I was reading a report on Ars Technica today about an emerging battery technology which could totally change how we use batteries today.
The breakthrough comes from using capacitors as batteries. Up until now this has not been feasible because there hasn’t been a strong enough insulator to make this approach compelling. However, EEstor, the company who have made the breakthrough have applied for a patent for a highly insulated capacitor.
In their patent application, it suggests that:
the charge storage is much higher than anything achieved in an academic lab: 52 kilowatt-hours in a 2,000 cubic inch capacitor array. A rough conversion calculation suggests that this is over 10 times the power density of standard lead-acid batteries.
The Ars Technica article goes on to note that:
the Associated Press is reporting that the ZENN Motor Company, which makes compact electric cars, plans to start using the capacitors before the year is out. The company has invested in EEStar in return for production goals being met and so is in a position to know how realistic its claims are
If this has any basis in fact, it could have incredible consequences for the reduction of carbon emissions from transport and from the environment in general with the reduction in the use of the particularly nasty chemicals which currently go to make up batteries.
The problem with wind power is that its production is variable and difficult to predict. From the perspective of a power supply company, such a supplier is unreliable and likely to de-stabilise the power network.
For instance, at 2am in Ireland, when the demand for electricity is near its lowest, if a 40mph wind is blowing across the country, wind can be supplying up to 30% of the demand. However, if the wind picks up to 50mph, the wind farms shut down to protect their mechanisms and suddenly you lose 30% of your supply! The electricity supply companies have to scramble to bring power stations online to meet the sudden fall off.
In CIX, we have come up with a strategy for Data Centre’s to act as a flywheel for electricity supply companies. This will allow the supply companies to greatly increase the amount of green energy they buy. And if the Data Centre’s are burning biodiesel then you are in a win-win situation .
It seems we are not alone in our thinking – Google, no-less, has come up with a similar strategy using cars! Yes cars. You’d think that with all their data centres they’d use them in the way we propose but they have decided to go the ‘vehicle to grid’ route for now.
Google’s strategy is modify hybrid cars so that they can consume power from the grid. These new ‘plug-in hybrids’ achieve 70-100mpg.
These plug-in hybrids take power from the grid overnight at times of low demand, say. Then the batteries in these cars, which store electricity, can ‘sell’ electricity back to the grid at times of high demand.
Check out the Google video on this to see what I mean:
A cute idea but one which would have to achieve massive scale before making a difference, I suspect.
I was speaking to a sales rep yesterday who was driving a company car. He told me about the Irish government’s scheme to tax people for receipt of company cars. It is called Benefit in Kind (BiK).
Basically, if your employer gives you a company car, you are liable to pay 30% of the original market value of the car in tax (the original market value includes the amount the government already collects in VRT!).
However, if you do more than 15,000 per annum, the amount of BiK you have to pay drops. The more mileage you do, the less BiK you have to pay (up to a ceiling at 30,000 miles).
Sounds fair, you might say. These people are using the cars the company gave them.
Possibly, until you realise that what this law does is incentivise company car owners to use their cars more to drive to meetings (for example) where they might otherwise have taken a more carbon friendly alternative (telecon anyone?). The rep I was talking to said he will preferentially drive anywhere to get his mileage up!
If you want to tax company cars, why not do it on the basis of their carbon footprint (or engine size if that rating isn’t easy to come by). Something like â‚¬500 for cars 1.6L and less; â‚¬2,500 for 1.6L to 2L; â‚¬6,000 for 2L to 3L and â‚¬12,000 for 3L and above index linked.