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IBM’s possible EV battery

The electric car makers keep on dreaming, bless ’em.  A forecast by Deloitte says they’ll sell a bazillion overpriced golf carts, soon, to “Generation Y” because (I am not making this up) digital dashboards could be user-customized, and Gen-Yers like smart phones in their cars.  Personally, I’m doubtful.  But digital dashboards can be put anywhere, not just in electric cars.  And as for the smart phone thing, to quote an anonymous Gen-Y source, “I go, like, really?  Android’s a fail in your mom’s minivan?  Dude!  I’m like, whoa.”

On the other hand, IBM says it’s working on a form of lithium-based based battery which could conceivably produce a car with a 500-plus mile range.  That’s great news, but only if…
– If the battery really has that much range
– If the range is predicated on real, practical driving and not special test conditions
– If the car itself isn’t an ultralight beer can on wheels
– If the battery technology can be scaled up to auto size
– If the battery can be mass produced at a price competitive with gas burners
– If the battery isn’t so bulky it makes the car ugly
– If recharge times can be got under ten minutes (or, alternatively, battery replacement time)
– If battery life-cycle costs don’t add significantly to the cost of driving the car
– If weather extremes don’t hurt battery performance
– If, given the odd chemistry of this battery, high altitudes don’t kill it
– If, also given the odd chemistry of this battery, air contamination doesn’t make the battery impractical
– If safety issues (such as post-crash fires) arising from high energy density can be managed

THEN Big Blue might just have a winner.  I sure hope so.  This would be the greatest thing for the electric power business since the invention of wire.

Word of warning: One reason power companies want EVs is so they can draw power FROM your battery while it’s parked in your garage.  This is like filling up your gas tank, then having Exxon siphon some gas back out while you’re asleep, and then three days later putting it back in.  That all works out provided you don’t need a full tank an hour after they siphoned out some gas.  If you sign up for a deal allowing your power company to do this, make sure you read the fine print and know what you’re getting into.


  1. Bert Bigelow

    Your list of conditions for success of the IBM battery is excessive and unrealistic.
    Recharge times do NOT have to be under ten minutes.
    EV’s are an urban transportation vehicle…in most cases a second car used for commuting and neighborhood errands. If it will recharge overnight that will be satisfactory for most users.
    Weather and altitude extremes are also irrelevant for much of the country. It’s an URBAN SHORT HAUL vehicle, folks. Stop trying to make it capable of cross-country trips to the arctic circle. Maybe it doesn’t work in Minnesota or Colorado. OK, there is a huge market for it in the southern half of the US.

    Posted on 24-Jan-12 at 0:33 am | Permalink
  2. Thanks for the feedback, Bert, but what you’re describing is a very small niche market. If you live in Peachtree City, GA, for example, that niche is already being filled by actual golf carts. Here in Florida, there are lots of little golf-oriented retirement communities where, again, the niche is being filled for a tenth the cost of an EV. For Big Blue to make it to market with this thing, which I sincerely hope the do, they’ve got to enlarge the niche, and that requires extending the range and cutting the recharge times. Just my opinion.

    Posted on 24-Jan-12 at 17:26 pm | Permalink

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