The lithium-ion battery is the power source for most modern electric vehicles. Each battery is made up of many smaller units, called cells. The electrical current reaches these cells via conductive surfaces, including aluminum and copper. There is a positive electrode, the cathode, and a negative electrode, the anode. The battery is filled with a transport medium, the electrolyte, so the lithium ions carrying the battery’s charge can flow freely from one electrode to the other. This electrolyte solution needs to be extremely pure in order to ensure efficient charging and discharging.
Virtually every lithium ion cell produced today uses ethylene carbonate (EC), and most battery scientists believe it is essential. Petibon et al. (2016) tested electrolyte systems other than this within Li-Ion battery cells. Surprisingly, totally removing all ethylene carbonate from typical organic carbonate-based electrolytes and adding small amounts of electrolyte additives creates cells that are better than those containing ethylene carbonate. Petibon et al. (2016) used different surface coatings, electrolyte additives, and new solvent systems, and the impact was substantial. Continue reading →
The Aliso Canyon gas leak of 2015 in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley caused not only an environmental crisis—fuel shortages affected the region’s supply and source of energy. The crisis was a turning point for Southern California’s energy industry, the start of an experiment in the use of batteries to meet energy demands. Tesla’s contribution to the effort, 396 batteries at Mira Loma in the city of Ontario, went online on the 30th of January and is capable of providing power to around 15,000 homes for four hours. The batteries themselves are built at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, and the company’s process of vertical integration now means each component of the battery is built in-house. They are designed to store energy during the day and release at night during times of highest demand in the evening. California’s increasing demand and funding for renewable energy projects allowed the Mira Loma project to come together in just a few months’ time, with the threat of climate change and the impending closure of the last of California’s nuclear plants pushing the industry towards alternative sources of renewable energy. Continue reading →
Nomadic Power, a German start-up founded in 2014, is looking at electric vehicle charging in a new way, by developing mobile lithium ion batteries that can charge a vehicle in 20 minutes or less. If this business and model become viable, electric vehicles would no longer be bound to short trips and frequent stops at charging stations, and electric car charging infrastructure can be “mobilized” and more easily set up in different locations. Continue reading →
Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have created cheap and efficient batteries from apple leftovers. Just imagine charging your smartphone by hooking it up to a rotten apple! In reality, this is a little bit of a stretch from what to expect from this discovery but it is by and large a big win for green technology. In a post for Clean Technica, Tina Casey discusses why this ‘apple-power’ could make waves for energy storage systems and could allow sodium-ion batteries to compete with the in-vogue lithium-ion batteries. Continue reading →
An interesting article on the Clean Technica website, posted by Tina Casey on February 26th, discusses the development of the next generation’s low cost high capacity battery. A company called BioSolar is set to surpass the previous goal of $100 per kwh, set by researchers a few years prior, by achieving $54 per kwh. The company recently completed an international patent application by filling out applications for what they call a “multicomponent-approach to enhance stability and capacitance in polymer-hybrid supercapacitors.” [http://cleantechnica.com/2016/02/26/new-energy-storage-solution-could-hit-magic-54-mark/] Continue reading →
In an interesting article posted on The Guardian on February 5, 2016, blogger Steven Morris discusses the UK’s first home installation of a Tesla Powerwall by a company based in Port Talbot called Solar Plants. The Tesla Powerwall is a wall-mounted 7kWh or 10kWh lithium-ion-battery system that works by absorbing solar energy from exterior panels and then storing that energy for later use. It was first launched in California in May of 2015 with a price tag of $3000 or $3750 depending on the battery capacity. All orders sold out within the first 10 days and Tesla is now working on fulfilling backlog orders in 2016. They are also planning to release a second version of the Powerwall in July or August. Founder Elon Musk has not specified the details of the updates but has stated that the battery cells used in the updated model will come from the Gigafactory rather than their current dispenser, Panasonic. [http://www.fastcompany.com/3056330/fast-feed/tesla-will-launch-a-new-version-of-its-powerwall-battery-this-summer] Powerwall is not the first of its kind as there are other battery systems on the market, but its sleek, slim, and simple design makes it very attractive to consumers. According Mark Kerr, the owner of the Powerwall installed in this article, “its design is very sleek and minimalistic and something you can hang on the wall like a piece of art, definitely nothing like some of the other clunky looking batteries.” [http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/05/welsh-home-installs-uks-first-tesla-powerwall-storage-battery] Continue reading →
These days, it seems rare that a week passes where we don’t hear about some new kind of exotic or outlandish approach to electric car construction. With technology moving at a breakneck pace and interest in the field at an all-time high, concerns over range, power delivery, and cost are to be expected. But where most announcements seem to revolve around nanotechnology or other synthetic materials, a team of researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden announced this week that they’d constructed a small-scale model of an electric vehicle battery pack made from wood. By developing a new carbon-fiber material which has lignin, a natural polymer found in nearly every dry-land plant on earth, as its main ingredient, they’ve made a big step toward cheaper, more energy-dense batteries. Continue reading →
Children grow up making little animals, cities and civilizations out of clay and play-dough. They mold the flexible material into new worlds with ease and joy. What if materials of that same plasticity could be used in other ways? To power the lights that these children use to make their creations by? Or your smart phone, your computer, your home? While in its first stages of development, researchers at Drexel University are one step closer to making a malleable, and conductive, power source. Called MXene, this material consists of electrodes made up of two-dimensional titanium carbide particles, made from etching aluminum from titanium aluminum carbide. This material is made using lithium fluoride and hydrochloric acid. When introduced to water, it becomes flexible like clay. This means that the material can be shaped and rolled out, as thin as tens of microns thick, to create any shape necessary for the product at hand. Once it dries, after being molded, it is highly conductive. (nature.com) Continue reading →
With little to no access to electricity grids in rural areas of Africa, the Nairobi based startup M-KOPA solar launched in 2012 as an effort to provide affordable solar energy units to households in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. A recent press release announced that M-KOPA is entering its fourth round of investment worth $12.45 million (Jackson, 2015). The money will be used to add products to M-KOPA’s line, expand business into East Africa, and license their products for use in other markets (Jackson, 2015). The start up also won the Zayed Future Energy prize in February. Worth $1.5 million, the money will be used to start a development program called M-KOPA University that will focus on developing employees’ business and technical skills (Mutegi, 2015). Continue reading →
With the emerging energy storage market, Tesla Motors Inc., best known for their Model S all-electric sedan, announces plans to release a lithium-ion battery to power your home. Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of Tesla Motors, stated in an earnings conference call, “We are going to unveil the Tesla home battery, a consumer battery that would be for use in people’s houses or businesses fairly soon.”
What is this battery?
Well, Musk said that it “will be like the Model S pack: something flat, 5 inches off the all wall, mounted, with a beautiful cover, an integrated bi-directional inverter, and plug and play.” Continue reading →