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Lithium Batteries On The Way For Hybrids

In just one year, the whens and wheres of lithium battery packs for hybrid and electric cars have come into much sharper focus

4 min read

Tampa, Fla.—Already intense, the global auto industry’s interest in lithium-ion batteries for electrically driven cars came into sharper focus at the largest-ever Advanced Automotive Battery & Ultracapacitor Conference (AABC). Fully 30 percent more people than last year—close to 1000 altogether—registered for this year’s event, held in the pleasant May sun of this Gulf Coast city.

Much has changed since last year’s AABC, in Long Beach, Calif. Several automakers have now committed to dates for using lithium battery packs in vehicles, ranging from Mercedes-Benz’s S400 hybrid, a mild hybrid to go on sale later this year, to the much-vaunted Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, targeted for November 2010. Japanese makers continue to test and plan for the limited production of small all-electric cars. And while the pace of rollout will be slow, the main question has moved from ”Are the cells safe and reliable?” to ”Will they be affordable for mass production?”

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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