The future market for hybrid-electric vehicles, at least those that are affordable, isn't necessarily paved with lithium. Researchers in Australia have created what could be called a lead-acid battery on steroids, capable of performing as well as the nickel-metal hydride systems found in most hybrid cars but at a fraction of the cost.
The so-called UltraBattery combines 150-year-old lead-acid technology with supercapacitors, electronic devices that can quickly absorb and release large bursts of energy over millions of cycles without significant degradation. As a result, the new battery lasts at least four times longer than conventional lead-acid batteries, and its creators say that it can be manufactured at one-quarter the cost of existing hybrid-electric battery packs.
The odometer of a low emission hybrid electric test vehicle today reached 100,000 miles as the car circled a track in the UK using the power of an advanced CSIRO battery system.
The UltraBattery combines a supercapacitor and a lead acid battery in a single unit, creating a hybrid car battery that lasts longer, costs less and is more powerful than current technologies used in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
“The UltraBattery is a leap forward for low emission transport and uptake of HEVs,” said David Lamb, who leads low emissions transport research with the Energy Transformed National Research Flagship.
“Previous tests show the UltraBattery has a life cycle that is at least four times longer and produces 50 per cent more power than conventional battery systems. It’s also about 70 per cent cheaper than the batteries currently used in HEVs,” he said.
By marrying a conventional fuel-powered engine with a battery to drive an electric motor, HEVs achieve the dual environmental benefit of reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption.
The UltraBattery also has the ability to provide and absorb charge rapidly during vehicle acceleration and braking, making it particularly suitable for HEVs, which rely on the electric motor to meet peak power needs during acceleration and can recapture energy normally wasted through braking to recharge the battery.
The test vehicle was a Honda Insight: a production hybrid (no longer in production) that used a nickel metal hydride battery (the same technology as powers the Toyota Prius). "Our goal was to fit our battery into the same space," Lamb said. "It is 17kg heavier and that creates a fuel consumption penalty of 2.8 percent. But it is about one quarter of the cost, so you save around $2000 on the cost of building the car."
The UK test was undertaken in collaboration with the Furukawa Battery Company of Japan, which manufactured the battery and the US Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium.
The high price of oil should cause a burst of innovation in the coming years. The incentives for energy innovation have gone up dramatically. For this reason alone we should expect some game-changing innovations to emerge in energy and transportation.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2008 January 24 09:14 PM Energy Batteries|