Revelations in lithium battery technology could mean cheaper batteries and less sticker shock for electric cars
Stanford scientists Mike Toney and Johanna Nelson inspect a transmission X-ray microscope, a powerful device that takes nano-scale images of chemical reactions in batteries while they are running.
Imagine if Tesla, Nissan and GM could cut the price of their electric cars by 25%. That electric dream may be a wee bit closer than you think, thanks to researchers at Stanford University.
Recently a team from Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory announced a new method to analyze and potentially improve rechargeable battery technology in a radical way. A cheap, reliable rechargeable battery is the holy grail for electric carmakers that rely on costly lithium ion batteries for power. Instead of the usual pairing of a lithium compound with graphite, the study examined lithium-sulfur batteries, which in theory can store five times more energy at a significantly lower cost.
“Sulfur is an earth-abundant element and offers the greatest potential to reduce cost,” said research co-author Michael Toney, head of the Materials Sciences Division at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource.
Jump-starting the Bay Area’s battery research could yield answers beyond 2020
By Thibault Worth
Tommy Conry loading a lithium coin cell for testing at LBNL's battery lab.
We’ve reported extensively about AB 32, California’s 2006 greenhouse gas reductions law that calls for 1990-level carbon emissions by 2020.
But what happens to carbon reduction efforts beyond that date?
A less publicized, yet more aggressive 2050 target calls for slashing carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by mid-century. That goal was established by an Executive Order by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005. Achieving such an ambitious target will require a range of initiatives, including building better batteries.
AB 32 calls for 33% of California’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. But while solar and wind energy produce zero carbon, they also fluctuate. The current solution is to balance those fluctuations with fast-ramping natural gas-fired power plants. And they produce carbon aplenty. Continue reading
The companies’ founders don’t just share business interests: they’re also family
Elon Musk is the founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and supported the creation of SolarCity.
Elon Musk is well-known in Silicon Valley as the founder of the luxury electric vehicle company Tesla Motors, and of SpaceX, the private space transport company.
What’s less well-known is Musk’s contribution to SolarCity, the solar installer and energy efficiency auditor. Musk inspired–and helped fund–the creation of the San Mateo-based solar company. And Tesla is working closely with SolarCity on a clean energy storage solution that would combine Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries with SolarCity’s rooftop solar arrays. The collaboration makes sense: not only is Musk the chairman of SolarCity, but the founders of the company, brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive, are his first cousins.