• Oct 22nd 2010 at 10:55AM
  • 42
Sulfur crystal from Agrigento, Sicily, Italy

If a significant battery breakthrough surfaced today, electric vehicles might be able to duplicate internal combustion engine vehicle's cost and utility by tomorrow. Of course, that's a big if and, as we all know, not going to happen. But these breakthroughs are coming – the question is when. Opinions differ, with some automakers suggesting that meaningful battery advancements are right around the corner, while others believe that electric vehicles' ultimate potential won't be unlocked for decades. It's a contentious issue and the future of electric vehicles are at stake. So, what's the likelihood that a epochal battery breakthrough will surface within a few year's time?

Unfortunately, that's not a question that can be answered with any degree of certainty, but at least one auto exec, Bernd Bohr, chairman of Bosch Automotive Group, believes that breakthroughs in battery tech are a decade, or perhaps even further away. Speaking at the commercial vehicle show in Hannover, Germany recently, Bohr said he believes that certain chemistries, like lithium sulfur, display properties that could potentially increase battery efficiency, but "they are in the basic research stage." Bohr added:
Before serial production for consumer electronics, which we always see as the entry point for new battery technologies, it will be much more than five years, we think.
Battery technologies used in the consumer electronics market typically reach the automotive industry several years later. So, let's assume that 2020ish looks like an appropriate target date for the epochal breakthrough, Maybe.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 42 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      As a famous engineer once said 'you canne change the laws of physics'. Since we're for now stuck in this economic model of 'growth' we need to find a way to move things about using less energy (we will look at this as growth). Electric is efficient and there's nothing in the laws of physics that prevents the existence of a battery that would fit all our (current) personal transportation needs therefore it will happen - normal time frame probably 10 years, could be quicker these days?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Careful there, gunslinger. You can't go using that brain of yours, especially to question the model of infinite increasing consumption of finite resources. That's an unpatriotic, selfish, pompous thought crime.

        Now turn that TV back to Fux news.
      • 4 Years Ago
      no matter if there's a battery with double capacity because it will take twice the time to charge it, unless one's got 1 megawatt cable in one's house, and that usually isn't the case. the whole debate is futile. electric cars aren't intend for ling range driving and never will be (unless battery swap is involved)
        • 4 Years Ago
        The lower the internal resistance of the battery, the faster you can generally charge it.

        Yes, i think there will be a brick wall of how many amps that street wiring can put out without blacking out the neighborhood. I think this will only be a problem if you have a daily commute of longer than 200 miles.. lol.

        Say you have a 500 mile uber battery pack. Well, if you let your car sit on a charger all night for a week and only drive under 100 miles a day, you would have charged that pack from 0% to 100% in a week's time. Then you can take the crazy roadtrip, stopping at level 3 chargers along the way.

        It's doable.
        • 4 Years Ago
        guys, all the things you write are very much true. one thing though is very important, try to imagine what happens to the grid if 100,000 or 1,000,000 customers plug in the same moment at 6.6 kw or 16.8 kw god forbid.. (16.8kw is fine when you have 50-100 teslas at $100K a piece...)

        I tell you what happens - a blackout, and a very big one. that's the whole story in a nutshell

        • 4 Years Ago
        @Zohar:
        I really can't understand what difficulty you are imagining.
        The vast majority of the time people will just plug-in overnight and top up their batteries for running about the next day, which won't be much of a drain for long as they are usually on average only going to do 30 miles or so.
        Since this would usually be at night the load will never approach peak load during the day.
        When we have better batteries capable of more distance the on-board chargers will be better, so they will still charge overnight.
        It doesn't matter is someone does a long run one day and needs a greater draw, as it averages out - most don't do long runs every day, and the ones who do are balanced by the ones who rarely go far.

        Some local strengthening of the transmitters in areas where they are initially popular will be needed, and so on, but nothing radical.
        At the national level, an EV doing 12,000 miles/yr might use 3,000 kwh or so.
        At 30/gal you would save 400/gallons of petrol, which uses about 1,200 kwh to produce and refine.
        So the net extra draw is only perhaps 1,800 kwh /year or so

        It seems to me you are blowing a minor problem way out of proportion.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Zohar, you do have a bit of a point . . . it certainly will make things more difficult.

        But Tesla does have a pretty powerful charger than can charge up its big battery overnight with 240V.

        http://www.teslamotors.com/goelectric/charging
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Zohar,
        Now you have entirely shifted the grounds of your argument, which makes one suspect that your first argument was simply raising difficulties for an idea you did not much fancy anyway.

