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A revolution in battery power or hype?
Posted by: McQ on Monday, January 22, 2007

I guess we'll find out later this year:
A secretive Texas startup developing what some are calling a "game changing" energy-storage technology broke its silence this week. It announced that it has reached two production milestones and is on track to ship systems this year for use in electric vehicles.

EEStor's ambitious goal, according to patent documents, is to "replace the electrochemical battery" in almost every application, from hybrid-electric and pure-electric vehicles to laptop computers to utility-scale electricity storage.

The company boldly claims that its system, a kind of battery-ultracapacitor hybrid based on barium-titanate powders, will dramatically outperform the best lithium-ion batteries on the market in terms of energy density, price, charge time, and safety. Pound for pound, it will also pack 10 times the punch of lead-acid batteries at half the cost and without the need for toxic materials or chemicals, according to the company.
Outperform the best lithium-ion battery", in all important ways plus having "10 times the punch of lead-acid batteries at half the cost" and, no "toxic materials or chemicals"?

Let me quote Andrew Burke:
"I get a little skeptical when somebody thinks they've got a silver bullet for every application, because that's just not consistent with reality," says Andrew Burke, an expert on energy systems for transportation at University of California at Davis.
Uh, yeah, me too.

But then, let me further quote Andrew Burke:
"If [the] technology turns out to be better than I think, that doesn't make me sad: it makes me happy."
No kidding. Implications?
The implications are enormous and, for many, unbelievable. Such a breakthrough has the potential to radically transform a transportation sector already flirting with an electric renaissance, improve the performance of intermittent energy sources such as wind and sun, and increase the efficiency and stability of power grids—all while fulfilling an oil-addicted America's quest for energy security.
Here's a short explanation of the technology:
Much like capacitors, ultracapacitors store energy in an electrical field between two closely spaced conductors, or plates. When voltage is applied, an electric charge builds up on each plate.

Ultracapacitors have many advantages over traditional electrochemical batteries. Unlike batteries, "ultracaps" can completely absorb and release a charge at high rates and in a virtually endless cycle with little degradation.

Where they're weak, however, is with energy storage. Compared with lithium-ion batteries, high-end ultracapacitors on the market today store 25 times less energy per pound.

This is why ultracapacitors, with their ability to release quick jolts of electricity and to absorb this energy just as fast, are ideal today as a complement to batteries or fuel cells in electric-drive vehicles. The power burst that ultracaps provide can assist with stop-start acceleration, and the energy is more efficiently recaptured through regenerative braking—an area in which ultracap maker Maxwell Technologies has seen significant results.
OK. And EEStor's claim to fame?
On the other hand, EEStor's system—called an Electrical Energy Storage Unit, or EESU—is based on an ultracapacitor architecture that appears to escape the traditional limitations of such devices. The company has developed a ceramic ultracapacitor with a barium-titanate dielectric, or insulator, that can achieve an exceptionally high specific energy—that is, the amount of energy in a given unit of mass.

For example, the company's system claims a specific energy of about 280 watt hours per kilogram, compared with around 120 watt hours per kilogram for lithium-ion and 32 watt hours per kilogram for lead-acid gel batteries. This leads to new possibilities for electric vehicles and other applications, including for the military.

"It's really tuned to the electronics we attach to it," explains Weir. "We can go all the way down from pacemakers to locomotives and direct-energy weapons."

The trick is to modify the composition of the barium-titanate powders to allow for a thousandfold increase in ultracapacitor voltage—in the range of 1,200 to 3,500 volts, and possibly much higher.

EEStor claims that, using an automated production line and existing power electronics, it will initially build a 15-kilowatt-hour energy-storage system for a small electric car weighing less than 100 pounds, and with a 200-mile driving range. The vehicle, the company says, will be able to recharge in less than 10 minutes.
That's pretty impressive. And a "rubber meets the road" cost with which you can compare?
By some estimates, it would only require $9 worth of electricity for an EESU-powered vehicle to travel 500 miles, versus $60 worth of gasoline for a combustion-engine car.
Other than thinking the gasoline estimate is a bit high, it's still a pretty large difference.

Not all skeptics think it is a workable system however:
Jim Miller, vice president of advanced transportation technologies at Maxwell Technologies and an ultracap expert who spent 18 years doing engineering work at Ford Motor, isn't so convinced.

"We're skeptical, number one, because of leakage," says Miller, explaining that high-voltage ultracaps have a tendency to self-discharge quickly. "Meaning, if you leave it parked overnight it will discharge, and you'll have to charge it back up in the morning."

He also doesn't believe that the ceramic structure—brittle by nature—will be able to handle thermal stresses that are bound to cause microfractures and, ultimately, failure. Finally, EEStor claims that its system works to specification in temperatures as low as -20 °C, revised from a previous claim of -40 °C.

"Temperature of -20 degrees C is not good enough for automotive," says Miller. "You need -40 degrees." By comparison, Altair and A123Systems claim that their lithium-ion cells can operate at -30 °C.
EEStor didn't reply to an email asking for how it would handle those challenges. Regardless, the company claims to be on track to ship systems this year for use in electric vehicles.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Cold Fusion....
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
-40 degrees c? Well it was made in Texas, so we don’t get down to -20 hardly ever. But still, why -40? Where does it ever get that cold?
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
We can always dream.
 
