Page 44 - European Energy Innovation - Autumn 2016 publication
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44  Autumn 2016 European Energy Innovation


Electric vehicles (EVs): how far

down the track have we come?

How far have we yet to go?

We take a slightly closer look at three developments.

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” – Molière

By Michael Edmund, Editor

One rainy April day in                       stands ready for its first installations in  roadways nevertheless offer the
                  1906, a man was absent-    driveways and car parks. The system          prospect of significant reductions in
                  mindedly crossing the      certainly has had its critics, but it        GHG emissions.
                  Rue Dauphine in Paris. He  deserves our close attention because
collided with a horse and cart, and the      the claims made for it are startling, to     And so we come to the EVs themselves
life of Pierre Curie - the Pierre Curie -    say the least: a 75% reduction in GHG        – or, more particularly, to the batteries
was cut tragically short. In partnership     emissions and the facility to recharge       that power them. Tesla and Formula e
with his brother Jacques, Monsieur           EVS continuously while travelling            might have revolutionised the image
Curie had been instrumental in our           along it. And the small matter of            of the EV, but public acceptance has
early understanding of piezoelectricity,     enough clean electricity to power the        nevertheless remained relatively low,
although he is probably better known         entire planet. This, by the way, from        principally because of the weak points
for his collaboration on radioactivity       replacing just the tarmac surface of         in the EV proposition: the twin issues of
with his wife Marie. The couple worked       the United States; and quite apart           vehicle range and the time required to
with Henri Becquerel, whose father           from any economic and public health          recharge the batteries.
Edmond is credited with the discovery        consequences of eliminating accidents
of the photovoltaic effect: quite a          on frozen roadways.                          However, with so much at stake
formidable French scientific dynasty,                                                     there has been colossal investment
and today these technologies represent       Many of us are familiar with using a         in novel battery chemistry and
two of the more exciting prospects for       piezoelectric device on gas cookers          design. Lithium-air batteries appear
our efforts to combat climate change         and barbecues: a crystal responds to         to approach the energy density of
in general; and for electric mobility in     being struck by generating a spark           gasoline, while magnesium and
particular.                                  that may be used to light a gas flame.       solid state lithium ion variations offer
                                             Recent work from Spain confirms              contrasting improvements on the
It was almost four years ago that            that integration of piezo devices into       existing technology. A new porous
EEI brought you Scott Brusaw’s               the asphalt of a roadway is not only         stainless steel/thin-film electrolyte
fascinating vision for the incorporation     feasible, but likely to prove a cost-        hints at extending the interval between
of photovoltaic (PV) technology into         effective means of generating useful         recharging, while gold nanowires may
roads. His idea comprises an intelligent,    electricity. The authors of the study        significantly extend overall battery
interlocking modular system of               calculate that 10% of the energy             life. Meanwhile, the wonder material
tempered glass panels. They may be           generated in Madrid could be derived         graphene offers perhaps the most
walked over and driven upon; with their      from 0.6% of its roads. The technology       exciting prospect: a Spanish company
PV capability, they can flash warnings to    obviously does not rely upon sunlight,       has developed a graphene polymer
cars when pedestrians attempt to cross       with the further appeal that the             battery that could allow EVs a maximum
or when the surface is freezing; and         greater the amount of traffic using          range of 800 kilometers (497 miles) and
they can heat themselves to reduce the       such roadways, the greater the energy        a recharging time of a few minutes.
risk that might pose. Four years ago,        recovered from them. However, piezo
Solar Roadways was little more than          technology is not yet as advanced as         This brings the argument full circle.
a working prototype, but two funding         the solar roadway solution, while the        Solar roadways can put useful
contracts have since been completed          laws of physics of course remain in          electricity into the road system, and
with the U.S. Government, with a third       force, making it impossible to extract       piezo roadways can reduce the energy
being awarded in November 2015. The          more energy from the technology than         lost from it. Each requires substantial
concept has been proved; and today           is put into it by traffic. Piezo-enabled     investment in the road network; each

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