Electric Vehicles (EV) are steadily being adapted by today’s consumer market. We can already find millions of electric vehicles on the roads of most of the developed countries. Sales of electric vehicle companies are growing, while that of the sale of gas cars grows at a slow rate. It is well understood that there is going to be a day when the rate of sales of gas cars becomes constant, and even starts to decrease. While this day may be far into the future, we’re here to talk about the technology that makes Electric Vehicles possible – battery tech.
The Hidden Factor
Batteries. We find them everywhere: in your smartphones, computers, car fobs, TV remotes, wall clocks, and now even in your cars. The use of batteries is only going to go. While you may not know now, if we continue to emit the amount of pollutants and other harmful emissions into the atmosphere as we do now, we are going to reach a point which is called “the point of no return.” What does this mean? This means that we have until 2035 to not only reduce, but to create a net reversed change to our environment. From the year 2035, we will cause irreversible damages to our atmosphere.
How do we prevent this?
The Secret Weapon
We can stop permanent damage to our atmosphere by using renewable energy. Now, this has been hard to successfully implement and replace conventional sources of fuel because of it’s efficiency. In solar, wind, hydro power, we need to use the energy AS IS. That means, we need to add it to our grid immediately. There are a few, but inefficient ways to store this energy for future. Renewable energy is plagued by even more problems than that. The place where we implement these sources are far away from our grid.
There is an easy answer to this problem. BATTERIES.
The Next Industrial Revolution
It is predicted by many experts of the industrial field, that there is going to be a multi-industrial revolution around the year 2030. Artificial Intelligence, fast mobile connectivity and battery tech are few of the industries in which we expect to have a big breakthrough. But what is the drawback of using batteries that way they are? Specific Energy Density: the amount of energy contained in the fuel source per kilogram.
It is simple. Batteries are the least energy dense. Fuels such as petroleum and diesel are 40x more energy dense than batteries. Batteries are just not that efficient. This is why we need a breakthrough in battery technology.
The Future of Energy Storage Media
We have seen the effect of automation and technology in growing many industries today. The use of prediction software has enabled farmers to obtain better crop yield. The integration of the internet to conventional items such as lights, fans, coffee makers, electric geysers, dishwasher has enable our home to become “smart.” It is time we bring this change to our energy storage media.
Smart Energy Storage
There are 3 major types of energy storage media:
1) Thermal Energy Storage
2) Fly-Wheel Energy Storage
3) Grid-Energy Storage (Batteries)
Thermal Energy Storage
Thermal energy storage is like a battery for a building’s air-conditioning system. It uses standard cooling equipment, plus an energy storage tank to shift all or a portion of a building’s cooling needs to off-peak, night time hours. During off-peak hours, ice is made and stored inside energy storage tanks. The stored ice is then used to cool the building occupants the next day.
Ice at Party, A Simple Metaphor
Imagine holding a party. You’re not likely to make ice the moment people arrive. You couldn’t make it fast enough. You’d buy or make ice ahead of time, store it in your freezer, and use it as needed. The promise of thermal energy storage is similar, with this important stipulation. You still make the ice ahead of time, at night. But, the electricity you use to make that ice, is far less expensive at night than it is during the day.
Fly-Wheel Energy Storage
A flywheel energy storage system can be described as a mechanical battery, in that it does not create electricity, it simply converts and stores the energy as kinetic energy until it is needed. In a matter of seconds, the electricity can be created from the spinning flywheel making it the ideal solution to help regulate supply in the electrical grid.
In June 2011, the Beacon Power Corporation completed the company’s first flywheel energy storage plant in Stephentown, New York at a cost of $60m. The plant utilises 200 flywheels spinning at a maximum speed of 16000 rpm to store excess energy and help regulate the supply to the local grid
Grid Energy Storage
Electrical energy is stored during times when electricity is plentiful and inexpensive (especially from intermittent power plants such as renewable electricity sources such as wind power, tidal power, solar power) or when demand is low, and later returned to the grid when demand is high, and electricity prices tend to be higher.
PV-Magazine elaborates that in a new paper, researchers at Tianjin University in China examine these battery technologies, providing a broad perspective on the state of battery technology for grid applications today, and offering a roadmap to guide future studies in this areas. Their findings are published in the paper Battery Technologies for Grid-Level Large-Sale Electrical Energy Storage, published in Transactions of Tianjin University.
The researchers identify three main roles for batteries to perform at grid level:
- Peak shaving & load leveling: To balance gaps in demand.
- Voltage and frequency regulation: To achieve a real time balance with non-uniform load on the grid
- Emergency energy storage: Providing back up power and preventing outages.
The paper discusses the role of a wide range of existing battery technologies and their ability to provide these services safely and cost effectively, and the challenges that exist for each.
P.S: It would be irresponsible of me if I did not mention Hydro-Storage here. While Hydro-Storage accounts for 99% of Grid Storage today, we need to progressively change to electrical mediums for storage.
Promising Battery Technologies
Forbes.com puts up a list of these eloquently.
Recently, Jack Goodenough, the inventor of the Li-ion battery, came out with a new fast-charging battery technology using that uses a glass electrode instead of a liquid one, sodium instead of lithium, and may have three times as much energy density as lithium-ion batteries.
We’ve even looked at other gravity-based energy storage systems, like Advanced Rail Energy Storage, that uses surplus wind and solar energy to move millions of pounds of rock uphill in special electric rail cars that roll back downhill, converting this gravitational potential energy to electricity that goes out onto the grid.
But we really need utility-scale chemical battery storage to deal with rapid intermittency in both generation (renewables) and demand (rapid changes in use throughout the commercial day). These need to be very large but very stable and long-lasting.
The latest technology to emerge is the vanadium redox battery, also known as the vanadium-flow battery. And the best one seems to be from WattJoule, especially because their cost is so much lower than other V-flow batteries.
V-flow batteries are fully containerized, nonflammable, compact, reusable over semi-infinite cycles, discharge 100% of the stored energy and do not degrade for more than 20 years. The Earth’s crust has much more vanadium than lithium, and we produce twice as much V as Li each year.
The End is not Nigh
Battery storage up until 2020 was considered the future of energy. But in the last months of 2019 alone, eight major US battery storage projects advanced or signed contracts to sell energy from their facilities to major utilities signalling that the future of battery storage might be closer than originally expected.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, utility-scale battery energy storage capacity in the U.S. could more than double by 2022.
Lior Handelsman, founder of SolarEdge Technologies, a Israel-based energy storage and solar company, recently told Inframation that interest in commercial storage has increased tenfold in just a year.
“This growth is being driven by increasing electricity prices and grid instability,” he said. “Commercial business owners who are looking to improve their bottom lines are doing so by generating and storing their own energy.”Lior Handelsman
Storing energy for the future is becoming more important as power generation evolves and we need to be more creative, and less costly, than we’ve been so far. We are going to live in an electric world. It is inevitable.