You are correct, phantasyconcepts, flow batteries generally are meant for larger applications, like large-scale storage for renewables. And yes, Li-ion isn't dead yet and probably won't be for a very long time, even if its role changes in terms of battery designs. Even the venerable lead-acid battery still has its place in the world, and that has been around for ages. (And some scientists are even trying to repurpose lead-acid into something more contemporary.)
I read a nice quote a while back from an engineer. "Whenever you design an idiot-proof system, nature adapts by making better idiots." Have a little faith in the stupidity of mankind. We have kids detonating airbags under garbage cans to launch themselves into the air, and riding bicycles and skateboards down the railings of staircases on steep hills. We have people launching their friends on bungee slingshots from four-wheelers, and we have Vice-Presidents who shoot their friends in the face with shotguns. This is 'Mmer-ca', not 'America' after all. Stupidity is an American citizen's 'God-given right'. It is the engineer's job to realize this and design a system so that stupid Americans can't hurt themselves by misusing the product. That is why you have to show ID to buy spray paint, and why you can't get grain alcohol at most liquor stores. I work in the software field, and even I know that when you ask someone to enter a number between 1 and 10 in a program, some idiot out there will enter 'gofur' - misspelling both the animal and the Internet protocol in a question that asked for neither. People as a whole are stupid. We have signs that tell you you are in a school zone because people lack the sense to slow down when they are near a big building with children around it.
I wouldn't chug a lead-acid battery, but I did have one blow up in my face while in the military (I was charging it, saw flames, rushed in to get the jumper cables off of it, and gave the fire enough air for the hydrogen gas to explode in my face, and let me tell you, sulfuric acid tastes terrible). My sunglasses were the only thing protecting my eyesight at the time. Accidents happen, and children are more likely to do something stupid than adults, but don't count out adults for their stupidity. As for removing bicycles from sidewalks, I have a big problem with people who insist that I ride mine on a sidewalk because they are too stupid to pay attention to motorcycles and bicycles. Pennsylvania law says that drivers must yield right-of-way to bicyclists traveling with traffic and pedestrians who are crossing the street in a crosswalk. Removing cars from the roads? Well, when we run out of fossil fuels, we may have to do just that.
You're absolutely right, phantasyconcepts. I apologize for not being more clear in my earlier comment. My comment was directed at the automotive world, but lithium-ion will continue to offer a solution in many applications beyond automotive, for many, many years to come.
@phantasyconcepts: Hmm. Although I generally agree with your comments, I question that last one. When's the last time you chugged down the 'water-based' contents of your car's radiator or lead-acid battery? We have to assume most people won't be stupid, or we might as well remove cars from the road, along with bicycles, scooters, and curbs on sidewalks.
@vimalkumarp: I'm thinking more that it's a challenge for the next 50-100 years, rather than immediately. In terms of climate change, for example, increased electricity generation to cover expanded EV adoption might offset any perceived environmental benefits of EVs for a while. (What would be really great is a moonshot-level effort to convert coal extraction and usage to a more acceptable energy-generating source.)
As to energy security, we're moving in that direction pretty rapidly with or without the potential impact of an EV. And I'd personally like an electric Tesla-like sport car, but I also appreciate the benefits of ICE cars of the present, especially as manufacturers continue to find ways to improve efficiencies and clean up exhaust flows.
I'm fascinated by the potential of the flow battery design. I'd never heard of it before. It seems to harbor the same range-extending potential as inserting a larger gas tank into an existing ICE car design. Very cool. But like fusion and fuel cells, it appears to be another one of those solutions that's 10 years away.
To be fair, Li-ion batteries will still have their uses. If I am understanding the 'flow battery' design properly, it is geared towards larger applications at least initially. The Lithium Ion battery would have applications where such a system is impractical, like home power tools, flashlight batteries, and so forth. Toys are another area where LiIon batteries might find a home. The problem with maintaining a separate storage tank and voltage regulator is a need for space and proper design. Toy makers have gotten used to the packaging of batteries in their current form, and design toys around the standard sized power cells. The same goes for phone products and watches and pocket calculators, all of which will continue to be used for generations to come. It took decades for batteries to evolve into their current form factors, and efficient or not, the AA, AAA, C, D, and 'watch' batteries still have their appropriate uses. Sure, there are more efficient batteries that provide longer charges, more power, and smaller size than a AA battery, but a two-year-old is less likely to swallow a AA battery than a tiny thin-film battery. Besides, 'water-based' is just like asking a thirsty person to 'drink me' and that would most likely be very dangerous.
Yes, it's not a sure thing what will come next but I think you're right, vimalkumarp, energy harvesting will have a key role in future energy sources, including how energy is stored (ie, the type of storage could be dependent on the type of harvester--you're seeing this effect in new batteries that are emerging for wind and solar). This makes work like what you're doing even more relevant.
Yes, Lou, I think you're right as well. With all the research I'm seeing, I believe scientists will come up with a far better alternative to lithium-ion. I think that technology may soon outlive it's usefulness. I think also some of the recent problems we've seen with it (ie, fires etc.) are inspiring people to work faster to find a different chemistry that offers not only better performance but also safety.
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Noting that we now live in an era of “confusion and ill-conceived stuff,” Ammunition design studio founder Robert Brunner, speaking at Gigaom Roadmap, said that by adding connectivity to everything and its mother, we aren't necessarily doing ourselves any favors, with many ‘things’ just fine in their unconnected state.
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