No, No... Not a waste of time. (Did not mean it that way.) I was just saying that designing batteries for an automobile is more complex than a cell phone. Cell phones have very different requirements. Still an interesting read.
The problem with comparing cars to smartphones is that cars don't use half as much energy to drive the same mile every 2 years, but semiconductors do. The next iPhone will use half as much energy for the same tasks as the current 4S between the CPU and cellular chip because the chips themselves are fabricated at a smaller process (45/40nm to 32/28nm). Cars though, just keep getting bigger, and use more energy.
The solutions they write about in that article are applicable - better electrolytes for higher voltage batteries (increasing per-cell voltage), replacing the graphite annode (with either tin or silicon), and solid state batteries (Prieto). But they're still not commercialized. The electrolyte is probably the closest to commercialization (one year), then silicon anodes in the next 2 years, and solid state batteries in 5 years.
But beyond that, think about how long it takes to qualify a battery for use in an EV. Would you let your wife/children sleep in a bedroom over a charging EV where the batteries haven't been fully qualified and tested for safety? It'll take 18-24 months to qualify a battery after its in first production run for use in vehicles.
Sadly, don't expect any huge leaps anytime soon. I want a huge leap too, but the battery improvement rate will still be 8-10% over the next 4-5 years.
I've been watching this one for decades. This article is for "the layman" and leaves out quite a lot that's been discovered about batteries (some of which is very encouraging). It also leaves out a bunch of why cellphones are such battery hogs - and no, it's not the silicon nanometer scale primarily. (and the guys who really have that one hammered are Intel, and they're not really in that market at all).
It's remembering that when you're far from a tower, with the phone on, it's got to ping around for towers and that takes real (watts) power out with the path losses in the high dBs. It's the backlight - watts again. Not so much the receiver, though the lo-jack gps trackers do tend to be always on so you can be tracked (Tracking records for 2 million ios devices alone were recently hacked off a single FBI agent's laptop! - Obviously without warrants on that many in just one city!) As the article says, yeah, playing angry birds or something all day will use some power - finally you're making the cpu do something at all.
During the time I've been watching, laptops have gone from wow, an amp hour and 7-8 hours a charge, to wow, many amp hours and 6-7 hours a charge. Seems the engineers can't resist burning more power at at least the same rate the batteries improve - and they don't have a TMS (remember the burning Sony batteries?).
The article was correct on one thing most people don't seem to "get". We know the entire periodic table already, this is not the turf for Moore's law (which is getting ready to fail on its own turf anyway). There are only so many light elements that are strongly electropositive or electronegative. That's it, no one's going to come along with "this new nano-crap changes everything" anytime soon, though nanostructured anodes of graphene nanotubes might go a long way, relatively speaking. But forget 100% type improvements unless a way is found to make a something-air battery that shares the same advantages as gasoline - you don't have to carry the oxidizer around with you - it's free, kind of. Trouble is, the lightest known electropositive element is lithium, and it likes to eat nitrogen, CO2, Oxygen - and like the spectral issue with solar cells - only one of those would be the highest volts in a reversible reaction. Thing is - separating air into its components isn't that easy a trick.
I got way into energy efficiency as I was tasked to design a prosthetic tactile/visual aid for profoundly deaf infants. I also got a job from DHS to do a "cel phone finder" as even if you were crushed in a 9/11 sort of thing, your cel would still be pinging - at high power - to find a tower, and we could find you that way. The power output, from even an efficient (80% if you're super good and lucky) class C amp - is in the watts peak, and there ain't no free on this one.
As another poster mentioned, we have a very different situation with phones/tablets vs cars. Hardly anyone was burnt by the Sony batteries, despite a lot of incidents. Further, by the time you need a new battery - the tech isn't your hot bling anymore, and you're just as likely to junk it (or have dropped it in a toilet or something) as to want to replace the battery. All their risks are externalized to you, in other words, so they have you guessed it, zero motivation to make it better. Now, make a car that people expect to keep for many years - that's a different story, and as we know, one year of making crummy cars can paint a negative impression of a company on the whole world for many years (GM anyone?). Completely different situation.
And yes, just like the processing power of laptops (I rarely need what my several year old one has and portability at the same time) - cars are getting heavier, people think they are safer that way (true if you're in the heavier car in a crash), and they are surely more comfortable and quiet the heavier they get - even though a heavy car is a much more serious hazard to any light cars or bikes on the road than a light one would be.
