Batteries

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on September 30, 2018

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Discuss this article at the Science & Technology Table inside the Diner

A star if it is big enough, upon using up its hydrogen fuel will begin burning helium and other heavier elements to maintain nuclear reactions and keep from going dark. As we use up our fossil fuels we should be replacing them with alternatives. Alternatives which like the heavier elements in a star won't yield as much energy as the hydrogen in a star did or as fossil fuels on earth did, but that's better than dead. There will be less energy and civilization must make drastic changes but survival could be possible. Civilization does not have to go dark.

Most likely however we will go dark and die. This will be like a star burning up all its hydrogen fuel and then going supernova without burning heavier elements between hydrogen and iron first. Iron takes more energy to fuse than it yields and when the core of a star becomes all iron the star goes supernova as it collapses onto itself. Mankind will go straight to supernova. We are not as smart as stars and a permanent dark age looms. Collapse will happen by a failure to transition to alternative energy sources and by not dedicating ourselves to not using any more energy than we actually need.

To be as smart as a star, civilization would be transitioning to alternative energies as quickly as it can, right now without delay. That is not happening.

Batteries should be part of the transition because they store energy. They can't generate energy. Energy to charge them must come form other sources but batteries are a big part of the solution. To that end I introduce you to John Goodenough.

Thanks to John I'm building a battery pack for this electric bicycle right now. All the batteries use the cathode originally developed in John's lab.

I'm using recycled laptop batteries that I get at a computer recycling center. Here is a laptop pack I just opened. I get the packs at a buck each. When finished I may spend $100 getting enough batteries. I want about 1000 watt-hours of capacity. This pack has nine batteries, most have six. If they are good it is a great deal. If they all test bad that's not good!

These batteries are Japanese batteries made in Fukushima before the tsunami. I knew that from the color right away and Fukushima is printed on them. They are connected to a small circuit board that will be removed and thrown away. The board is a charge management controller and I will replace that functionality later but for now I separate the batteries and test them. I keep only those that are worthy. My batteries will mount on the sides of the bike rack shown in the photo over the front wheel. Both sides of the rack will hold a pack and there is another rack over the back wheel which will hold two more packs. I may have as many a 224 batteries spread over four packs, or only 168. I am not sure yet. The battery cell size is called 18650. Eighteen millimeters wide by about 65 millimeters long.

Here is a picture of my battery tester and a wheel I can test motors on in the background. I'm actually more interested in testing motor control circuits with it.

I built up the bike myself and it was working using three lead acid batteries of seven amp-hours each on the back rack until they gave out. That was a few years ago and I could go about five miles using those batteries. Lithium batteries are expensive so the bike has been hanging unused in the garage but now reclaimed laptop batteries make a lithium battery project affordable. It turns out using laptop batteries for E-bikes is a kind of 'thing' and there are many You Tube videos about doing this. You can figure out what to Google if you are interested. I was not the first to think of using reclaimed laptop batteries, though I did think of it on my own.

Electric vehicles will not replace the ease and convenience of fossil fuel powered vehicles. Making electric cars has been practical since the auto age began but electrics can't compete against fossil fuel economically. Electric cars have been impractical from economics but technically they have always been feasible. Even using older battery technology electrics have been good, but never 'good enough'.

Society will only tolerate a drop in replacement for fossil fuel cars and such inflexibility dooms us. Only by embracing alternatives now can we hope to survive even if they don't work quite as well as fossil fuels did. I realize the blasphemy of this statement but after the fracked oil is all fracked up it is also all fricking gone. If we have not prepared we will then go medieval. Waiting until then to prepare will be too late. The new medieval will be far more miserable than the first and it will also last forever. We need to make other arrangements even if new solutions can't work quite as well. Failure to do so will be fatal.

Here are a few batteries with good capacities which will be used on the bike.

 

 

 

 

6 Responses to Batteries

  • St.Roy says:

    BUT, is there adequate lithium?

    • Jon Wesenberg says:

      There is lots of lithium on the planet. What there is much less of is cobalt, used in the cathodes of many lithium cells, along with nickel, which is sort of plentiful, and manganese, which is very plentiful. Lithium iron phosphate cells also don't use scarce elements, although the phosphorus might go fast because we need it for fertilizer. There will also be new batteries invented which will use magnesium or sodium instead of lithium, but there will always be a need for some hard-to-find mineral in our modern contraptions. If you read Extracted by Ugo Bardi, you will find out how taking minerals from increasingly low-concentration ores requires more energy than it did from the good deposits we've mostly used up. Since we're also using up fossil energy, mining and refining all of those minerals will become difficult-to-impossible at some point. That will definitely dial our resource intensity down and take away some modern conveniences. If I live as long as my parents did, another 30 years or so, that last stretch might be kinda rough.

       

       

      • K-Dog says:

        Ideally metals from batteries would be recycled.  Harvesting good batteries for the project has become an obsession and half of what I get from laptop packs are being trashed.  What I'm doing can't be considered reycling, but since it was all trash anyway. Cest la vie.  This is fun and education.

        Lithium batteries are not supposed to be hazardous in the environment from what I have found out.  I'm sorting the batteres as those above 1900 mAh capacity for transportation use.  I'm keeping everything above 1500 mAh hour and below 1900 mAH for other uses.

        Cells will all average above 2000mAh when they parallel together.  Few 1900 mAh to 2000 mAh cells will be used.  Their use will be only to balance out a few cells with unusually high capacity.  Where they are used there will remain an adequate margin above the 2000 mAh cell average for the parallel link.  Four packs will be on the bike. Each pack will 4 cells paralleled together in a stack, 14 stacks in series.  That is 224 batteries.

        • RE says:

          So what is the range you expect for the bike in terms of miles on a single charge over average terrain with average amount of rider input of pedaling?  How long to charge the pack to full charge from say 75% discharge?

          RE

          • K-Dog says:

            The range should be thirty miles easy enough.  I'll have more capacity than the rentals which seem to be able to get as far out from downtown Seattle as I am before they are dumped for recharge.  The trick will be to get the drive electronics efficient once I get it working.  Nobody ever thinks of the drive electronics.  There are significant efficiency gains to be made there.  In particular to better deal with hills. 

          • RE says:

            30 miles is plenty for me, especially since I could recharge while at work, if I still worked. lol.  A longer commute to work than that is simply insane.  Weather does remain a problem, particularly all the rain in the Seattle area.

            RE

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