Green

On the GreenBeat: A long road ahead for electric car batteries, how Cisco's spree affects smart grids

Electric vehicles face a long road to progress when it comes to its lithium-ion batteriesIBM scientist Winfried Wilcke tells the New York Times. Advances in lithium-ion technology have been slow, says Wilcke, whose team is trying to develop a technology that would extend EVs’ range to 500 miles on a single charge (current EVs have a range of around 100 miles). He likens the long road ahead to “climbing Mount Everest.”One oft-talked about issue with electric vehicles is the potential for climate – cold or hot temperature – to reduce the range of the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars. Ford plans to address the issue by using a liquid cooling and heating system to regulate temperature on its 2012 Ford Focus EV, which the company claims works better than air cooling systems – which are used in the upcoming Nissan Leaf and led Tesla CEO Elon Musk to call the car’s battery system “primitive.”

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has announced a silicon wafer breakthrough that may lead to cheaper solar cells with higher efficiency rates. NREL said they developed a low-cost technique that etches tiny holes in silicon that make the silver-gray silicon darker and thus able to absorb more light. If the technology is brought to market, it could boost efficiency rates for solar modules, which currently range from 10 to 30 percent.

Pundits weigh in on Cisco’s smart grid spree. GigaOm says that Cisco’s partnership with Itron to create a smart grid IP-based platform means that the debate over whether or not smart grids will be Internet Protocol-based has been decided, declaring “The victor is IP.” Green Tech Media’s Rick Thompson says Cisco’s partnership with Itron and announced acquisition of Arch Rock means this is the dawn of “phase II of the smart grid AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) networking game,” and gives a run-down on emerging trends in smart grids. Bob Gohn, an analyst at Pike research, thinks that the Arch Rock-Cisco-Itron combination poses a competitive threat to Silver Spring and Trilliant.

Oerlikon Solar debuted new thin-film silicon solar production equipment that’s cheaper and more efficient than its predecessors, an achievement the company says rivals industry giant First Solar. It’s one of a handful of remaining companies trying to make a name in thin-film silicon technology. Its former rival, Applied Materials, axed their thin-film business in July — laying off 500 workers in the process — and Chinese solar company Suntech announced last month they would drop its thin-film silicon efforts and refocus on crystalline silicon technology.

Another solar player, SoloPower, announced today they received an important safety certification for its flexible CIGS solar module, moving them closer to the debut of their product line and commercial-scale manufacturing. Flexible CIGS modules are, as their name suggests, flexible – rolls can be applied to rooftops or incorporated into building materials. SoloPower plans to add 75 megawatts of production capacity, but is awaiting approval from the Department of Energy for a loan guarantee that would allow it to build an additional production facility.

Clarian Power offers a plug-in solar solution for $600-$800 per panel, a cheaper alternative to $20,000+ systems. Their patent-pending wind and solar plug-in products, with cute names “Sunfish” and “Jellyfish,” involve short and simple do-it-yourself installation, and could turn average consumers on to clean energy by offering an easier, more affordable way to bring it to their homes.