EDITOR/Author's Note post publishing. I didn't verify my source on energy density of Gasoline, my original online soruce indicated 19,500 BTUs/gallon. The actual figure is closer to 115,000 a significant difference, here is a more reliable source http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/misc/energy_conv.html My article is therefor not very useful. I am leaving it up as an honest blogger. to remind me to check things a lot closer. Apologies to my readers. NG
Many technologies evolve along exponential curves. At some point an inflection point
is reached and profound things happen.
Last week another patent from EEstor became public. This patent and earlier comments by the company could mean dramatic changes for energy if EEstor can finally deliver. Nothing has been proven at scale yet. Energy density is important but ignored.
People don’t necessarily want oil, they want reliable cheap energy in whatever form is convenient, reliable and cheap.We use gas and oil not because they are efficient or clean, but because they are wonderfully cheap, abundant and dense energy storage mechanisms. After 100 years of engineering the average internal combustion engine is only 18-20% efficient at converting the stored heat potential in gasoline to mechanical work.
Many people thought hydrogen was the fuel of the future, but physics works against it, due to hydrogen’s low energy density.
Gasoline is a great store of energy at 19,500BTU’s per gallon.
1 kilowatt hour = 3,412 Btu
EEStor and Ultracapacitors: First across the finish line?
EEStor has stated that it intends to manufacture an ultra capacitor with amazing energy storage, cost and weight attributes. If EEstor or another firm can deliver on these claims it will be revolutionary.
An ultracapacitor is like a battery that charges and discharges rapidly, and has a near infinite life time.
Claimed EEstor details
EEstor's technology claims to have a total capacitance of 30.693 F and can hold 52.220 kWh of energy. The device is said to weigh 281.56 pounds.
Details here at ultracapacitors.org
A gallon of gasoline provides the work equivelance in your car of 19,500BTU*.20% efficient= 1.14 Kwhrs of electricity. http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/2405/80/
Assuming a 90% efficient electrical engine, the “battery” ultracapacitor mentioned above would hold the equivalent work potential of 52.2KWhr/1.14kwhr*.90=41.2 gallons of gasoline.
In earlier reports the information about the EEstor technology indicated the following attributes:
Energy density, Wh/L 606 1513
Specific energy, Wh/kg 273
Price, $/kWh $ 61 $ 40
At the price mention above the 281 pound battery could eventually cost (281/2.2*$40)=$5,109.
Your car might use $15,000 of fuel over it lifetime. Assuming your car is good for 150k miles @20mpg=7,500 gallons of gas will be used over the system life a car. At $2/gallon that equates to $15,000 in stored fuel energy cost.
The Kwhr electricity equivalent assuming 90% efficiency is 7,500*1.14=10,500Kwhrs. At $.20/Kwhr retail that is $2,100 energy cost. Combined with a $5,109 ultra-capacitor, total fuel and storage cost is $7,309 roughly half the cost of gas @$2/gallon. The caveats are the ultra cap costs associated safety engineering and electric motors vs. ICE engines.
Some interesting things happen with energy density at the EEstor claimed levels. New markets open up. The specific energy in the table above at 682Wh/kg is greater than gasoline 1.14kwhr/lb of gas/2.2 =518Wh/kg.Most small two cycle engines such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, motorcycles, recreational vehicles etc would be replaced rapidly.
At high enough energy densities and electric price differentials it could makes sense to physically ship electricity the same way we ship oil (energy) today. Say, Iceland or some other cheap geothermal resource produces at $.04/kwhr
Shipping costs of $40/metric tonne 1,000kilos would add only $40/1000=$.04/kg at .628Kwhrs/kilo add up to $.064/kwhr for transport.
You could have green energy delivered to a dock for say $.114/kwhr. Add on capital costs and margin etc. you are still looking $.15/kwhr which is interesting for many world markets.
In many countries the cost of power is much higher than $0.20kwhr, assuming it is even available. Quality of energy is also a factor. In many emerging countries one limiting factor to economic growth is stable cheap power.Cheap physical energy storage and delivery could change some markets and countries overnight.
The expensive generators that run in many cities in the developing world could be shut down as the monopolistic grid gets end run via physical delivery of electricity. Entrepreneurs north of Lagos could harvest solar energy at $0.10/KWhr and truck it wherever demand was in Nigeria for example.
For those off the grid a solar panel with a built in ultracapacitor, makes energy available without the grid. It may be $1/kwhr but that is a good deal considering the alternative of no energy.
Having spent a few weeks in the bush in Niger among Hausa living off the grid and understanding their energy and health needs. Cheap energy will be nothing short of revolutionary for economic and human development.
In the developed world being “off grid” is a lifestyle choice.In the emerging world, being off grid correlates to lost years of life expectancy, literacy and lost human capabilities and potentials in the Amarytya Sen sense.
Cheap energy storage will be more life changing for the 2.5billion living on less than $2/day than it will be for you picking up your new electric car in 2015.
Ships & trains
Some initial markets for high density electricity that will open up as the technology evolves will be fixed transport routes such as railroads and shipping where cost is everything and infrastructure upgrades are easy to price.If you have a fixed route transport infrastructure with a 20-30 year duty cycle ultra-capacitors may make sense when the energy density cost crosses the bunker and diesel fuel cost equivalence levels.
The HVDC and other grid technology upgrades in some areas could shrink as most of the defined capacity for grids is designed for peak loads. At $1-3m/mile for HVDC transmission assets, it may make sense to forward and store electricity to the edges of the grid off peak. We do the equivalent with pumped storage where convenient geographically today.
The electricity transmission companies will lose and gain from all of this. On one hand every gallon of gas, fuel oil etc. replaced by electricity is a new market, on the other hand, storage at the edges, mean a shrinkage of the required asset base as the “peak” demand infrastructure requirement shrinks.
Many don’t realize it but the US transmission companies have limited interest in efficiencies at lower cost due to their reward structure. Electric generating and distributing utilities have limited incentive in consumers purchasing less of their product.Shaving peaking capacity is nice, but utilities get scared when they think about every consumer being 10% more efficient.They have 20 year debt, plants and business plans based on steady demand escalation. It isn’t a co-incidence that we don’t have smart meters in our homes. Even something as simple as a visible electric use meter in the home have been shown to cause a behavior shift in people reducing consumption up to 10%.
Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have cost issues associated with transmission and the 20%-30% resource availability. Cheap energy storage, compressed air, batteries or ultra-caps at the right price can shift the price dynamics more in favor of these resources as the transmission needs required become less relative to delivering baseload equivalent energy.
If energy storage can approach EEstor’s claims, the world will be a different place for many. The biggest impact may be among the rural and urban poor who come onto micro or local grids without waiting for nationalized power generation to reach them. Some have been waiting for decades. There are now 4 billion cell phone users, let’s hope we have 4 billion renewable electricity users in the near future.