Physical Technology – Batteries

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OPINION: WITHOUT power today’s technology doesn’t work. So much of the possibility of the future is wrapped up in battery technology – smaller, longer lasting, and more powerful. One of the “laws” governing technology is Koomey’s Law where, at a fixed computing load, the amount of battery you need will fall by a factor of two every 18 months – this has been true since 1945.

The ongoing perfection of battery technology is being augmented by advances in wind, solar and thermal such that some technology will no longer need a battery but will effectively “self-charge”. Many other technologies will become commercially viable as battery technology improves such as electric cars and trucks, drones and robots. Currently the range and duration of these technologies is limited by the battery and the recharge takes too long to be commercially viable.

For example, electric cars may be limited to a range of just 60 kilometres depending on traffic conditions and outside temperatures and it takes hours to recharge. Advances in battery technology are seeking to increase the range to 750 kilometres with a five minute recharge. This example shows where we are today and what we believe will be possible in a few years. We can also see the great leap in viability and as the technology improves, acceptance and adoption should follow soon after.

Drones carrying 100kgs (a human) can currently fly at 140 kilometres an hour for 30 minutes before needing a recharge – this is great for short trips but extending their flight times to hours not minutes will completely change the nature of transportation of goods and humans.

Electric trucks still seem to be some time off as the size of the batteries and the recharging time makes this economically and physically unviable at present.

Current battery technology surrounds rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and work is being done to improve their capacity, speed of recharge and safety. The next iteration of batteries is likely to come from solid-state technology, nano-wires, the combination of stainless steel, electrolytes and electrodes, graphene, micro-supercapacitors, sodium-ion, foam, hydrogen, carbon and even photosynthesis. Some batteries are being developed that use movement, the air, solar and sonar to recharge – this makes them wearable.

It is improvements in battery technology that are expected to lead to advances in transportation, robotics, and mobility.

INDUSTRIAL: Lower distribution costs

RETAIL: Lower distribution costs, lower prices of goods. Lower outgoings.

OFFICE: Lower outgoings, shorter commute times.

By Tony Crabb, national director, research, Cushman & Wakefield.*

Australian Property Journal