A few years back, I was pushing for things like my 200 mpg go kart to be legal to drive (I did win in two counties, where it's now legal). I got good-naturedly pulled over by the sheriff in my town. So, we talk, and he was in his personal truck, a Dodge Ram, huge thing - and he pointed out that even with my chrome-moly roll cage (does your car have one?) an accident with his truck would surely be fatal. As luck would have it, the last half of his sentence was drowned out by a twin trailer logging truck going down the hill we were on at 70 mph - all I did was point and laugh - "none at all" comes to mind how much damage that log truck would have experienced running his Ram over...
So, to make the roads safer requires in fact, some sort of loss of freedom to mix up these heavy trucks and SUVs with light, efficient cars. I don't like that concept, but...with both sharing the same road, this issue will always be with us, and unsolved.
I'm that weirdest of all people, a guy who started as a tech, worked (and educated) myself up to EE (who among other things, designed and built some really nice radios for NSA), then a professional inventor who actually made millions at it, then a nuclear physicist. So, not to brag (but, oh crap, someone will think so no matter how true this is, and it's as true as can be - I started early and worked harder than most, despite the cost of "no social life"), but I've learned a few things along the way. Had I not been too lazy, I'd have backed all that up with links, since I follow the science news (even what I call "press report science") daily.
Although this place is largely crap (scientists need to create press releases to get funding, so everything is revolutionary, even the stuff that isn't) - and due to far too much specialization and poor education, unrealized that much reported here was really invented in the '30's anyway, it's a place to watch. Once in awhile, there's something real there. http://phys.org/technology-news/energy-green-tech/
@DCFusor: Since we are talking about where battery tech is going, consider this question: the Voltec power-train system makes particularly good sense to those of us who live in "Winter Climates" since we always have the ICE in case we need real 'hot water' heat. I'm 70. Heat is important when you're 70! <g> Anyhow, do you foresee when battery tech will be good enough to do the 'driving' as well as the 'heating' therefore not requiring an ICE for that? I mean, eventually, there is going to be a technology that is better at doing the 'Generator' thing than a gasoline engine. But, we need heat in Michigan sometimes (of course, with climate change being what it is, maybe not so much, anymore.)
I'm "only" 59 (but also only 110 lb) and I very much resonate with the heat thing - I'm checking out various other options now. Heat is my worst complaint about the 2012 since it doesn't have a hold function, I've even thought of buggering the hood switch for that. But my next test is going to be an 800w ceramic heater modded to stay on (strapped in, tilt switch disabled) and run off a 1300w inverter I put on the 12v system.
The built in hot water heater (it's just a fancy block heater, for crying out loud, heating the out of doors too) I've not tried much as it's so ruinous to range, but I think it worked OK here (mountains in VA). It's just heat, or you make it there, or not. And you want the heat right now, not later in MM when it runs down. Preconditioning isn't much of an option for me in early morning, as I'm off grid solar, so the ceramic is the best hope yet - at least it will only heat the interior of the car, and it will do a good size room in a home, so I have hope it'll do.
Now, I never tried the built-in in truly super cold weather - like 10-12F, which we get rarely here - none last winter. Mostly in 30's and even then, not so great. It might thaw my nose and fingers by the time half the charge is gone, and mostly to the heater, not getting somewhere. IMO, using the ICE for heat and charge is the best solution so far, if you could get the darn thing to run (hold mode) when wanted. That way you get both charge from the shaft power, and capture a large part of the otherwise waste heat - it's the best deal going with an IC engine. I have found that it will charge the battery with the hood open even in normal mode (if it's not already full, I've not tried it on top of a full charge), which is my other guess at a solution - just fake out the hood-open switch and see if you can get that to work for you. I took it from 20% to 70% charge that way in my driveway in a test, but didn't have the guts to try it on top of a full charge - I don't have reliable info that says it'll not overcharge the battery in that case and I don't want to mess up the car.
I think batteries are there now for heating and driving, just not with the silly GM design - we just need to use that power to heat the car, not the outdoors and a lot of metal stuff. They could easily have done what I'm doing (just get a ceramic element that runs off 360v for crying out loud), but just didn't figure out how utterly ignorant the current design is. Not enough of us are shouting loudly enough I suppose. Any Carnot - 2nd law type fuel burning engine will have plenty waste heat for heating, but really, this ICE we get is awfully good and I don't predict any huge improvements there anytime soon. You just have to get it to run, which GM is still refusing to back fit as a trivial software change. If anyone in my software outfit thought that was too hard, they'd be on the street in seconds - no remorse, if you're that stupid, I don't need you working for me.
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