forth to work. It works for 90% of my driving, but I did keep my full size pickup to do the heavy work. I would hope that a new company would come along and take a market share away from the major car companies. Jim

  5. Richard
    Richard says:

    Did you ever try to figure out what kind of charger your dream car might require. A car that can go 250 miles on a charge requires on the order of 15 kW for 4 hours or 60 kWhr of electricity. Recharging in 10 min requires at least a 360 kW charger. Since the transformer supporting a typical house is a 25 kW unit you might find it rather challenging to support the recharge.

  6. Spare
    Spare says:

    You would plug it in at home for an overnight charge and If you needed a charge on the road there will be many converted Gas stations with quick recharge stations, or supermarkets. (what a good use of all that Parking space)

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Who cares if it requires a cable the size of your forearm? Current gas stations could be retrofit with the appropriate equipment/cables/etc. That way you have the option of plugging in at home for 4 hours OR going to a recharge station and waiting 10 minutes–in other words, more options than we have now. Would I be willing to spend an extra 5 minutes at the gas/charge station in order to cut my bill by 80%? Uh, YES.

  8. laptop battery
    laptop battery says:

    I’ve been very interested in how flash drives could extend notebook battery life. Using a Kill-a-watt power meter I ran some experiments

  9. laptop battery
    laptop battery says:

    I’ve been very interested in how flash drives could extend notebook battery life. Using a Kill-a-watt power meter I ran some experiments with an Intel Core Duo notebook. Power use is a little more complex than I’d thought. Here’s what I found.

  10. memecaster
    memecaster says:

    Walt of LKH2 says: I’ve been looking at Altairno for 18 plus months. The respond minimally on phone, don’t reply to e-mail. Finall they have some real stats on the site. 35KwH at 1100 pounds.Not very dense you say? me too. promise better to come…no wonder I’m told they are NOT a top tier competetor. Mabey Toshiba is? My LKH2 is dedicated to the proposal of replacing the car with a light vehicle at slow speeds (traffic is conjested, we don’t open throtle anyway, and Why Should we?-slow down, live, relax,have a life, eat food…work a bit, enjoy)So I’m looking for a 3 to 5 KWH (scaled down from the above spec, its100-200 pounds in Altarno, about like lead!)pack that lasts like the new stuff but is cheap. I might just stay with froklift and sell dirt cheap as a result, let people upgrade when its worth the money and the choice is clear of which is the winner tech.Altairno always admited the superfast charge needed super big high voltage stations, never claimed this for 110, 220, home cirtuits of any sorts. read the finer print. And, keeping to my anti hyperspeed life philosophy, why bother about 5 minutes or 50 minutes on the road. Plan ahead, stay “tanked up” and avoid the problem we’re now seeing of people trying to get to work and back on 5 bucks in a “runing on fumes” tank—-only to die enroute. Touring? take an hour or two every 300 miles to recharge your senses and reflexes, eat, enjoy, talk, then back to the miles at a blur if you must…I’ll stay “Low Kinetic, thank you very much. Getting there is still half the fun- if its not fun/too far, then bus or train.A Green Future is not intended to give us sex surrogate toys without guilt. Its about sustainability, how long can you survive at an “electrifying” speed of 150 plus, even if its electrically motivated, not belching hydrocarbons, alcohol, burned hydrogen etc? who even cares to investigate?

  11. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Can someone eluicidate how long these Lithium ion betteries are going to live? How do we dispose of them? What happens in a car crash? Do one need a HAZMAT team to visit the accident site?The proposed charging options are ridiculous in hardware and charging time. Looks imaginative. The idea is great, but it looks as a solution for the ‘rich’. The proposed car perfromance is impressive. But is this the global solution for carbon credits? Wait for the Biobased Batteries that are going to enter the field in the future and see how you can charge a light weight battery…

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