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Liquid metal battery could lower cost of storing renewable energy

July 23, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

VCG via Getty Images

As dreamy as it might be to combine renewable energy sources with storage batteries, there’s a problem: those batteries are expensive. It might take you years to recoup the costs. You’ll be glad to hear, then, that Stanford scientists have a way to make those batteries more cost-effective. They’ve developed a liquid metal-based flow battery that can store electricity at a lower price, even on a large scale. A metal-producing mix of sodium and potassium serves as the negative side of the battery, providing nearly twice the maximum voltage of typical flow batteries (making them high-value) without having to resort to exotic chemicals or extreme temperatures.

It sounds simple, but there was a challenge to making this work. The team had to use a ceramic membrane that combined aluminum oxide and potassium to separate the positive and negative materials while still allowing a current.

There’s still some tweaking left, such as optimizing the membrane to improve the power output and choosing a liquid for the positive side that won’t weaken the membrane. And like many battery experiments, there’s a long road from a successful lab test to something you can buy. There’s a strong incentive to make this a reality, though. If it lowered the price of storage batteries, both homeowners and electrical grid operators might be more likely to switch to solar or wind power knowing that they’d recover their investments that much sooner.

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Honda will use electric bikes to test swappable batteries

July 14, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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NicolasMcComber via Getty Images

Honda has teamed up with Panasonic to start testing the swappable rechargeable batteries it debuted at CES this year. The partners are bringing Honda’s Mobile Power Packs to Indonesia, where they’ll be used to power electric mobility products, particularly electric bikes. Indonesia is the third largest motorcycle market in the world after India and China, and its government has been thinking of ways to reduce traffic and pollution brought by the rise of the two-wheeled vehicles. One of the solutions it came up with is to encourage the adoption of electric-powered vehicles, making the country one of the best places to test the batteries.

Honda, Panasonic and a local Indonesian partner are hoping to prove that the Mobile Power Packs can address common issues associated with electric vehicles, such as range and charging time. The plan is to install charging stations at dozens of locations, all of which will be charging several power packs at all times. That way, people can go in, swap their empty battery for a fully charged one and quickly get back on the road. They’re launching the experiment in December 2018 in select locations across the country.

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Boss Katana-Air is a compact wireless guitar amp you can use anywhere

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Boss

Guitar players wanting to liberate themselves from long instrument cables that tether them to a spot on stage (or clutter up their practice space) usually have to buy a whole system with transmitters and receivers and such. Now, however, Boss has just announced a new compact stereo practice amp called the Katana-Air with wireless built right in, available now for $399.99.

Looking like a cross between a guitar amplifier and a boombox, this battery-powered device has a built-in low-latency wireless transmitter that plugs into your guitar. Like the Fender Mustang GT, you can use this Boss amp as a Bluetooth speaker, as well, which makes playing along to your favorite songs easy. The Katana-Air has five different amp models, including Acoustic, Clean, Crunch, Lean and Brown. It also carries more than 50 Boss effects onboard, with six memory slots to store your favorite amp modeling and effects. You use the Boss Tone Studio app to manage the onboard sounds and get even more presets online.

Boss promises a full 12 hours of playtime with a single charge of the transmitter battery — there’s even a slot on the amp itself to charge it while you’re not using it. The amp stays in standby mode to conserve power and wakes up when it senses motion.

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Tech News

Tesla's next California energy storage project may be its largest yet

July 1, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla’s giant Australian energy storage facility may seem small in the near future. Pacific Gas and Electric has submitted proposals for four new energy storage projects to the California Public Utilities Commission, one of which is for a facility at its Moss Landing substation that could output 182.5MW over the course of four hours — that’s more than 3,000 of Tesla’s Powerpack 2 units. For context, the Australian location outputs ‘just’ 129MW. The project would have a total 1.1GWh capacity, which fits with Elon Musk’s recent hints that Tesla could have a “gigawatt-hour scale” deal within months.

The batteries would, as elsewhere, help keep up with “local capacity requirements” by supplying electricity at moments when power plants aren’t enough to meet demand. Provided the CPUC approves the projects, they’d be ready between late 2019 and late 2020.

It might be a daunting feat to launch a storage battery system this large. Tesla’s Gigafactory has already been blamed for a worldwide battery shortage, and it won’t help matters if the company is producing even more Powerpacks on top of the batteries needed for its rapidly growing EV production. Should Tesla pull this off, though, it could both clinch more business and make a better case for storage batteries attached to major electrical grids.

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NTSB: Model S battery caught fire twice after Florida crash

June 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

NTSB

It’s not unheard of for cars to catch fire in a crash, but there are now instances of Tesla cars’ batteries reigniting well after the fact. As part of a preliminary report on a Model S crash in Ford Lauderdale, Florida, NTSB investigators revealed that a piece of the EV’s lithium-ion pack reignited twice despite firefighters dousing it with water and foam. It first reignited when crews were removing the car from the crash scene, and again when it arrived at a storage yard.

The same report also detailed the crash itself, noting that the sedan was traveling at 116MPH before it collided twice with a residential wall, catching fire the second time around. Tesla has since instituted a speed limiting feature to prevent these kinds of incidents.

As The Verge observed, there have been fires like this in the past. The battery in the Model X from a Mountain View crash reignited five days after sitting in an impound lot, while actress Mary McCormack captured her husband Michael Morris’ Model S erupting into flames despite the absence of a collision. This may be the most prominent example, however.

Tesla has declined to comment. However, the report doesn’t necessarily indicate brand-specific design flaws. Many portable device owners will attest that batteries don’t always need obvious provocation to catch fire — sustained pressure or other hard-to-predict factors can trigger a blaze at unexpected moments. While there is a chance that Tesla could have a role to play, it might be difficult to prevent reignition when the required chemical reactions can take hours or days to kick in.

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GM is supplying next-gen batteries for Honda EVs

June 7, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Stringer . / Reuters

GM has expanded its collaboration with Honda to supply the Japanese automaker with next-generation batteries. These will go in EVs built mainly for the North American market, and though neither company stated when they would start using the new power options, sources told Reuters that they’re expected to begin production in 2021.

GM’s innovations intend to cut electric battery costs in half — which is huge, given their typical pricetag between $10,000 and $12,000, sources told Reuters earlier in the year. The deal will help Honda speed up EV production after 2020. It’s not the automaker’s first collaboration with GM: In early 2017, the pair went in together on a Michigan factory dedicated to producing hydrogen fuel cells to power their vehicles. But given the auto industry’s increasingly expansive investments in electric vehicles — GM included — this is a savvy move to get more EVs on the road.

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Intel aims to fix battery woes with low power LCD tech

June 5, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

REUTERS

Running out of juice continues to be one of the biggest frustrations of our generation, and the tech industry keeps trying to come up with ways to extend battery life. Intel’s latest solution is something it’s calling “Low Power Display Technology,” which targets the most power-sucking part of most devices.

Intel is co-engineering the technology and has already used it in a one-watt panel made by Sharp and Innolux, which it says can “cut LCD power consumption by half.”

At its keynote today, Intel’s Gregory Bryant and his team showed a video of a Dell system that uses this panel, and said that it looped video for 25 hours. The new technology could add four to eight hours of battery life, which is a welcome addition. We haven’t seen this system for ourselves yet of course, but so far this is an intriguing promise.

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