There have been so many new approaches to batteries lately that it’s hard to keep track of them all, but most of them have one thing in common: they are all cheaper and safer than lithium-ion batteries.Listen, lithium-ion batteries are the best we’ve got on the market right now. They can store a lot of energy in a small, lightweight package — that’s why they’re in basically everything we own — but they also have some drawbacks. The materials needed to make them aren’t earth-abundant, which makes them more expensive, especially as you scale up in size. They are a fire risk and they also have a fairly short life span.For years, researchers have been looking to more abundant, safer materials to create a better battery. Engineers at South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) are just the latest. They have developed a seawater battery that runs on water and salt, which they say could soon rival the lithium-ion battery in performance.Sodium is the sixth most abundant element on earth, making this battery far cheaper to manufacture and using seawater specifically greatly reduces any chance of fire. The researchers believe that in the future, seawater could be the key to the large-scale energy storage that’s needed as the world shifts to more renewable energy. The batteries could also be used as emergency back-up energy for homes, businesses and ships.The seawater battery works much like a lithium-ion battery as the structure is the same, swapping out lithium for sodium. The university explains:The battery extracts sodium ions from the seawater when it is charged with electrical energy and stores them within the cathode compartment. Upon electrochemical discharge, sodium is released from the anode and reacts with water and oxygen from the seawater cathode to form sodium hydroxide. This process provide energy to power, for instance, an electric vehicle.The salt water is not just acting as an electrolyte; according to the American Chemical Society newsletter it is actually a “catholyte — an electrolyte and cathode combined. In batteries, the electrolyte is the component that allows an electrical charge to flow between the cathode and anode. A constant flow of seawater into and out of the battery provides the sodium ions and water responsible for producing a charge.”Currently, the seawater batteries have a lower electrical output than lithium-ion batteries, but the researchers are working on building the batteries in various sizes and shapes to increase the charge rate. They will soon start mass producing the seawater batteries in a testing facility and join cells together in battery packs. The goal is to produce a battery pack by the end of next year that is capable of providing the home energy needs of a family of four.
While Tesla’s solar roof / Powerwall event isn’t until tomorrow, the product that preceded both, its commercial… cousin, Powerpack, has been upgraded and is already shipping to companies. The company says Powerpack 2 has double the energy density than the original model, paired with a new inverter (made at its Gigafactory), that’s apparently the lowest-priced, highest efficiency utility-scale inverter available. Arguably just as important, the new inverter also simplifies the installation process, with several once-separate components now baked into it.Tesla’s blog calls the new system a “a cost-competitive alternative to other traditional utility infrastructure solutions”. It adds that nearly 300 MWh of Tesla batteries have been deployed so far –including complexes in California. Now, where’s the solar part?
The Obama Administration said yesterday that it will invest up to $4.5 billion to build electric-car charging stations in a major push to create comprehensive charging infrastructure in the U.S.Officials hope this will lead to the construction of enough new charging stations to quell “range anxiety” and enhance the appeal of electric cars for consumers.The program will use Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantees, and promote partnerships between Federal, state, and local governments and automakers.DON’T MISS: CA issues $9 million in grants for electric-car fast charger installationsAmong the goals of the program are a national network of DC fast-charging stations, and the creation of a coalition among 50 carmakers, utilities, and charging-network operators that will work together to ramp up charging infrastructure.State and local governments will also be encouraged to buy electric cars for their fleets.The DOE believes increased charging infrastructure will pave the way for widespread electric-car adoption.
We could reduce CO2 emissions by 75% by 2030The United States is a single country, but it doesn’t have a single power grid. There are multiple regional grids that are not that well interconnected, making it very hard to transfer energy from one side to the other, especially over long distances since the lines are mostly alternating current (AC), which isn’t very efficient over large distances. On top of this, the AC cycles on the different grids are not synched, making it even harder to send power across…This is becoming a problem for the rise of renewable energy. Wind and solar power are intermittent sources, as is hydro, to a lesser extent. The best way to dampen that variability is to be able to share power across a very large area, sending energy from regions where there is a surplus to regions where there is a deficit, balancing things out.
The minister told a conference of transport authorities last week that the tenders for the “Positive Energy” initiative had already been issued and the tests on the panels would begin in the spring.According to France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management, 4m of solarised road is enough to supply one household’s electricity needs, apart from heating, and one kilometre will light a settlement with 5,000 inhabitants.So the maximum effect of the programme, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8% of the French population.The solarising of France’s roads involves glueing 7mm-thick strips to the surface of the carriageway. The basic technology for this has already been developed by Bouygues subsidiary Colas.The company’s Wattway panels (pictured above), which took five years to develop, were unveiled in October.