Written By: Dave Schuler
URL: http://www.theglitteringeye.com
But still, why -40? Where does it ever get that cold?
Wind chill effect?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Wind chill affects BIOLOGIC organisms....your car doesn’t care if the wind is howling, only you do. A semi-conductor at -20 C in a 200 kph wind acts like it’s at -20C...YOU , OTOH, freeze REAL quick.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I hope it is true. It would make solar and wind power much more useful energy sources and it would mean I could run my iPod for a couple of days between charges. Ok I know that one of those things is more important than the other...
 
Written By: Sebastian Holsclaw
URL: http://
Temperature of -20 degrees C is not good enough for automotive," says Miller. "You need -40 degrees."
An entertaining curiosity:
@-40C = @-40F

(okay, okay, I find it entertaining....hrrrmmph)

I want to know where this guy keeps his car.
What with the onset of Global Warming and all, this shouldn’t be a problem.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Ok I know that one of those things is more important than the other...
Of course, but solar and wind power are important too, so we tolerate you bringing them up:^}
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
$60 for 500 miles isn’t a too high price estimate. That works out to $2.50/gallon for a 20+ mpg car. Pretty close to the average prices and fuel economy of today.
 
Written By: Jon Biggar
URL: http://
Where does it ever get that cold (-40)?

Canada (say, oh, a cold winter in Edmonton, let alone farther north) and Alaska, just here in North America.

-20C is a lot more commonly exceeded, too.

And if hitting -20 actually destroys it rather than simply making it not work, that’s a huge hit for the Canadian market immediately, and given that most American states have record lows under -20, people are going to be iffy even throughout the US.

Sure, lows under -20 might happen once a century in some states, but they’re maybe once a decade in others (and yearly in some!).

Want to sell no cars in New York or Michigan or Minnesota because they’ll die in a very expensive way if it gets too cold next year?

(Lows in Chicago, f’r instance - according to Wikipedia - average -11C. That’s awful close to -20 to want to trust an expensive battery and the functionality of your car to.)
 
Written By: Sigivald
URL: http://
Want to sell no cars in New York or Michigan or Minnesota because they’ll die in a very expensive way if it gets too cold next year?
So how many people live in Southern Cal and Texas? How much gasoline would it save for them to have electric cars?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Wind chill does effect internal combustion engines. If you get enough heat transfer out of the radiator it can stall. That’s why you see highway trucks with zipper covers for the grille.
 
Written By: triticale
URL: http://triticale.mu.nu
It’s not a total replacement system - so some places it works, some places it’s not useable. Plenty of modern tech that fits that bill.

And once it’s commercial, there’ll be refinements and enhancements.
Rubber tires weren’t always tubeless...for example, hell, rubber was a totally different product before vulcanization, but they still used it.

Assuming it’s not a hoax, of course.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Well as has been said, just because you won’t sell a lot of them in Cnanda, doesn’t mean the price of gasoline might not fall. Fewer users of fuel in one place yield more fuel for the rest of us.

Of course, there will be two questions, does this technology really make fuel cheaper? After all it doesn’t replace energy it simply moves it’s source, from a gas pump to a generating station. And will this have any effect on pollution?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
To be fair my battery crapped out at about -30 anyway, essentially everyone in Edmonton has a block heater anyway. Presumably you’d have to plug it in overnight or during office hours anyway, just add a small thermal element and a thermostat to keep it toasty, where’s the problem?

I’m more worried with my unfortunate tendency to make capacitors explode. I don’t know what it is but every single capacitor I throw onto a circuit explodes at some point, with like a fifth of rated current.
 
Written By: Joe Canadian
URL: http://
My digression from the actual topic at hand:
Wind chill affects BIOLOGIC organisms....your car doesn’t care if the wind is howling, only you do. A semi-conductor at -20 C in a 200 kph wind acts like it’s at -20C...YOU , OTOH, freeze REAL quick.
Actually no. While the wind chill index is calibrated to exposed skin, everything still gets colder faster in a windy environment than a still one with the same ambient temperature. This is because the wind increases the coefficient for convective heat transfer.

If the person, place, or thing doesn’t generate heat, this fact won’t matter for long because these nouns will quickly approach ambient temperature. Once the temperature difference becomes negligible, heat transfer will stop. However if these things are trying to keep somewhat warm, like people or a lot of machinery, the wind will matter a lot because they have to work a lot hard to do that.
 
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
URL: http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com
Of course, there will be two questions, does this technology really make fuel cheaper? After all it doesn’t replace energy it simply moves it’s source, from a gas pump to a generating station. And will this have any effect on pollution?
While yes, it just moves it from the gas pump to the generating station, this is still an improvement. The powerplant produces energy much more efficiently than your motor engine on gas does. This is part of why electricity is much cheaper than gas. Plus there’s the fact that some of the electricity is generated with less polluting sources such as nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, ect. In fact, many power companies offer a electricity plan that uses only "Green energy". (Though I’m not sure that that isn’t more marketing than actually reality.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Other than thinking the gasoline estimate is a bit high, it’s still a pretty large difference.
In my 95 Wrangler $60 would get me about 500 miles.

As far as shifting the costs, according to their estimates $9 worth of electricity is a lot less than $60 of fuel, especially when you consider that the electrical plant doesn’t have to refine, store, and ship in trucks (which also require fuel) what it produces.
 
Written By: Robb Allen
URL: http://blog.robballen.com
I would be worried it is just a scam to get some people to buy stock in the company. Raising the price so the creators could sell and make some money.

OTOH, here in north central Arkansas we have seen our electric rates double over the last year. Something to do with some brain desciding to only buy power from the natural gas plants. The result is that everyone is switching from electric appliances to gas.We are turning everything from electric to whatever else is available. The last thing I want is to have to plug a car in.
 
Written By: SkyWatch
URL: http://

 
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