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Better Batteries for Low-Emission Autos October 8, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in battery efficiency.
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One of the biggest problems in moving toward electric or hybrid autos is the ability to generate and store the electricity.  Gasoline is reasonably efficient in creating power from a given volume of source material.  Nothing* is more efficient in safely generating the kinds of speed and endurance needed to propel our autos and trucks down the highways and across the country.

But that doesn’t mean we’ve given up on electric as a transportation mode.  Trains have overcome the challenge, to a degree.  Although they burn diesel, it is to fire the on-board electric generators.  You need electric power to effectively link multiple drive engines, and the diesel – electric combination is effective at moving large quantity of goods long distances at acceptable speeds efficiently.

And that’s the basis of our hybrid passenger autos.  The gasoline-powered drive engine also generates electricity, which is used for cruising or slow stop and go driving.  The long pole has been battery efficiency.

Exxon/Mobil has announced improvements in the Lithium-Ion (LIon) batteries that boost the storage efficiencies.  LI-on batteries are generally more sensitive to heat and will degrade performance in high-heat environments, like the auto.

The improvement from Exxon/Mobil is a separator film that is used between the cathode and anode inside the battery.  The thinner the separator, the easier the charge moves between the poles, but thin films tend to break down/wear out quickly.  This new film is super-thin but with increased durability for thousands of charge/discharge cycles.

Batteries using this new separator are smaller and lighter for the same energy output, meaning the vehicles carrying them can be lighter and more efficient.

It’s not a total solution, but is a positive step toward the desired end goal of efficient electric vehicles.

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*Nuclear is more efficient, but the safety considerations preclude its widespread use for passenger cars.  The risks are just too great.

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