Development of more effective batteries

For decades, batteries have powered everything from toys and toothbrushes to personal electronics and power tools. But, that’s just scratching the surface. During the next decade, advanced batteries will be mass-produced for a wide variety of new applications on land, sea and air.

Battery power is projected to become the backbone of renewable energy systems, such as micro grids, solar panels and wind turbines. The technology will store electrical energy that can later be converted back into electricity when needed, such as during peak demand periods. Between 2013 and 2018, energy storage projects throughout the United States increased by 174 percent.

Traditional lead-acid batteries are popular for this market, because of factors such as cost, recycling, safety and reliability. But, as lithium-ion batteries become more economical to produce, they are being used for more stationary applications.

On water, batteries are in demand to power hybrid-electric ferries, fishing boats, tugboats and other types of small commercial vessels, which are responsible for emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Hybrid-electric propulsion technology is also one of the biggest trends in the aerospace industry today. In fact, the topic of electrification dominated the recent Paris Air Show.

The electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing segment is booming, with R&D activity ranging from startups to industry giants such as Airbus and Boeing. A handful of all-electric, manned aircraft have already completed successful test flights, while many other planes are in various stages of development. Unmanned drones also depend heavily on battery power.

However, all those efforts pale in comparison to what’s happening in the automotive industry, which is considered to be the crown jewel of battery applications. The market is developing rapidly, the necessary infrastructure is becoming more available and costs are becoming competitive with internal combustion engine equivalents.