Friday, 29 April 2016

Cool tech

There has been some interesting new tech floating around the web recently, h/t to James, and Facebook.

There's much research going into lithium technology for batteries at the moment, largely because their power/weight ratio makes them just about suitable for cars.  Although much is made of the low electricity cost per mile, the biggest part of the running cost is down to the battery's high price and limited life.   These guys think they can double the capacity and at the same time reduce the cost of lithium batteries by means of an improved cathode.

The most I have seen my car tell me that it can do on a tankful of diesel is 900 Km, about 550 miles.  After that amount of driving I need a break, so if an electric car has to recharge for an hour or so (perhaps less), this is not a big setback to the journey.  Electric cars are just about coming up to offering 250 mile range on a charge, so doubling the mileage makes the cars competitive with fossil fuel power.

The life of lithium batteries is currently limited by the number of charge/discharge cycles they can go through before they collapse.  This research has turned up an unlikely helper: plexiglass.  The test battery remained useful after 15 times the typical number of cycles that would kill an ordinary one.  It uses gold, though so it would probably be quite expensive, but on the other hand, you're amortising the cost over at least ten times as long, possibly even longer.  And maybe something cheaper can be substitued for the gold.

Extending the life of batteries over time (as well as charge cycles) is an ongoing project.  Personally I like the idea of electric cars where the life of the battery can be measured in decades of normal use.  And compared to internal combustion engines, electric cars are mechanically simple.  So how about a standard or modular body shell (carbon fibre?) with a series of interchangeable replacement motors and batteries for different styles of use, as your needs change through life.

And finally, how about this for a nice application of lithium tech:  a new electric bike for you without having to buy a new electric bike.  You can move it from bike to bike, too, put it on your town bike to go shopping, your road racer for when you're too tired to race.

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