New Race for Automakers: Build a Better Battery

A more robust hybrid car could reduce America's reliance on oil and trim its greenhouse-gas emissions while giving a major boost to carmakers that find the winning technology.

Published: 13-Jan-2007

Can you imagine this scenario: An American automaker leapfrogs its Japanese competitors with a gasoline-electric hybrid that gets 150 miles to the gallon and can travel 40 miles on battery power alone?

General Motors set out that possibility when it unveiled on Sunday the Chevy Volt, a concept car with a much larger electric motor than today's Toyota Prius.

If it's ever built, the car could push the venerable manufacturer to the forefront of next-generation car technology. But to win that contest, GM will have to win another: the auto industry's increasingly heated race for a new kind of battery.


Batteries could soon replace standard nickel-metal hydride batteries in hybrid vehicles. PHOTO: Sandia researcher Brad Hance examines a lithium-ion battery that may someday be put in a hybrid car.

Images of different types of carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are key to MIT researchers' efforts to improve on an energy storage device called an ultracapacitor.

The glider-like plane with a single-seat gondola and a 31 meter (102 feet) wingspan was powered by 160 AA 'Oxyride' batteries.


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