Plug-in electrics right around the corner?

If like me, you’re tired of hearing vague promises about the plug-in future of electric vehicles and you just want something real you can hold onto and actually buy, then take heart. According to MIT’s Technology Review, the day when you can commonly recharge your car overnight just by plugging into a wall outlet in your garage is closer than we might think.

That’s the news that’s percolating out of the Materials Research Society, which is meeting in Boston this week. The one thing that experts consistently say is that if you can be satisfied with a 100-mile trip maximum, you can be happy much sooner than if you hold out for that weekend-getaway vehicle battery. In fact, with current technology, you can have that electric vehicle right now. You don’t learn to walk by trying to run, so why not give us a shorter range electric vehicle to start with and go from there?

Scientists are working primarily on longer-life batteries, using cutting-edge technologies and nontraditional elements such as iron which operate at a lower voltages to provide extended life. Other researchers are pursuing nanotechnology solutions. (You knew that we’d get around to nanos, didn’t you?) That sort of battery would deliver a higher charge thanks to nanostructured electrodes.

An even more far-out possibility is that oxygen can combine with lithium to form lithium peroxide. Oxygen, of course, is found in massive amounts in the air and is much lighter than other materials, like metal. Such a battery, however, would need to have a seal for keeping out water and carbon dioxide. And it would probably have to be fire-proof as well, since flames love oxygen.

When these new-tech ideas will see the light of day, let alone mass production, remains to be seen.


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