Manned electric-powered aircraft have made record-breaking flights
and turned more than a few heads
in the past few years, and it's not a trend that's likely to slow down. Last week, the E-Fan electric trainer airplane developed by the Airbus Group made its first public flight before a collection of French dignitaries. Currently a demonstrator for electric aircraft technology, Airbus says that is will be used as the basis for building a new pair of electric training aircraft models.
As Tesla’s Supercharger network expands
and Model S
sales continue to grow, so too does the company’s need to find a more economical battery solution. A proposed technology amalgamation in the form of the Gigafactory could theoretically reduce per kWh and lithium-ion costs by over 30 percent by 2020.
Increasing the range of electric vehicles and improving the storage of renewable energy systems are two examples of the benefits offered by lithium-sulfur batteries
. Though they can hold four times the energy per mass of the lithium-ion batteries used today, their considerably shorter lifespan has proven something of a roadblock. Researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have now designed a lithium-sulfur battery with four times the longevity, bringing the technology that little bit closer to maturity.
Though the use of silicon in lithium-ion batteries
promises a whole new world of energy storage
, it also poses several problems to a battery's durability and overall performance. A new electrode design inspired by clusters of pomegranate seeds and developed by researchers at the Department of Energy's National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) and Stanford University, overcomes some of these obstacles, bringing lighter and more powerful batteries closer to reality.
US-based Cenntro Motors has announced plans to launch its Kombi EV in the second quarter of 2014. The all-electric utility vehicle has a claimed top speed of 31 mph, a range of 50 miles and is said to achieve fuel economy of more than 240 MPGe.
Last year, lithium-ion battery fires became a hot topic, pardon the inescapable pun, with both a Tesla automobile
and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
succumbing to fires. In cross-disciplinary research at the University of North Carolina (UNC), a compound being studied to prevent marine life from sticking to ships may also be the solvent (and the solution) to keep lithium ion batteries from catching alight when they overheat.
Although high-capacity lithium batteries make many of today's mobile electronics possible, they do have one flaw – they occasionally catch fire
. This can happen when they overheat, and their liquid acid electrolyte ignites and leaks out. Now, however, scientists at Washington State University have created a gummy electrolyte material that could make such fires a thing of the past.
Compact personal mobility vehicles are a great option for commuters looking to solve the "last mile" problem. The latest such vehicle to hit the streets aimed at filling this need is the Urb-E from Urban Mobility, which claims it is the "world's most compact electric vehicle."
In their continuing efforts to increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, scientists have began looking at alternative materials for those batteries' electrodes – materials such as silicon. The problem is, electrodes swell and shrink as they absorb and release lithium ions, causing them to break down over time. This is particularly true of silicon, which is brittle by nature. Now, however, scientists have developed a conductive elastic polymer coating for those electrodes, that heals its own cracks after each use.
Boeing has rolled out the first 787-9 Dreamliner variant at its Everett, Washington assembly plant. The second of three variants of the Dreamliner, the 787-9 carries more passengers and has a greater range than the 787-8 that has been in operation since 2011. The first 787-9 is scheduled to be delivered to Air New Zealand next year.