A decade ago, the term “lithium-ion” meant little to consumers. Now, it’s everywhere. Consumers know it as the power source for their laptops, cellphones, hybrid vehicles, and electric cars. It’s also showing up less conspicuously in storage applications on electrical grids. And it has been prominently cited as the battery chemistry that caught fire on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
Lithium-ion’s sudden rise to public prominence has happened for a reason. It’s an energetic chemistry the likes of which have not been previously available. In vehicles, for example, lithium-ion offers three times as much energy as lead-acid and 50 percent more than nickel-metal hydride.
“Lithium-ion has terrific properties in terms of energy density,” David Cole, chairman emeritus of The Center for Automotive Research, told Design News recently.
We’ve collected photos of lithium-ion battery applications from the past five years. From electric cars and hybrids to laptops and grid storage applications, they demonstrate the impact lithium battery chemistries have had.
Click the image below to start the slideshow.
Engineers of Nissan’s Leaf, which made its debut in 2010, wanted their car to have a battery that wouldn’t clog up valuable rear-seat space. Instead of placing the lithium-ion batteries in the back seat and trunk, they created a 24-kWh pack that resides under the floor. (Source: Nissan)
Chuck, the malware that I am talking about would reside in the processor associated with the battery pack, inside the battery pack. Nobody looks at that code, and nobody even has the means to look at the code in the charge controller IC in the battery pack. And there could certainly be damage to the batter pack done from that location. And there is no simple way to prevent it, other than running the batteries dead and disposing of the pack.
Actually, USB fans running on a laptop computer add to the problem by increasing the power loading. Slowing the clock and reducing the screen backlight brightness would be more useful. Also, keeping the CPU heatsink dustfree is a helpful option.
I worked with a guy that was in a group of people watching a car burn. The gas tank shot out of the car and killed two people. I got a video of robots from a friend last night where the Li battery burned and they could not put it out. Sun passing through a water bottle will burn holes in your boat cushions. Concentrated power sources.
I agree with the comments that this is a nice retrospective. Sometimes, consumer response drives innovation. People are frustrated by the short of lifespan and heat emitted by laptop batteries but haven't demanded a real fix. USB laptop fans are just a band-aid but people buy them.
Although hackers are certainly a problem in the modern technological and interconnected age, I'm not certain explosion is a principle concern. There haven't been incidents where computer servers were physically damaged that I am aware of. The media has been erased, network access has been denied, and plenty of other major inconveniences, but no physical damages. The reason, I think, is isolation between the network interface and the operating system/hardware. I would expect the same isolation to be built into any networked auto systems. It's like this: all Internet browsers, by internal design, PREVENT a hacker from using HTML-based instructions from reading (or writing to) the contents of the user's hard drive without their explicit approval. It's hard-coded into the browser language (I program for a living and have attempted to overcome this limitation myself, although for the purposes of good, not evil). Does that mean a user's machine can't be compromised? No, it doesn't. But it means the user has to actively allow control to the hacker. i.e., take an action that explicitly permits the transfer of a virus, spyware, rootkit and so on, to their drive. I can reasonable assume automotive networkers would follow the same safety protocols that have been employed and deployed over the past 10-15 years of Internet usage, and not create the opportunity for that scenario (call me optimistic or naive, but 15 years of recent history in the same environment sets a reasonable standard of expectations).
The idea that hackers could corner the market on automotive code readers and introduce a doomsday trigger is fascinating and great material for a future Tom Cruise/Mission Impossible plotline. But it sounds a little too passive/aggressive for most terrorists to want to focus on. And I tend to doubt the Chinese would want to wipe out a country they have invested so much money in, buying our debt. They aren't that short sighted. I don't doubt they could do it, I only question the assumption that they would pick up our tab and THEN knock us off.
The concern I would have with viruses and such would be the more mundane issue of being able to trigger some sort of failsafe device while the car is driving on the interstate, shutting down the vehicle and stranding the driver in the middle of nowhere. Now that's a more realistic possibility, and could conceivably cause plenty of havoc if coordinated correctly.
The gasoline in the fuel tank is a much greater crash hazard and would be capable of nearly instant damage, as opposed to the battery pack, which would take much more time to heat up and start a fire. And I am not aware of any automotive or aviation battery pack explosions. Gas tanks are a different story, though.
The addition of malware to charging system control software is a very disturbing possibility, and unfortunately one that would be quite a challenge to defend against. The problem is made far worse by the attitude of many in our country that "none of our enemies are really that bad", which results in not taking threats very seriously. Consider the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon as an example. I had not considered intentional malware in the battery charge system code as a potential means of atteck, but it certainly could be. The method of preventing the possibility is through using exclusively electronic means, avoiding the use of software in the charge control system. Not nearly as cheap and easy, but much more secure.
Lithium-Ion primarily gained recognition from portable consumer electronic appliances. No doubt the technology is great, but I'm curious about why L-Ion batteries don't perform well on laptops. The battery life span on laptops is usually only 1-1.5 years.
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Rob. I appreciated the slideshow and from a consumer's standpoint - I have no problem with lithium-ion batteries in electronic gadgetry. But you simply can't convince me that it would be safe to drive a car with lithium ion batteries. Not only do you have the increased volatility that comes with that chemistry, but the cars themselves are smaller. In a crash, small cars are simply not as protected as big cars. When it comes time for my fifteen year old to drive - you can bet you will find a lead acid battery in his car - and it will probably be my 1997 Chevy Lumina LOL
Volkswagen AG is developing a lithium-air battery that could triple the range of its electric cars, but industry experts believe it could be a long time before that chemistry is ready for production vehicles.
California’s plan to mandate an electric vehicle market isn’t the first such undertaking and certainly won’t be the last. But as the Golden State ratchets up for its next big step toward zero-emission vehicle status in 2018, it might be wise to consider a bit of history.
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