Why it's important
When you think about the positives of electric vehicles, you likely think of never needing to buy gasoline again and reducing carbon emissions. When you think about the negatives, you likely first think of cost and the fear of being stranded on the side of the road after getting half way to work. Both of these concerns relate to battery technologies. Batteries are what make or break electric vehicles, whether fully electric, plug-in hybrid, or standard hybrid. They have so far been the Achilles heel of electric vehicle production.
Batteries are what make or break electric vehicles
Batteries are heavy, expensive, and have ranges that are too short. They are also what will power our vehicles in the future, and while the technology is getting there, there is definitely still progress to be made. It's important to keep up on how much they weigh, how much energy they can hold, how much they cost, and how long they last. The largest stumbling block for electric cars for decades has been battery technology, so working on these technologies is key to the adoption and acceptance of electric vehicles. We also don't want batteries to be so expensive they make electric vehicles cost prohibitive, so toxic they are more of a pain than a benefit, or so heavy that they require much more additional energy to power. Below we will address each of the major metrics individually.
- Charge/Discharge Efficiency: This is the measure of the percent of energy that is returned versus what is entered. It is important that this be a high number so that we don't need to produce more energy than we need, especially while it is still coming from dirty power sources. The better this number, the better the efficiency of the electric vehicle.
- Energy to Weight: Amount of energy stored per weight. This is important because additional weight means more to move and is wasted energy. One of the best ways to make vehicles more efficient is to lower their weight.
- Energy to Volume: Amount of energy stored per volume. This metric is similar to the one above, in that the more space these systems take up, the larger the vehicle is likely to be and the more energy it will take to move it. We are also fans of vehicles that have as much storage space as possible, so the less space taken up by batteries, the better.
- Self-Discharge Rate: This is the measure of the percent of energy that is lost by the battery over time. Similar to the Charge/Discharge Efficiency, we don't want to be getting much less energy out of the batteries than we are putting into them.
- Lifespan: This is the number of hours or cycles before the battery loses 20% of its initial capacity. This is important from a maintenance standpoint as well as from a cost, toxicity, and materials standpoint. It would be inconvenient to need to replace your batteries particularly often, in addition to being a waste of money and materials.
- Fast Charge Time: This is the amount of time it takes to rapidly charge a battery. This is important because it puts less pressure on the need for long ranges if the battery can be recharged quickly.
- Energy to Cost: Amount of energy stored per dollar. This is important because, as stated above, batteries are a major cost in electric vehicles right now.
- Toxicity: This is the harmfulness of battery components to the environment. Making really toxic batteries may in some cases undo some of the work we do to reduce emissions.
As a note, this section intentionally leaves out information on using batteries store energy from the electrical grid on large scales. For more on that, check out the Storage
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