The Race For Better Batteries

It’s on, and we’re up against global warming.  Energy storage is the critical clean technology piece to decarbonize the grid (at least without nuclear power).  The good news is that innovation is really taking off, now that the market for storage is clearer, with more renewables and electric vehicles.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

In October, an international team of scientists announced a breakthrough in overcoming major obstacles in next generation energy storage and creating a battery that has five to 10 times the energy density of the best batteries on the market now. In September, Whitacre won a $500,000 invention prize for his eco-friendly water-oriented battery. And in April, Elon Musk announced plans for his Tesla Motors to sell high-tech batteries for homes with solar panels to store electricity for night time and cloudy day use, weaning the homes off dirtier power from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

“The pace of innovation does seem to be accelerating,” said JB Straubel, chief technical officer and co-founder of Tesla with Musk. “We’re kind of right at the tipping point where the current performance and lifetime of batteries roughly equal that of fossil fuels. If you are able to double that, the prospects are huge.”

Some of these breakthroughs will take years to commercialize, but at least we know in the near-term that lithium ion battery costs are coming down about 8-10 percent a year. Bottom line: lots of changes will happen on both the grid and in vehicles with these innovations.

And it can’t come soon enough.


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