        If you wish to debate seriously, perhaps you would in some way acknowledge the counter arguments which have been put, which clearly demonstrate that the concern you raise is not well founded.

        We can then if you wish go on to debate the other points you wish to raise, which if I may say so, sound equally spurious.
        Your assumption seems to be that if you can't fix everything at once, it is pointless bothering to fix anything.
        Presumably you think that we are all doomed, in which case your commenting seems a waste of energy, or alternatively are indulging in some sub-Thoreau fantasy of people giving up technology and going back to nature, whatever that is.
        Inconveniently perhaps 6.5bn or so of the people alive today out of 7 bn would need to be disposed of first.

        FYI the whole US fleet of light vehicles could be run on around 100GWe of power, around a fifth of US baseload and a tenth of peak load.
        So the adoption of electric vehicles would represent a massive decrease in energy intensity.
        • 4 Years Ago
        the point I'm trying to make (maybe I am misunderstood at times) is that it's not a realistic solution - to charge the cars for a few days when you want to make a 200 miles drive and plan all of this in advance... the only solution I can think of with regards to big capacity batteries is swapping them in 3 minutes - like in better place solution. in that case I do think big capacity is great - but only in this situation. charging for 24 hours or more - won't work. charging with mighty power-lines at home - won't work either. I'm just thinking practical - that's all
        • 4 Years Ago
        It is not a matter of physics, but of technology.
        Tell a lighting bolt how long it takes to shift electrons.

        And yes, such talk is crazy in terms of today.
        We cannot charge a car instantly with a lightning bolt.

        Fifty years ago you could carry on a phone conversation for hours straight from 4" piece of plastic in the middle of a field.
        Suggesting you could would have people laughing at you and pointing out there was hardly room for the dialing mechanism no less the massive battery that would be needed.

        Physics is quite capable of any number of extraordinary (well - by definition, of course, not really hahahaha) things.
        It is very much a matter of technology.
        And...
        It is very early days.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Spec, most of the chargers will be 240V, and still, it will take 7 hours to charge up the Leaf, so it isn't at all a case of technology (addr. mike's post). it's mere physics. it takes time to shift water from place to place - and electrons are no different in that manner. indeed there are fast industrial chargers (400v) but they cost thousands of dollars and not suitable for home garage, as well as they're shortening the battery's life much more than 240v charging.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Zohar,
        6.6kW works out to 27.5A. An electric clothes dryer takes 30A. According to your theory we should be experiencing massive blackouts on the weekend when everyone is doing their laundry. An electric stove can also draw up to 30A. Do we experience massive blackouts during thanksgiving? Not usually.

        The Volt and the Leaf have timers, so you can set them to charge at night. Not too many people are doing laundry or cooking at those times, so I hope that puts your fears to rest.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This is one of those "everything there is to invent has already been invented" kind of ideas.
        The tech we have today is akin to friggin' magic if viewed through a lens just 50 years old.
        On top of that, the pace of technological advancement itself is constantly increasing as the tools used for research also get better and better.

        It has made "This can't be done." one of the silliest things there is to say.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Zohar,
        What you say would make some sense if folk did the maximum range of their car every day.
        In fact whether your battery is good for a 100 mile range or 200 most will still do around 30-70 miles a day.
        What the more powerful battery actually means is that you would be able to take longer runs without having to stop to charge, but unless you are going to do it day after day your normal charging routine should top it back up again in a couple of days.
        If you do need to do a lot of long runs then the way around that is to fast charge.

        You then go on to argue that fast charge will decrease the life of the battery.
        It appears to roughly double the rate of decline.
        However, a 100 mile battery will charge twice as often for any given distance travelled per year as a 200 mile battery.

        For convenience's sake, say the 100 mile battery is good for 100,000 miles at 10,000 miles/year down to 80%
        If you used a 200 mile battery and did the same mileage slow charging it should be good for 200,000 miles.
        If instead you fast charged it you would be back to the same 100,000 miles as the lesser battery.

        In practise of course most will not need to fast charge all the time, or even most of the time, so the more powerful battery will still be good for a lot more miles even with the occasional fast charge.

        The difficulties you are talking about are in fact negligible.


        • 4 Years Ago
        I take your point zohar.
        And it is not without merit.

        My whole issue with what you said can be summed up in the last sentence of your initial post: "and never will be".

        Never is a long time.
        A decade is a long time technologically speaking today, and I don't know about you but the last decade I spent flew by in the blink of an eye.

        The charging apparatus in home is nothing. If demand increased then it would become dramatically cheaper.
        Even now 3-phase power is hardly a rarity in businesses.
        A lot of working air compressors in service stations and shops are 3-phase.

