Japanese battery company Furukawa has just closed a deal with East Penn, a US battery manufacturer. The latter will soon be distributing a new battery made by the Japanese company. What is so special about this battery? It’s a hybrid! This hybrid, though, has nothing to do with fossil fuels. Instead, the “Ultrabattery” combines two existing technologies: standard chemical batteries (the type of battery seen virtually everywhere) and supercapacitors (not as common).
Let’s quickly review some basic electricity-storage ABCs, shall we? A “regular” battery consists of two chemicals which want to react with each other, but are separated by a barrier that keeps them effectively separated. However, when you build a circuit between them, they cause electrons to flow through the circuit – and thus, your battery-powered device can function. A capacitor, on the other hand, consists of two charged metal plates: one negative and one positive. The electrons want to jump from the negative plate to the positive plate, but they are separated by an insulator. Build a circuit between the two and – zap – you get a burst of electricity.
The Ultrabattery is a hybrid lead-acid battery and capacitor. It runs off of the lead-acid battery most of the time, but keeps an auxiliary capacitor charged in case the motor needs that extra boost of energy. The battery lasts several times longer than the standard lead-acid battery, and is 70% cheaper than the nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries being designed for most other EVs.
I assume that the aforementioned price is the reason that Furukawa chose lead-acid over NiMH. However, as we all know, lead is heavy. One would intuitively think that a lighter, albeit more expensive NiMH-capacitor hybrid would be a more appealing product, especially if NiMH costs decline over time. Perhaps that is something we will see if the Ultrabattery proves to be a hit.
Via Green Car Congress
written by Garth Coghlan, September 25, 2008
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