Science News

Better batteries

Sun, 19th Oct 2008

Australian researchers could be about to push the electric car market into overdrive with the development of a superior battery that costs a fraction of the amount of the cells used at present.

BatteriesTraditionally, hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius, which is rigged up to recover and store energy from the car when it brakes, have to used very robust batteries such as Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) cells that can tolerate continuous cycles of charging and discharing.  But these batteries are very expensive, making electric cars a costly option.

Now Lan Trieu Lam and his team at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Melbourne, Australia have found a way to beef up a basic lead-acid battery so that it can provide the power of NiHM cells but at a fraction of the price.

The key to the breakthrough has been to combine a super-capacitor in parallel with the battery.  The capacitor acts as a buffer helping to protect the battery from the relentless charge-discharge effects of driving, whilst also enabling it to deliver 50% more power and last 4 times longer.  A test vehicle running on the new battery has now covered over 185,000km.  The cell will go into production next year and may also have spin-offs for the wind-power industry, providing smooth power during transitions between windy and still times of day.

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