        Grid capacity - yes it's a problem.
        Current battery tech being negatively effected by rapid charging - yes a problem.

        Neither of these are problems insurmountable by technology though.
        And with the challenge before us I think they will be met.

        Imagine if you talked of the possibility of a modern engine in 1910.
        Even in 1950, the kind of computer power a modern engine relies upon for its power/efficiency abilities would have required a computer the size of an office building - and still not have been fast or reliable enough.

        It is a technology question in my mind.
        And you simply can't say 'never' or 'impossible' in terms of technology.
        History teaches us that as assuredly as anything.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hmmm.. what happened when people started driving cars all over the place? they built more roads, more oil lines, more gas stations... :)

        Don't worry about a doomsday scenario! Electric cars aren't going to see adoption of biblical proportions any time soon. It will be a slow and gradual thing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Middle Way, need I remind you that electric cars and this blog all together exist because people started driving cars all over the place, building more roads, more oil lines, more gas stations... and now we have to fix all that before out planet goes to hell?

        building more power plants and power lines to provide juice to multi-capacity batteries doesn't exactly fit the model we're all trying to establish here I think, and that's a better and healthier planet for us all
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Zohar,
        What you need to remember, is that the Nissan Leaf is currently shipping with a 3.3kW on board charger. The Tesla Roadster has a 16.8kW on board charger. From empty a Roadster can charge in 4 hours from a 240V supply. If the range on the Leaf is doubled, then they would need to put in a 6.6kW charger to keep full charging times the same.
      • 4 Years Ago
      *crack*

      There goes another BS meter! Broken by ultra high readings of BS.

      Whenever -any- executive makes such a prediction you know they're full of it. How on earth does he know what's going on in every research lab, prototyping center, and garage on the earth to be able to precisely determine when "significant progress" will be made?

      Whenever you hear such "predictions" (especially in transportation) it's often easier to translate them as "the industry players will probably make the decision to progress at xyz in N years/decades/centuries/eons...

      Off to get a new BS meter... They just don't last as long as they should.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think it's not so much as to how long it will take to make a breakthrough - we've already seen prototype Lithium/Sulfur and Lithium/Air batteries demonstrated - it is how long it takes to do the testing, troubleshooting, development of standards, development of manufacturing procedures, building manufacturing plants, and integrating the new technologies into other products. So a breakthrough that happens now might still take a decade or more before it is ready to sell to customers.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Contour Energy Systems Licenses MIT Carbon Nanotube Technology for Li-ion Battery Electrodes
      21 October 2010
      "Early findings from researchers at MIT confirm that using carbon nanotubes for battery electrodes can produce a ten-fold increase in the amount of power that can be delivered from a given weight of material when compared to a conventional lithium-ion battery, and this performance can be sustained across thousands of charge-discharge cycles."

      Trouble is the lead investor at Contour is Schlumberger Oil. Chances are very good that they are buying it to sit on it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh dear.
        If big oil buys another big battery innovation like that. I am gonna go rogue.
      • 4 Years Ago
      When was the last time a breakthrough was predicted. I think the whole concept of "breakthrough" makes them very unpredictable.

      I guess with all the excitement surrounding EV's, there is a lot of wild claims being made.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This whole "breakthrough" thing is a result of the increasing sensationalism of today's media landscape.

        The real-world scenario of gradual progress by steady improvement of products and processes just isn't as newsworthy.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anyone who says X technology is "10 years away" is just making a WAG (wild a$$ guess). You just can't project technological advances that far in advance. They said we would have affordable fuel cell cars by now . . . where are they?

      The current battery technology is good enough for EVs. The battery technology will improve but there is no reason not to start now.
        clipsinite
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly. How many years has it been since we were on the verge of a breakthrough in cold fusion?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Battery tech is all ready good enough for the vast majority of peoples needs.

      If this wasn't the case, Chevron wouldn't still be refusing to license decade old NiMH technology for large scale transportation use.

      Even when batteries can offer 500 miles on a charge going 100mph uphill when it's 10 degrees outside, there will be no shortage of people from the old school slinging any FUD they can get their hands on.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It wouldn't be able to do it with the headlights on as well! :P
      • 4 Years Ago
      Headline should read "Bosch admit decades behind on battery R&D" lol
        • 4 Years Ago
        Really, you should do a bit more research on them before making such a comment.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So we're listening to an ICE-oriented company for insight on computer-electronics technology?

