Could this be the electric vehicle battery breakthrough?

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June 11, 2011

By Bob Difley

battery_fluid_coreThose who are less than enthusiastic about the future of electric vehicles cite the immense size and weight of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, the length of time it takes to recharge them, and their limitations in output, for EVs to become mainstream in the near future.

However, a couple of scientists at MIT have been working a new type of battery that has a liquid core, instead of solid state materials as are now used, and their findings have been positive according to The Independent. They say that with this type of battery, it could be half the size of current EV batteries, be cheaper to make, and provide a ten-times improvement in energy density.

In addition to these advantages, the new batteries could be swapped out at charging stations, similar to battery swapping stations for current battery configurations now being installed in Israel and Denmark by the company Better Place , but still have the ability to be recharged at home or at charging stations when time permits. The time taken to swap batteries would be similar to the time taken now to refuel with gasoline or diesel.

Another possibility would be to design the batteries so that the discharged core liquid could be pumped out and replaced with a fully charged fluid. The researchers said that this could be the breakthrough that the battery industry was waiting for to make EVs a more viable replacement for current gasoline and diesel powered vehicles.

These steps could pave the way for electric motorhomes and trucks with capabilities of current models while decreasing our use of foreign oil and with no pollutant or CO2 emissions making less of an imprint on the earth–not to mention using a lot less of $4/gal gasoline.

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  2. I don’t create a bunch of comments, however i did some searching and wound up here Could this be the electric vehicle battery breakthrough?. And I actually do have 2 questions for you if it’s
    allright. Is it only me or does it look as if like some of the
    comments come across like written by brain dead visitors?
    😛 And, if you are writing on other social sites, I’d like to keep up with everything new you have to post. Could you list of every one of your social sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  3. Dependence on foreign oil? US oil companies ship in excess of 600 million gallons of petroleum over seas per year. The more we drill, the more we ship and the price still rises. Problem is, oil companies will endeavor to buy up or kill all alternative energy developments that, ease the US gasoline addiction. It’s a strangle hold that only the most ethical will attempt to break.

  4. m

    “…fully expect to see $6 to $8 a gal gas before anything concrete is done here in the US.”
    In Europe, a gallon is already $8.

  5. Pingback: Could an all-electric RV be coming soon? | RV Chat With Ron

  6. Roger

    Improved energy storage is a good thing…BUT it won’t do us much good if we can’t distribute the energy generated (no matter what the source) to the locations needing or wanting the energy.
    As a country we are quickly falling behind much of the rest of the industrialized world because we demonstrate no interest to set politics and ideology aside and to develop long term (past next election cycle) plans for repairing and upgrading our power distribution grid.
    Not In My Backyard is alive and well here in the US. I find it interesting to note how many of the larger consumers of energy are adamantly opposed to any effort to generate or transmit energy if they can see either the transmission lines or generating system, be it solar, wind or any other of the more desirable generating procedures.

    I fully expect to see $6 to $8 a gal gas before anything concrete is done here in the US.

  7. Geoffrey Pruett

    New storage systems are the missing link on electric vehicles and “new” ideas will be coming out until one actually works in the real world. As to “swap out” power storage try this experiment. Count 50 vehicles in drive to work traffic, now add up those built on the same chassis; next divide that by those with the same body style; now those with ready access to a heavy object like a power cell. Want to take any bets, like those of private money creating a swap out operation, in large enough numbers to be really usable? The idea is great but outside of a single branch of the military not ever going to happen in todays world. Reality is that individual choice drives our markets.

  8. Manuel Enos

    In the mean time while this is being discussed, jerked around, played with, researched by people in congress who don’t know anything about saving energy why not lets drill into that newly found oil field that Exon/Mobile has just discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, that’s fossil fuel and we want green fuel RIGHT NOW BY GOD!! I say use every option we have and if we drill what we have in this country, we can get off the middle east oil wagon next year and that is according to alot of experts…

  9. jim

    i am sure that we will see improvements in battery technology in the long term
    but in todays world we have lot’s of natural gas witch can be used in existing engines like CNG, LNG, i would like to see what it would take to add convergence kit and fiber glass tanks that can be mounted under motor home protected by frame rails
    another thing to look into is nuclear batteries in the future
    there is also a catalytic reformer that makes hydrogen from tap water
    i truly believe we have the technology to replace much of our oil habit with bio fuel an algae. take the CO2 from the coal generating plants an make algae. lets spend that stimulus money an make pilot plant make it work!! Use common sense and American ingenuity to get us off the oil habit
    The airline industry has already replaced more that half their fuel with bio fuel.
    not to mention there is lots of oil right here i n the go old USA why don’t we use it ?

  10. G Shea

    I think this will help the electric car sell, as some are worried about the range of the current generation of electrics. I am not one of them, the 100 mile range of the Nissan Leaf is enough for work and back for me, I will use CNG for the long drives. The electric car rebate money is nearly gone in California due to massive sales of these cars. Folks, these cars are not to solve the make believe Global Warming nonsense, they are going to help with the real energy problem, Mid east oil. Electric can come from Coal, nuke, sun, wind, hydro electric, tides, even geo thermal. It is time the US became energy independent and we can with electric and CNG, if all the naysayers would shut up and help improve these promising new energy sources rather than criticizing them to death. Any shortcoming of these new sources have pale when compared to oil. The nation is clearly moving to adopt these better sources and it is high time we do something to eliminate our need to import oil. The Nissan Leaf uses less power to charge than your dryer so our grid is doing fine even at the current pace of adoption. No one is suggesting that electric replace 100%, they don’t need to. We only import 1/3 of our oil now, let’s go for zero and let Mid East oil go the way of the dinosaur!
    G Shea

  11. Pat

    Good point Tom. Energy has to come from somewhere. Even if we all rode horses we’d need more barns to house them (meaning more lumber cut, nails, etc.), more feed, more meds to treat them, and what to do with all manure? There is always reaction to every action. And on it goes!

    Bob’s post is good news in that there are some folks out there really trying to get this thing off the ground and moving forward.

    My hope for the future is that there will be a number of choices we can make to move us from a to z and that each situation may require a different method. A small EV for errands around town, getting kids to school, etc. An efficient gas/diesel vehicle for towing/pushing (and we don’t need to go 70 miles an hour). Safe, comfortable, effiecient and reasonably available public transportation for cities and in the country.

  12. Tom

    Liquid metal sounds very “Terminatorish” until you discover the reason why the metal is liquid – it’s molten.

    There is an energy cost in keeping the metals in a liquid state. While it may be possible to charge/discharge and carry more capacity in a smaller space, what is the efficiency of the unit since we’re going to have to provide heat to it to either keep it molten?

    Worse yet, if it’s not kept in a molten state, one presumes the capacity of the device to release pent-up energy is greatly diminished. Can it self-heat using remaining power reserves or is another source of power necessary to bring the metals in use up to molten state again?

    The device may be a precursor to the next great energy storage device. However, I don’t believe this will be what makes vehicular energy storage viable. Too many hurdles to overcome for a small, mobile unit (large-scale use seems more likely given it’s requirement to maintain the metals in a molten state).

    Also, there is still the issue of generating sufficient power to charge the metals. Even at 100% efficiency, the US is short around 300 times the number of powerplants operating in the US today. Until a viable method for generating power locally is developed (other than the IC engine), fossil fuels remain the most economical method of generating power on a small scale.

  13. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy Bob,

    I’d like one for my wheelchair, please…