Electric vehicleAround the world, the transportation sector is evolving. Globally, electric vehicle (EV) sales have more than doubled, showing a 72 percent increase in 2015, followed by 41 percent global increase in EV sales in 2016. Now, France is committing to a greener transportation sector by vowing to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040, further pledging to become a carbon neutral country by 2050.

Currently, 95.2 percent of new car fleets in France are represented by gasoline and diesel vehicles. According to France’s Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot, initiatives by automakers such as Volvo to go all electric in the coming years will help France start to phase out gasoline and diesel vehicles.

In order to become carbon neutral by 2050, France will also need to devote energy to ending the use of fossil fuels across the board, which includes ending hydrocarbon licenses in the country and stopping coal production by 2022.

While France’s goals are admirable, organizations such as Greenpeace believe that the measure falls short in terms of concrete measures.

“We are left wanting, on how these objectives will be achieved,” Greenpeace campaigner Cyrille Cormier said in a statement. “The goal to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 sends out a strong signal, but we would really like to know what are the first steps achieve this, and how to make this ambition something other than a disappointment.”

Electric VehiclesUsing energy stored in the batteries of electric vehicles to power large buildings not only provides electricity for the building, but also increases the lifespan of the vehicle batteries, new research shows.

Researchers have demonstrated that vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology can take enough energy from idle electric vehicle (EV) batteries to be pumped into the grid and power buildings—without damaging the batteries.

This new research into the potentials of V2G shows that it could actually improve vehicle battery life by around ten percent over a year.

For two years, Kotub Uddin, a senior research fellow at the University of Warwick’s Warwick Manufacturing Group, and his team analyzed some of the world’s most advanced lithium ion batteries used in commercially available EVs—and created one of the most accurate battery degradation models existing in the public domain—to predict battery capacity and power fade over time, under various aging acceleration factors—including temperature, state of charge, current, and depth of discharge.

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Scientists have found a way to wirelessly transmit electricity to a nearby moving object.

The method may have applications in transportation, medical devices, and more. If electric cars could recharge while driving down a highway, for example, it would virtually eliminate concerns about their range and lower their cost, perhaps making electricity the standard fuel for vehicles.

“In addition to advancing the wireless charging of vehicles and personal devices like cellphones, our new technology may untether robotics in manufacturing, which also are on the move,” says Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University and senior author of the study.

“We still need to significantly increase the amount of electricity being transferred to charge electric cars, but we may not need to push the distance too much more,” he says.

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BatteryOne of the keys to developing a successful electric vehicle relies on energy storage technology. For an EV to be successful in the marketplace, it must be able to travel longer distances (i.e. over 300 miles on a single charge).

A team of researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, including ECS fellow Meilin Liu, has recently created a nanofiber that they believe could enable the next generation of rechargeable batteries, and with it, EVs. The recently published research describes the team’s development of double perovskite nanofibers that can be used as highly efficient catalysts in fast oxygen evolution reactions. Improvements in this key process could open new possibilities for metal-air batteries.

“Metal-air batteries, such as those that could power electric vehicles in the future, are able to store a lot of energy in a much smaller space than current batteries,” Liu says. “The problem is that the batteries lack a cost-efficient catalyst to improve their efficiency. This new catalyst will improve that process.”

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By: Jonathan Coopersmith, Texas A&M University

EVImagine if you could gas up your GM car only at GM gas stations. Or if you had to find a gas station servicing cars made from 2005 to 2012 to fill up your 2011 vehicle. It would be inconvenient and frustrating, right? This is the problem electric vehicle owners face every day when trying to recharge their cars. The industry’s failure, so far, to create a universal charging system demonstrates why setting standards is so important – and so difficult.

When done right, standards can both be invisible and make our lives immeasurably easier and simpler. Any brand of toaster can plug into any electric outlet. Pulling up to a gas station, you can be confident that the pump’s filler gun will fit into your car’s fuel tank opening. When there are competing standards, users become afraid of choosing an obsolete or “losing” technology.

Most standards, like electrical plugs, are so simple we don’t even really notice them. And yet the stakes are high: Poor standards won’t be widely adopted, defeating the purpose of standardization in the first place. Good standards, by contrast, will ensure compatibility among competing firms and evolve as technology advances.

My own research into the history of fax machines illustrates this well, and provides a useful analogy for today’s development of electric cars. In the 1960s and 1970s, two poor standards for faxing resulted in a small market filled with machines that could not communicate with each other. In 1980, however, a new standard sparked two decades of rapid growth grounded in compatible machines built by competing manufacturers who battled for a share of an increasing market. Consumers benefited from better fax machines that seamlessly worked with each other, vastly expanding their utility.

