A new electric bus prototype doesn’t just pick up passengers at its bus stops; it also picks up a charge for its battery.
Unlike its public transportation contemporaries, the electric “Aggie bus” at Utah State University has no overhead wires. Nor does it need to be plugged into a power source. Instead, the battery receives a five-kilowatt wireless boost from a charge plate installed at each bus stop. With consistent routes and frequent stops, the bus is able to charge as it goes rather than requiring a big battery on board to stockpile an entire day’s worth of power.
In Washington D.C. today, the X-Prize foundation doled out $10 million in prize money for the Automotive X-Prize, its competition begun in 2008 to build cars that break 100 miles per gallon (or equivalent) and still resemble usable commercial vehicles. They raced at Michigan International Speedway; they underwent inspection by Consumer Reports and the Department of Energy. This morning’s winnings were divvied up among three teams:
1. Edison 2′s “Very Light Car”
Runs on: E85 ethanol
So named for weighing just more than 800 pounds—featherweight for a car—the vehicle from Edison 2 of Charlottesville, Virginia, took home the biggest slice of the prize money by winning the “mainstream” category.
In the “Mainstream” class, which offered the biggest cash prize, vehicles were required to have four wheels, seat four people and have a driving range of at least 200 miles. In other words, they had to offer the bare basics of a typical car [CNN].
The Very Light Car stayed light because it didn’t offer much more than that, though lead leader Oliver Kuttner says they did manage to squeeze in heater and basic ventilation.
Is this battery the one? Toshiba’s Super-Charge Ion Batteries, which reportedly lose hardly any capacity after thousands of charges, could be coming to cars next year.
As Slashdot noted today, this battery technology has been a long time coming. In 2007 Toshiba announced the creation of the SCiB, and unveiled the prototype the next year. It lasts 5,000 to 6,000 cycles as opposed to the 500 for standard lithium-ion batteries, and charges to 90 percent of capacity within five minutes. Earlier this month, the company announced it has been working with car maker Mitsubishi on electric vehicle batteries, and could be making SCiBs for cars staring next year.
For EV applications Toshiba has developed a new anode material and a new electrolyte to improve safety and rapid recharging. According to Toshiba, the long life will promote reduction in the waste that results from battery replacement, reducing the impact on the environment [Gizmag].
Lately we’ve been covering the doings of DARPA, the Defense Department’s mad scientist wing that conducts kooky scavenger hunts and loses hypersonic gliders. But today the focus is on the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)—an agency President Obama created last year to foster research on creative alternative energy projects rather than futuristic weaponry. ARPA-E, which is part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, announced this week grants totaling $106 million.
The first of the three groups of projects funded by the ARPA-E uses microorganisms to create liquid fuels.
Most of the leading fourth-generation biofuel companies that utilize bio-chemical approaches are modifying the genetic structure of the organism to transform a sugar substrate and secrete either pure “drop in” fuels like diesel, gasoline, or jet fuel, or gasoline substitutes like ethanol or biobutanol [Greentech Media].
The microorganisms in the liquid-fuel experiments need electricity to produce fuel, but many of the researchers are devising ways to use solar energy as the power source so the projects can use renewable fuels to create renewable fuels.
Stanford University researchers think they’ve stumbled upon a way to transform ordinary sheets of office paper into batteries and superconductors. By painting a carbon nanotube ink, which can collect electric charge, on plain copier paper, and then dipping the coated paper into a lithium ion solution and an electrolyte, they can create a current and store it within the paper battery.
The scientists had previously experimented with making batteries using a similar process of painting nanomaterial ink onto a thin layer of plastic. But in an unexpected twist, they found that pores in paper fibers make it hold the ink better than plastic, for a more durable battery [The New York Times]. The research team, led by Yi Cui, found that you can even crumple up the paper batteries or soak them in acid, and they’ll still work just fine. They hope their technology, which was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, can usher in a new era of lightweight, low-cost batteries.