Friday, 13 January 2012

Assault and Battery (5)

Continued from Assault and Battery (4)

Where will heavy duty battery technology go next?

Technology forecasting or foresight attempts to predict the future characteristics of useful technological machines, procedures or techniques. Technology foresight starts by looking backwards at the type and nature of change. It then looks at the present time and what recent innovations have been introduced. Then you need to look at the practicality of using the new technologies. You must look at the cost effectiveness and finally you have to estimate the future demand for the technology.

Looking Backwards: Battery technology has gone forward very slowly over the last 100 years. The design and layout have remained almost static. There have been a few new materials introduces to improve, capacity, delivery and life cycle. Most of the more recent changes have been towards reducing the maintenance requirements by the introduction of sealed systems. A battery holds relatively little power, is bulky, heavy, is inefficient to charge and has a short life span.

The drawback of lead-acid batteries is the behavior of lead plates. The sulfation is the only major drawback of lead-acid. If it can be overcome then all the other concerns of lead-acid batteries can be addressed. Sulphate, is produced at both plates during the discharge reaction. Depending on the temperature and the presence of impurities, in time, it turns into a crystalline structure. This is traditionally called “sulphation” or “sulfation” and can represent the death of a lead-acid battery.

The Present Time: Most of the recent effort in battery technology development has gone into the production of small low capacity battery technologies. This has been driven by the use of everyday electronics such as mobile phones and computers which have been scaled down ever smaller. Engineers now design hand held devices around the battery, rather than the other way around. Much of the improvement has been made in reality by reducing the power consumption of the various portable devices.

However, this does not signal the end of heavy duty battery systems. There is some research into carbon plate technology for high capacity batteries which sugests that the carbon inhibits the build-up of sulphate on the battery plates.

There is a slow movement towards hybrid forms of power by the automotive industry. Though the voltages in the battery bank will be in the range 100 to 200 volts. !2 volt systems are being developed, including electric bicycles which are stating to become a user consumable item. Electric motorcycles are starting to come to the market as is the all electric car. Previously fuel costs were quite low so the incentive was not there for development of hybrid or all electric cars. Battery replacement costs were not considered as being prohibitive. There was always a significant problem with the weight of the batteries. As was the need to provide for additional power control, monitoring and charging mechanisms.

One item under development is the KERS system. The acronym KERS stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System. The KERS device recovers the kinetic energy that is present in the waste heat created by the car’s braking process. It stores that energy and converts it into stored electrical power that can be called upon later. Maybe waste energy in the form of heat from a boats diesel engine could provided some charging power.

Solar power was a driver for storing solar output into large battery banks. However the market has changed to one where rather than store the power for later consumption. The output is sold to mains electrical suppliers directly.

The Future: I believe that the future lies in the fuel cell technology as a direct replacement for the battery bank. Improvements in the hydrogen fuel cell are being made but the improvements are slower than with other technologies. It will be twenty five years before the technology does replace the battery. So until that time arrives we are going to be stuck with today’s battery systems with little change in technology. Solar generation will continue to fall in price and will improve in efficiency.

One idea that I have been pondering on for a while is being able to decouple the electrical generation (alternator loading) from the engine when not needed. This could reduce the engine load and thus fuel consumption by optimising the system efficiency of the engine and alternator at any point in time.

Previously Assault and Battery (1)
Previously Assault and Battery (2)
Previously Assault and Battery (3)
Previously Assault and Battery (4)

Other posts on the subject of batteries and battery banks.
Boat Battery Maintenance Pt 2
Boat Battery Maintenance Pt 3

Post on Solar and Wind Power
Piss power for your boat.


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