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There’s a major player in the autonomous, electric car industry that may just outpace transportation mogul Tesla. Faraday Future, an American start-up focused on developing intelligent electric vehicles, just unveiled its first self-driving supercar called the FF91.

Faraday Future states that the vehicle’s 130 kWh battery delivers a range of 378 miles on a single charge. Additionally, 10 cameras, 13 radar sensors, and 12 ultrasonic sensors help power the vehicle’s autonomous abilities.

But Nick Samson, Faraday Future’s senior vice president of engineering, says that the FF91 is “more than just a car,” rather an “intelligent entity.”

In addition to the batter and self-driving tech, the FF91 boasts an infotainment system that allows passengers to watch TV based on your preferences, which are known by the car due to an online profile.

EV Charging StationCurrently, electric vehicles depend on a complex interplay of batteries and supercapacitors to get you where you’re going. But a recently published paper, co-authored by ECS Fellow Hector Abruna, details the development of a new material that can take away some of the complexity of EVs.

“Our material combines the best of both worlds — the ability to store large amounts of electrical energy or charge, like a battery, and the ability to charge and discharge rapidly, like a supercapacitor,” says William Dichtel, lead author of the study.

This from Northwestern University:

[The research team] combined a COF — a strong, stiff polymer with an abundance of tiny pores suitable for storing energy — with a very conductive material to create the first modified redox-active COF that closes the gap with other older porous carbon-based electrodes.

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EVElectric vehicles have become more visible in the automobile market over the past few years, but many potential buyers still cite one thing as a major deterrent in going electric: range anxiety.

Range anxiety is a term many use to describe the fear of an EV’s battery running out of juice while driving, leaving them stranded away from a charging station.

However, a new study published by a team from MIT and the Santa Fe Institute looked at data in order to come to a conclusion that range anxiety is not something that most drivers really need to worry about.

Overcoming range anxiety

“What we found was that 87 percent of vehicles on the road could be replaced by a low cost electric vehicle available today, even if there’s no possibility to recharge during the day,” senior author of the study, Jessika Trancik, told The Washington Post.

As technology progresses, EVs continue to have a leg up on traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. In 2015, battery prices for EVs fell by 35 percent. By 2040, experts predict that long-range EV prices will be less than $22,000. Additionally, an expected 35 percent of all new cars world-wide are expected to come with a plug.

Even as the technology progresses, sociological barriers such as range anxiety remain as a factor that stands in the way of a full market boom of EVs.

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The transportation industry is evolving, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a driving force behind that evolution.

Ten years ago, Musk first outlined his master plan, which included the development of affordable electric cars (including the recently released Tesla Model 3). Now, Musk has released his “Master Plan, Part Deux,” which shifts emphasis from the development of electric cars to the implementation of new (sometimes controversial) autonomous driving technology. Not only does Musk hope to apply this technology to Tesla vehicles, but also expand to self-driving buses and trucks. This could mean trucks on autopilot that could lead to “a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transportation” in long trips.

According to Musk, the purpose of these plans is to “[accelerate] the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what ‘sustainable’ means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing – it matters for everyone.”

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When lithium-ion pioneers M. Stanley Whittingham, Adam Heller, Michael Thackeray, and of course, John Goodenough were in the initial stages of the technology’s development in the 1970s through the late 1980s, there was no clear idea of just how monumental the lithium-based battery would come to be. Even up to a few years ago, the idea of an electric vehicle or renewable grid dependent on lithium-ion technology seemed like a pipe dream. But now, electric vehicles are making their way to the mainstream and with them comes the commercially-driven race to acquire lithium.

Just look at the rise of Tesla and success of the Nissan LEAF. Not only are these cars speaking to a real concern for environmental protection, they’re also becoming the more affordable option in transportation. For example, the LEAF goes for less than $25,000 and gets more than 80 miles per charge. Plus, electric vehicles can currently run on electricity that’s costing around $0.11 per kWh, which is roughly equivalent to $0.99 per gallon. The last year alone saw a 60 percent spike in the sale of electric vehicles.

“Electric cars are just plain better,” says James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center and newly appointed ECS Secretary. “They’re cheaper to buy up front and they’re cheaper to operate, which years ago, was not the case.”

All things considered, lithium may just be the number one commodity of our time.

But this movement is not specific to the U.S. alone. In Germany – a country dedicated to a renewable future – there is a mandate that all new cars in the country will have to be emission-free by 2030. Similarly in Norway, the government is looking to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2025.

So with the transportation sector heading away from gasoline-powered cars and toward lithium battery-based vehicles globally, what will that do to lithium supplies?

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