2010: The Year In Energy
At the end of 2010, GM and Nissan introduced their long-awaited electric cars, the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf. If these are successful, they could bring sweeping changes to the automobile industry, which has relied almost exclusively on petroleum to power its cars. But whether electric vehicles become popular depends on improving the technology, especially by developing better batteries.
The Volt and the Leaf use advanced lithium-ion batteries that the automakers calculate will last many times longer than the batteries in your laptop. But they're expensive, and the distance they can power a car is limited. In the near term, better electrodes that store more energy using less material could help, such as the silicon ones Panasonic is rolling out (Tesla to Use High-Energy Batteries from Panasonic). And a new test could allow researchers to quickly sort through combinations of electrodes and electrolytes to find ones that will last for the life of a car (A Quicker Test for EV Batteries).
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