We would still be driving horses that run on easily obtained solid biofuels if it wasn't for the development of a widespread and convenient way to move, store and transport bottled solar energy in the form of hydrocarbons.
Somehow finding a way to move, store and transport bottled solar energy in the form of electrochemical energy is going to change anything?
When I was a kid I had to clean house. One thing my mom frowned on was sweeping the dirt under the carpet (didn't have wall to wall in those days so you could do this). EVs and battery technology are the sweeping under the carpet of the "dirt" involved in producing useable stored energy. It doesn't really clean anything. And batteries, windmills and solar haven't had their day in court like hydrocarbons (coal and petroleum) and hydro power have.
Sinde th 60's I have been toying with ways to get from point A to point B using less energy without giving up the convenience and adaptability of the automobile. In that grand experiment I have found:
99-06 Honda Insight 60-70 mpg Making a car lightweight and efficient gets the best fuel economy while retaining excellent creature comforts and while giving up the ability to beat an empty semi in a stoplight drag race, but can pass the horse. And this really didn't matter on road trips.
97-present Toyota Prius 45-55 mpg Hyping a car as energy efficient gets the best sales
83-92 Volkwagen Golf Mk2 1.6L Diesel 45-55 mpg with the acceleration of the aforementioned Insight and the creature space of the Prius and a slightly larger engine.
99-present Toyota Yaris 38 mpg using conventional hydrocarbon energy storage
2010-present Chevy Volt 35 mpg using a complex system of electrochemical energy storage and conventional hydrocarbon energy storage and at a price only the well off can afford while taking money from others. Can pass the Yaris, Prius, Insight and semi from the end of the line at a stoplight drag race and make it to the next light before it turns red. Cannot work without two highly developed forms of energy storage and transport.
58 Volkwagen Beetle 28-35 mpg with more headroom and legroom than most of the aforementioned vehicles using 30's engine technology. Weight about the same as the Insight and displacement slightly more than the Insight. Could pass the first three in a drag race and can go anywhere anytime most people would care to go in an SUV or 4wd vehicle.
So apparently efficiency is more important that energy storage in actually reducing the amount of energy used between A and B. Simplicity is more important than complexity in driving down cost of ownership. And driving style trumps them all.
If the emissions, given equal efficiency from fuel to smoke and mileage was the same, I would prefer to use the smokestack over the tailpipe. Concentrated emmisions should be easier to reform, or process for sequestration than distributed.
This article reminded me of GMs initial claims about the Volt... Since the author stated that he only read about the Volt less than 2 years ago... he should look at this, and realize that sometimes hype is just that.
And yes I am concerned about the soon to be hyper-debt that America is heading into. I don't run my house hold as if there is no limit to how much I should borrow, and I definitely stop spending on wishful thinking when I am having trouble making good on my current batch of IOUs...
But I do understand that for some people it is easy to spend other people's money... on Solyndra type 'investments'. Where did the $800,000,000,000 stim go? How much was wasted or stolen? The super-battery is a good concept, but then so is cold fusion...
Perhaps a reality check is in order before each 'that sounds like a good idea' check...
I was thrilled to read about the air cathode battery that if it worked could go 350 miles. With a safe convenient 15 minute recharge, it would take over. One question is how many times will it have to violate the first and second laws of thermodynamics to make that technology work? I sure hope the answer is zero. How many serious technological advancements, as opposed to great application and designs, need to be made to make it work, and what will those take? Putting those two questions aside, what engineer wouldn't want to work on these challenges? What a hoot to work on a 350 mile battery!
In another energy area, does it seem that there is a serious economic/marketing/political/oil company/ whatever barrier to using natural gas for transportation for the next say 20- 40 years? Wouldn't it be more efficient to burn natural gas in a car than to burn natural gas to make electricity and charge the battery in an electric car to run an electric motor? It is less expensive per unit energy compared to refined crude gasoline, but somewhat less energy dense. I see the larger delivery trucks making a small attempt to use it, but not very widespread. How would the US economy change if we didn't have to import oil from places that don't like us, and we produced all of our own energy resources? We are exporting refined gasoline now, we will be able to export more! Why should we have to drill for oil in areas like a mile under salt water, when natural gas seems to be available via solid ground, where it is much easier to harvest? There should be enough money with natural gas to eliminate the unfriendly imports, save Americans on transportation costs by fueling our cars with natural gas, create a few if not a bunch of American jobs to harvest and deliver the natural gas, and be able to extract the natural gas with safety for the workers and the neighbors. Why is this route not being looked at more seriously?
The problems of the present world or even simplier problems of transportation are un-likely to be solved with any single technologcal solution. (some got a Star Trek power source and replicator?)
The perfect battery? .. as pointed out, isn't going to "cut it".
I see many good observations on the subject of energy storage and related subject of energy creation... but they all have limitations in creation of any real solution to a world of 7 billion with their energy and transportation problems.
I don't expect to see complete solutions being proposed in Design News.
Why? because any complete solution involves much more than technology.
If it was that simple.. we would have agreed to live in Acrosonti's vision a long time ago (see: http://www.arcosanti.org/) ... limited need for cars/public transport/reduction in energy requirements for everything (heating / cooling structures, etc..)
Looks great on paper.. but, I don't see this happening...
I remain optimistic for the future, but I don't think examples of past successes will show us how the future will play out.
Many of the examples of success (with significant leaps in advancement) in the past.. had no previous examples to indicate just how successful they would be.
The article talks about batteries as if they are a power source and a cheap high capacity battery will eliminate all the evils of internal combustion. It completely ignores that most electricity is generated by combustion and an electric car merely moves the emissions from the tailpipe to the smokestack.
A battery is not a power source it is an energy storage device. The losses involved in transmission, charging, and discharging mean that it can take more energy to drive an electric car than a hybrid or an optimally efficient gasoline or diesel powered car.
A superbattery will be a great advance and benefit but it is more likely to pormote the function of a hybrid than an all electric vehicle unless there are government regulations that artificially tip the balance.
D, Sherman wrote "The history of engineering shows that the longer people have been trying unsuccessfully to solve a given problem, the less likely it is that a solution exists."
I don't think this is a reasonable conclusion. For instance, steam power machines date back to Heron of Alexandria, but the precision machining required for a working steam engine wasn't available until 1750's. James Burke's Connections shows very well how most of engineering is interdependent and requires specific accomplishments in seemingly unrelated areas.
Specifically, fusion power is an area where progress has been disappointingly slow, but I think they are getting there: c.f. recent news about new method to stabilize plasma on a large scale.
Continuous research funding is crucial to progress---in fact I challenge you to name a non-trivial number of technological advances that can NOT be traced to society's rational choice to fund scientific research.
Diesel fuel has larger energy content, and is slightly more expensive---the $/J is approximately the same. In Europe, diesel is subsidized (or, rather, the regular gas is taxed even more per Joule) so the prices are similar, I think.
Hydrogen storage has some interesting possibilities: some metal/ceramic compounds can be saturated with hydrogen at densities larger than liquid hydrogen--very counterintuitive, but true. They are inherently safe, too---the extraction rate is slow enough so that there is no 'gigantic fireball' if the tank is compromised.
Although plastics make up only about 11% of all US municipal solid waste, many are actually more energy-dense than coal. Converting these non-recycled plastics into energy with existing technologies could reduce US coal consumption, as well as boost domestic energy reserves, says a new study.
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