Mention the term "alkaline battery" and folks of a certain generation will remember the old Eveready battery commercials with actor Robert Conrad daring the viewer to knock the battery off his shoulder. Very macho. Now, alkaline has moved from manliness to money-saving, as the fine folks at Princeton University have been granted almost $1 million from the US Department of Energy to develop alkaline batteries suitable for electric-vehicle use, Princeton Patch reports.

Specifically, the amount granted was $963,389 (the government's never been about even numbers) and is one of nearly two-dozen grants totaling about $36 million towards what the DOE calls its Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems program (get it?). The idea is that alkaline is a more abundant and less expensive alternative to the lithium required for the lithium-ion batteries currently used in most advanced plug-in vehicles. Various analysts came out last year saying that battery-pack costs could drop to about $250 per kilowatt hour by 2015, down from as much as $700 last year, so the question is whether that target can be hit and if the Ivy Leaguers can beat it.

Pictured above is Lew Urry from Energizer, holding up an original alkaline battery first marketed in 1958 (and a 2002 model). Urry helped develop the first commercially viable alkaline battery.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 23 Comments
      Jesse Gurr
      • 7 Hours Ago
      Umm...Unless they made a huge breakthrough in rechargeable alkaline battery tech then I don't see this happening when the original rechargeable alkalines only had a life cycle of 20 cycles if deeply discharged. With less and less capacity after every charge. Sure they are relatively cheap, but unless the cycle life improved, this is not happening.
        Actionable Mango
        • 7 Hours Ago
        @Jesse Gurr
        So don't deeply discharge them. Lithium rechargeable batteries have a life cycle of 1 if deeply discharged. EVs have sensors to detect the voltage and cut off power before the batteries are too deeply discharged.
      kaylaanna
      • 7 Hours Ago
      until I looked at the check which was of $5595, I didn't believe ...that...my brother had been truley bringing in money in their spare time from there pretty old laptop.. there best friend haz done this 4 only about 20 months and just now paid the loans on their place and got a great new Audi Quattro. reference ᵂᵂᵂ.xurℒ.es/qstxq
      jeff
      • 7 Hours Ago
      I would not trust any article that states that Lithium batteries were $700/KWhr last year??????? I paid about $400/Kwhr for the ones in my car last year. Considering that I only bought 36 180Ahr cells I do not think I got the volume discount.... The upgrade in the Tesla Model S from 60KWhr to 85Kwhr is $10,000. That works out to $400.00 per KWhr assuming that Tesla DOES NOT make a profit on the upgrade (Which I highly doubt)... My guess is the Tesla's cost for batteries is currently about $300/KWhr... This looks like complete BS to me...
      TurboFroggy
      • 7 Hours Ago
      Uh, rechargeable right? I don't want to have to buy a pallet of Energizers from Costco every 100 miles for my Leaf.
      Naturenut99
      • 7 Hours Ago
      We drastically need better rechargeable AA AAA's. If they haven't been able to improve them for that application, how are they going to improve it enough for EV's? I dont believe they develop this into a comparable energy density/weight as Li. And the price on Li batteries is still dropping. Why do they still think it's a viable alternative?
        Actionable Mango
        • 7 Hours Ago
        @Naturenut99
        In my experience modern rechargeables such as Eneloops actually have a higher capacity and longer life than Alkalines.
        SteveG
        • 7 Hours Ago
        @Naturenut99
        Are eneloops not good enough for you? They work fine for me. Practically no self discharge, suitable for even remotes and clocks. Also they can actually provide decent voltage at high discharge amps. What more do you want?
      EZEE
      • 7 Hours Ago
      Very close... Alkaline batteries are a type of primary batteries dependent upon the reaction between zinc and manganese dioxide (Zn/MnO2). The alkaline battery gets its name because it has an alkaline electrolyte of potassium hydroxide, instead of the acidic ammonium chloride or zinc chloride electrolyte of the zinc-carbon batteries. Other battery systems also use alkaline electrolytes, but they use different active materials for the electrodes
      lne937s
      • 7 Hours Ago
      "The idea is that alkaline is a more abundant and less expensive alternative to the lithium required for the lithium-ion batteries ..." Alkaline is a property (as opposed to acidic), pH over 7, not a material. Comparing it to the lithium that makes up a small fraction of the cost of a battery shows a fundamental misunderstanding of chemistry, in addition to misunderstanding where the cost comes from in a Li-Ion battery. There may me some potential alkaline battery chemestries that are less expensive than Lithium Ion, and undoubtedly there are some chemistries that are more expensive.
