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Monday, January 11, 2010

On the horizon: Nickel lithium batteries

As I reported in a previous post on Mastervolt's development of a powerful lithium ion RV/Marine battery, electric vehicle proponents, alternative energy entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists are also working feverishly to develop better, more efficient batteries that will give the electric vehicle (EV) industry the game changing boost it needs to change the way we think about transportation.

Battery technology, following the successful development of the lithim-ion battery, is about to take the next leap forward with new battery configurations that can be produced at lower prices but with greater capacity bringing an increased range between charges.

Japanese Researchers have developed a new generation battery by combining Nickel and Lithium to produce a battery that can store more than 3.5 times the energy of lithium-ion batteries. This is a prime example of the payoff from the money and effort going into the development of smaller, cheaper, safer (less prone to burst into flames as some lithium-ion batteries have), and more powerful batteries that will deliver more miles between charges and more hours of electric power while boondocking.

Other companies are developing the components that will complete the evolution of batteries. Proterra, for example, claims to deliver a full charge to lithium batteries in ten minutes, and has produced an all electric bus (think RV size) that also includes a regenerative braking system that they claim will capture 90% of a vehicle’s kinetic energy during braking to put back in the battery.

Several municipalities, including New York and Toronto, have already ordered hybrid/electric and all-electric busses, which, lucky for us, are of the size that could be used for RVs. With break-through battery technology like this, we may have taken another step closer to more hybrid/electric and all-electric motorhomes, as well as trucks with enough power and range to be practical for towing fivers and trailers.

With these kinds of improvements on the horizon, we may be hearing the last of the negative comments about RVs as “gas hogs” and “gas guzzling behemoths.” Not only that, but the savings in fuel costs and repairs (electric vehicle parts last longer and require less maintenance than fossil fuel engines and drive trains), it is possible to recover a big chunk of the inevitably higher prices of the first electric RVs to hit the streets.

And as popularity increases, demand rises, and finally mass production and competition will bring prices down. The day will come when EV RVs will be priced comparatively with gas and diesel RVs of today, and fuel costs will be a concern of the past. I hope that comes while I'm still around to see it.

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