      Yeah... why doesn't Panasonic tell us how far away ICE breakthroughs are while they're at it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I said this above, but why not repeat myself, it's fun ;)

        Bosch makes fuel injection control systems for a lot of cars. They also make various sensors, IE oxygen sensors, crank sensors, camshaft position sensors, yada yada yada. Over half of their business involves electronics of some sort.

        They are certainly going to be involved in all of this.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Bosch is a diverse company, but electronics (automotive and otherwise) make up a big part of their business.

        FYI aside from a wide range of automotive supplies they make things like power tools, industrial control systems and wind turbine components.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Remind me of how long experts said it would take to decode the human genome and how long it actually took?

      How long will it take Zohar to eat his words? He should look up the definition of megawatt. To charge a Nissan Leaf 24kwh battery would require one hour with a 24 kw source. Many homes have 200 amp main circuit breakers and could do it now if everything else were turned off. Industrial equipment uses circuits that deliver many times this, do you know about aluminum smelting?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Isn't Bosch a major ICE auto supplier? Don't they make spark plugs? No need for a spark plug in a EV, sorry Bosch.

        Their is nothing stopping me from storing my old EV batteries in the garage, have solar panels charging them and then doing a dump charge into my EV in minutes. With battery banks at charging stations dump charges could take minutes. Some batteries don't mind a 3c charge rate, and if you have a 200 ah cells you could charge with 600 amps.

        I concur a decade is a short time for auto development.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Bosch has a big joint venture with Samsung for Li-Ion battery. I think they put down a few hundred million bucks. And Bosch has its own hybrid division, and the Porsche Cayenne hybrid uses their inverter. So those saying Bosch doesn't know much about this stuff may want to rethink.

        Bosch also put Li-Ion battery in its cordless power tools before anyone else (their claim).
        • 4 Years Ago
        They also make engine control systems, sensors, water pumps, all sorts of stuff.
        I forget which company ( Samsung? )... but they have a tie-in with some battery maker.

        I don't think they're irrelevant for EV's at all!
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ EVSuperhero:

        You seem to think there is some sort of cabal that is trying to prevent the development of the EV.

        Just because a car doesn't have an engine, does not mean it will not ever need repairs. Bosch, as mentioned above, makes all sorts of subsystems in cars today. In fact, I bet their extensive experience with electrical systems will make them very relevant in the future.

        Also, I seriously doubt EVs of the future will be backwards compatible with today's batteries. Could you take a laptop or a cell phone from a decade ago and use the batteries in a modern device? Would you even want to? No. Of course, all of this supposes you could get manufacturers to agree on a single design when they can't even agree on something as simple as tire design or windshield wiper blades.
      BipDBo
      • 4 Years Ago
      The battery research should just be halted. They're wasting their time because EEstor is almost there!
        • 4 Years Ago
        @BipDBo
        from reading the source link the discussion was apparently about battery developments needed to put an EV on par in price and utility with an ICE car. And that point might well be a decade away. Bosch comes from the electrical/electronics corner and they know more than most people can imagine about batteries and power electronics. Sad to see a differentiated discussion of developments distorted into a "soundbite" like this. Posts on this site could greatly benefit from a more carefull and detailed description of topics. Many folks reading this blog seem to be quite intelligent and educated, judging from their comments. Time to raise the bar everyone!
        BipDBo
        • 4 Years Ago
        @BipDBo
        In all seriousness, 10 years really is not that far away, considering how long it takes a car company to go from concept to show room floor. The battery technology we have to day has been around a while. The technology has slowly trickled down over the years from our cell phones. The Tesla roadster was first unveiled 4 years ago, and yet the first real mass produced EV by a major automaker has just been delivered. It will take a while for there to be a great variety in EV products, and since cars usually get replaced around every 10 years, it will take that much longer for the world's auto fleet to be updated. Everything will take time. Fortunately, when a battery breakthrough does happen, there won't need to be a long developement time for the auto industry to adapt their existing EV designs to it. They will most likely be able to simply plug-n-play.

        The best news, however, is that we don't badly need a breakthrough. the battery tech we have now is enough to make a big impact on oil consumption. For a while, I hope to see Li-ion batteries facilitate a great growth in plug-in hybrids, ER-EVs and pure EVs. I forsee the next decade seeing battery improvement, not so much in quality, but in cost due to higher consumer awareness creating higher volume production.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What happened when all of the US decided to install Air Conditioner's in the 1950's and 1960's?

      You know, there once was a time when people had to actually Live in summer heat of, oh God, 80-95 degrees for 24 hours, 7 days a week, all summer long. Then suddenly, the nation picked up this smart innovation: Air Conditioning.
      I think the Utilities handled the problem.
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