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Electric Cars Get a Battery Boost

An American company, Envia, has tested a new lithium-ion battery that will allow an electric car to travel 300 miles at half the price of the current model. The battery has set a new world record in energy density, and the company aims to ready it for large-scale production in a mere 18 months. If it holds up to the hype, the battery will allow companies to slash the price on electric cars like GM’s Chevy Volt, which currently sells for $41,000.

Via Meadia is cautiously optimistic these promises will deliver, although many of these “breakthroughs” fail to materialize after the flurry of press releases and breathless publicity has passed. We can wait to applaud Envia’s achievement until the battery is actually being used in cars that are selling in significant numbers. Last time we checked, there weren’t many Volts on the road.

That said, we certainly hope to see more progress in this field. Battery technology is a choke point in many industries that need better, cheaper and more effective storage of power. Envia receives funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and GM, among others. In general, Via Meadia supports this kind of partnership and investment in research, provided that research funding doesn’t turn into production subsidies.

Whether or not this particular battery concept pays off, it’s worth noting that unpredictable technological innovations like these mean that linear projections about future CO2 emissions are basically hot air.

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  • Jim.

    An exercise for an alert VM intern or bored poster:

    – Calculate the cost per mile using gas, considering the cost of a gallon and typical MPG.
    – Calculate the cost per mile using battery power, considering the power taken to recharge the battery, the cost of power, and the distance traveled on one recharge.

    For bonus points, calculate which one burns more oil, considering how much oil is burned to generate the electricity that charges the electric car.

  • Eric

    World lithium production is around 40,000t/yr. That is enough for about 2 million Telsa Roadster-sized battery packs per year, ignoring all the smart phones, laptops etc that also require light and powerful batteries.

    The US alone sees about 8 million new cars sold each year.

    So, halving the price of a lithium containing battery is a good thing…until the rude law of supply and demand massively increases the price of lithium. Last year the prices of the rare earth metals rose as much as 10-fold because of supply limits.

    Forget lithium for mass market EV’s. There isn’t enough economically extractable lithium in the world. The only battery systems which make sense for mass usage are sodium-sulfur (which has to operate at >200 C) or possibly NiMH – although the high price of nickel could also limit that system.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “In general, Via Meadia supports this kind of partnership and investment in research, provided that research funding doesn’t turn into production subsidies.”
    Unfortunately there are subsidies, and the tax payer is getting soaked to keep these uneconomic Green businesses alive. Also I like carbon dioxide it’s plant food, and I want more plants, unlike the Greens who hate plants and want to starve them, at least that’s what their actions indicate.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Let us read what they said carefully. They said they can use their batteries to build a car with a range of 300 miles, and the batteries will cost half of what batteries in current BEVs cost. The trick here is the 300 miles.

    The Nissan Leaf is a real electric car in production now. According to wikipedia, it is powered by a 24 kWh lithium ion battery pack which costs Nissan an estimated $18,000. The EPA found the Leaf’s energy consumption to be 34 kWh/100 miles. It would need 4 of those packs to go 300 miles and the total cost would be $54,000.

    Therefore the claim is that Envia can produce a battery pack that holds 102 kWh for about $27,000. The rest of the car — seats, steering wheel, tires, etc. will be extra. BTW, it will take about 18hrs to fully charge one of those critters, on a 240V 30A line.

    Considering that a very nice sedan, quite a bit larger and more comfortable than a Leaf, can be purchased for less than $27,000, and that it can be gassed up in 10 minutes. I doubt that any games will be changed.

    Furthermore, breakthroughs should not be expected. There haven’t been any new battery chemistries since LiIon about 30 years ago, nor is it likely that there will be any, as inorganic electrochemistry is pretty well plowed ground.

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