Nadine, consumers don't demand better batteries just as consumers don't demand all of those useless "features" that proliferate on so many products. It seems that mostly, consumers buy whatever has the most "cool factor" or whatever is cheapest. Marketing decides what will be offered, tempered by accounting pushing for whatever is cheapest to deliver. The other problem is that, thanks to the "smart" battery pack electronics, in many cases the only battery pack that the product would be willing to work with is the one from the OEM, which is usually about 30% more expensive. In addition, most folks are not about to discard their expensive laptop computer when the battery needs to be replaced after a year, although a few of them do. Wasting $600 or more on a new computer just because of bad batteries in the old one is a bit painful for many folks, after all.
My feeling is that the consumer buying habits are so poor because of technical incompetence. And I don't see any quick end to that.
Good points, Nancy. Right now, the auto industry is in a struggle to find lighter vehicles (that consume less energy to meet upcoming CAFE standards) while also struggling to maintain safety. Not an easy task. They're working with composite materials to meet the duel demand of fuel savings and structural muscle, but it may be years before that can create a small, light car that won't get horribly crushed by one of the gigantic SUVs that are everywhere.
Energy density is important for range. But, with all the cooling needed, this doesn't seem like a very efficient energy storage system. Perhaps electricity is cheap - like gas used to be. This battery can't be "green" with all the waste. It doesn't seem like a good all around battery.
I agree there's an image problem, Rob, and for good reason. Lithium-ion is an energetic chemistry and if the engineers who use it don't show due respect for the energy, there can be problems. If it's engineered properly, especially with respect to cooling, there's no reason that lithium-ion can't be safe. Amazingly, an MIT prof predicted these problems during a discussion with Design News in 1998, saying that too many people don't fully understand this chemistry. His words turned out to be prophetic.
@WilliamK - your comments are technically correct but missed my point altogether.
The whole point I made was that people purchase USB fans as a fix instead of demanding better batteries. The average buyer doesn't know that the fan is not a true solution. When consumers demand better, companies quickly innovate. Without that drive, new battery development will be very slow.
Thanks, bonjengr. I think the applications up to now have tended to lean toward automotive because the federal government was funding anything having to do with electric cars. But as you point out, the applications are endless, and I think we'll see a lot of new ones emerging in the coming decade.
Charles--Excellent slide show giving us an indication as to what is available and who is using the technology. It took a great deal of work putting together the slide show and we all certainly do appreciate it. It's obvious to me the applications are somewhat endless and only an engineer's imagination can find uses. Again, many thanks.
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