Batteries: What’s here versus what we need

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2014-03-06

We mostly think of batteries in terms of gadgets like phones and laptops. Although we'd all love lighter weight, higher capacity, and faster charging for our gadgets, progress for this type of battery has for the most part already made huge strides. The modern battery is largely keeping pace with our needs.

But two other big potential users of batteries—the electric grid and automobiles—haven't really found the better technology they need. Based on a panel discussion at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, that's more of a challenge than it sounds, since the two battery uses need very different things.

What the grid needs

The grid perspective was handled by Haresh Kamath of the Electric Power Research Institute. He began his talk by noting that the whole purpose of the grid is to let you disconnect the generation of power from its use in space, letting people take advantage of efficiencies of scale and location. Energy storage does the same thing but across time, allowing power to be generated when it's cheapest and then used as needed.

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