|Plastic Batteries Are Here...
at least in new ultra thin laptops.
by Remy Chevalier
(Written sometimes back in 2000...)
Ask any EV enthusiast and they'll tell you, the single most important thing that is holding back EVs is the weight of its batteries. Jay Baldwin, one of the founding fathers of Whole Earth Review and currently on the board of the Rocky Mountain Institute's HyperCar project, calls EVs battery chariots
Plastic batteries have long been a dream of EV builders, for obvious reasons. Plastic would be a lot lighter than current batteries containing metals like lead or even hydrides. Then two years ago the Air Force funded research at John Hopkins University through the military technology transfer program. It led to the first proof of concept plastic batteries in the civilian sector. But last year MIT's Technology Review Journal reported that these prototypes were having a hard time finding financial backing for commercialization. It seemed battery companies were stretched too thin already with previous generation product that hadn't recouped initial investment costs.
That didn't stop Ultralife in New Jersey from going ahead quietly. They have just announced a new line of ultra thin laptop plastic batteries for commercial applications. When their marketing department was asked if this was the John Hopkins technology, they replied: "They are the same, but different..." Read into that what you want. If Panasonic hadn't run away with Nickel Metal Hydride, we'd still be waiting for GM Ovonics to make them available for EVs.
It took about five years for NiMH to scale up from laptops to EV systems. I expect it will take about that long to see plastic battery packs designed for EVs, unless the EV drag racing craze explodes and builders are willing to spend anything to win or the military makes it a number one priority. Last week Bill Moore, editor of EV World, posted Ultra life's stock market chart on his website at
www.evworld.com which showed a dramatic dip in price. I expect those outside the EV industry don't realize the potential of plastic batteries yet, so it may be the best time to buy. In a few years, whether Ultralife will be the breakthrough company or not, car parts will double as electrical storage molded into components.
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Ultralife's advanced Solid Polymer Rechargeable Battery -- the first battery of its kind in the world to be shipped commercially -- offers an unprecedented combination of long life, safety and design flexibility. Batteries can be configured in virtually any prismatic shape, and as thin as 0.040 inch (1 mm), to fill virtually any space efficiently. Cells can be configured in series or parallel to achieve optimum voltage, capacity, and rate capability for a given application. This leading-edge rechargeable battery technology is ideal for cellular telephones, notebook computers, and other portable electronic applications.