        EZEE
        • 7 Hours Ago
        @lne937s
        I am glad you posted that. As I saw that, I thought, 'you don't need me (a rocket scientist) to tell you how wrong that is,' I wonder if Danny tell the waiter at a restaurant, 'my food isn't zesty enough. Can you take it back and add more zest?'
          Actionable Mango
          • 7 Hours Ago
          @EZEE
          Bad example. "Zest" is an actual thing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zest_%28ingredient%29
        brotherkenny4
        • 7 Hours Ago
        @lne937s
        Alkaline is a shorthand version of Akaline earth metals, which is what the second column in the periodic table is known as. In this case they are refering to magnesium ion batteries and making them rechargeable. The technical hurdles are substancial and the idea that lithium is expensive and magnesium cheap is disingenuous, since lithium is plentiful and makes up less than two percent of material costs in a lithium ion battery. Typical cathode materials for magnesium batteries are low energy and Mg is big and slow as a disfuser and the ion is a double charge, meaning charge transfer mechanism are slow two step processes.
      krona2k
      • 7 Hours Ago
      How many more times? LITHIUM IS NOT A SUBSTANTIAL PART OF THE COST OF A LITHIUM BATTERY.
        Technoir
        • 7 Hours Ago
        @krona2k
        What % is it ?
          brotherkenny4
          • 7 Hours Ago
          @Technoir
          Less than 2% of cost. If the price of lithium goes up by 100% the price of a lithium ion battery goes up by 2%.
          mycommentemail
          • 7 Hours Ago
          @Technoir
          Thanks for looking up the percentage of weight that lithium contributes to a battery. But that still doesn't answer the question of what percentage of the cost it is.
          DaveMart
          • 7 Hours Ago
          @Technoir
          Confusion often arises between lithium which is so volatile that it is not used 'straight' and lithium carbonate, which has around 18% lithium by weight and is what is used in car batteries. The Leaf uses around 4kg of lithium for it's 24kwh battery pack, so just under 1kg/kwh of lithium carbonate. Typically articles are hopelessly confused between the two, so there is a lot of misinformation out there. Lithium carbonate from the mine costs perhaps $8/kg, the price like most commodities bounces around and I am too lazy to look up current costs. Refining it to the purity needed for cars ups the cost to around $50 kg, according to the WAGs I have seen. So on those figures we might be looking at $1,000 plus for the refined lithium for the Leaf. Those figures are very lose though, as AFAIK the amount of lithium per kwh needed is not fixed, and so may reduce as battery technology improves, but I don't know by how much. In addition, refining costs are not fixed, and better processes may greatly reduce that. So the figures I give should be regarded as the top end. I simply do not have the information about how much we may expect that to fall. If anyone has a WAG on that, please share!
          Jesse Gurr
          • 7 Hours Ago
          @Technoir
          I see you are too lazy to look yourself. A 5 minute google search came up with 0.15 - 0.30 kg/kwh required. With a battery, say 250 wh/kg density for easy numbers. You do the math. (Hint: answer is 7.5% assuming 0.3 kg/kwh. Don't forget to show your work. :D
      2 wheeled menace
      • 7 Hours Ago
      This article is full of fudge. Clearly written by someone who does not understand the material in the source link. The source article is kind of fudge too. Short on details. But it takes that special Danny King touch to add intentional misinformation to something that is already murky. Good job!
      Giza Plateau
      • 7 Hours Ago
      Danny King, we are below 200$/kWh right now.
      EZEE
      • 7 Hours Ago
      Meanwhile, in the vast alkaline mines of Outer Mongolia, men with specially trained dogs seek out the finest alkaline there is, growing under the steps of Mt. Everest, in vast moving quantities. "We were panning for alkaline in the yellow river, but after that dried up, we knew we needed new sources to alkaline to feed every growing demand for electrocules world wide." The world wide electrocule shortage has lead to more extensive drilling, and new methods such as compressed air fracturing, which environmentalists protest, stating that peopel are getting shocked by lightning shooting out of their water faucets, as the electrocules get into ground water. Wow...ADHD moment there...
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