After decades of talk, and a seemingly endless array of concept vehicles that went nowhere, it finally looks like the electric car is becoming a reality. Perhaps pushed over the edge by desperate times, and a bailout from an administration that was calling for change, the auto industry seems at long last to have truly embraced electricity. And the commitment appears to be long term.
GM and Chrysler announced recently that they each plan to hire a thousand engineers and researchers to work on battery technology, electric motors, and associated controls. In addition, unlike hybrids, which are more like sophisticated electric assists to gasoline, the new string of cars calls for electricity to carry more of the load. Although hybrids are still in the mix, all-electric cars, and perhaps even hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, are being touted as the future of the American road. GM CEO, Dan Akerson, made it clear when he spoke at a factory producing the new Chevy Volt: “You’re going to see the electrification of the car in every size, every model over the next 10, 15, 20 years, or the migration of other Volt technologies”.
All of the enthusiasm, however, is tempered by the glaring realization of electricity’s stubborn limitations. Chevy’s new Volt, for example, will go a grand total of about 35 miles on stored electricity before being forced to call on a gasoline generator to kick in. The arrangement is actually a clever one, not nearly as complicated or weighty as a hybrid, but it remains an indictment of battery technology, the ultimate stone dragged by every electric car. Traditional lead acid batteries, around for well over 100 years, have a low energy to weight and volume ratio, while more energetic lithium-ion batteries are simply too expensive.
Fortunately, there now appears to be some light ahead. A brand new approach is giving hope for a battery that is both high energy and low cost. It’s being developed by a company called Zentric, Inc., headquartered in Ontario. The trick, it seems, is to use a unique combination of various battery components. The result is a battery providing much high voltages than a traditional lead acid battery while costing a lot less than lithium-ion batteries. The package offers advantages over any existing solution on the market, and may be the thing that makes America’s highways truly electric.
For more information on Zentric, and their new battery technology, visit www.ZBatt.com
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