We Need More Than Duracells to Support Clean Energy

You know what’s holding us back from a Star Wars future full of X-wings and R2-D2 droids? Better batteries.

Renewable energy production increases daily, but unless we harness that power, we won’t be able to utilize it in off-the-electric grid applications. As previously mentioned regarding energy: if you don’t use it, you lose it. Unless you store it.

Batteries power our phones, computers, and now electric cars. Those are lithium-ion batteries. In the future, we’ll need electricity to power our homes, airplanes, and flying cars. We’ve got to step up our battery game to make that happen.

Here’s the innovation happening in batteries…

Image Source: Tesla

Pros and Cons of Lithium-Ion

“But Tesla already has batteries powering its cars and storing energy,” you might say. That is correct. Lithium-ion batteries will play a big part in the upcoming battery revolution because they’re quick to charge, low maintenance, and have a high energy density.

Tesla’s Powerpack batteries work wonders and now run one of the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery storage projects in the world; a 20 MW energy storage facility that can power 2,500 homes for a day. It stores energy from the grid when demand is low, then delivers needed electricity during peak hours.

Elon, you never cease to amaze us.

Thanks to the massive uptick in usage by the automotive industry, lithium-ions have declined in price by 65% from 2010–2015. BUT, with demand spiking and Tesla’s Gigafactory slated to use today’s entire worldwide production, lithium-ion battery prices remain uncertain for the future. Lithium has been referred to as “the new gasoline”.

This pricing uncertainty coupled with lithium-ion’s potential fiery danger (looking at you, Samsung) gives rise to a number of alternative future battery options.

Are There Any Better Batteries?

  • Supercapacitors — Besides having a rad name, supercapacitors have some great qualities. They charge super fast and do not lose their storing capacity over time. But they don’t have a high power density and they’re pricey.
  • Flow Batteries — One of the biggest advantages of flow batteries is their ability to almost instantly recharge. Their downside comes from their degradation after multiple charges. If innovation continues, flow batteries could become the popular alternative to lithium-ion. You can read about the handful of flow battery variations if you’re so inclined.
  • Cutting-Edge Innovations — From nanobatteries to urine-powered batteries, here’s a list of a bunch of battery innovations.

Act on Climate

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