Who would think the chemical element of atomic number 11, a soft silver-white reactive metal of the alkali metal group, will shape the contours of our energy consumption for good? You heard correctly. It’s Sodium to the rescue, says Goodenough. To the untrained eyes of the rest of the world, on the other hand, it’s Toyota to the rescue, again. The first driven savior being the Prius. Wonder how Toyota does it? The tenable underlying philosophy, among other perspectives, could be nothing else other than the ancient wisdom of Mottainai.
The achilles heel to clean energy and the countering balance to oil price to-date has been storage capacity. While wind and solar over supplies with too much energy, batteries have not been up to the task of saving enough of it for later usage. EVs and hybrids, on the other hand, charges way too slow while battery sizes take up way too much room to be economically viable even for homes. Not until as recent as 2014 did a new battery concept emerge with the potential to join the best of both worlds and, pretty much, cause a paradigm shift to the way we do things, both economically and environmentally.
1. Toyota’s New Battery
Toyota just unveiled a new solid-state battery that could be running cars by 2020. The new energy box will replace lithium-ion batteries with solid electrolyte and could be in production as early as 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The battery will be much smaller which makes it possible to create smaller batteries with a longer usage life, smaller hybrids and EVs, significantly larger recharge capacities and therefore twice the driving ranges on a single charge. Flash charges will only take minutes compared to overnights required previously. It also holds the promise of optimal product recycling and both post-vehicle life extended usage and applications to household energy storage, along with other appliances. Companies are already scrambling for creative ways of applying the batteries for home and commercial purposes. Thus, a practical Smart Grid dream for everyone. Although Toyota has not unveiled the chemistry used for the new battery,but claims a new solid-state battery chemistry with sodium, instead of lithium, can triple the energy density.
2. China Exceeding Solar Target
China has already exceeded its 2020 target for Solar installations, in line with its Paris 2015 pledge. In July of 2017 alone, Asia’s supernova added a 10.52-gigawatt (GW) capacity of clean energy from solar to its iconic international portfolio, thereby, extending China’s “largest producer of solar energy in the world” status for another year. To put things in perspective, Australia’s total capacity combined comes in at around 6GW. The figures are expected to double by 2020, though, as households and producers continue to embrace optimized rooftop panels. China, nonetheless, has already met its 2020 target of 105 GW.
3. China’s Thorium
Nuclear energy from Thorium through liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR), or molten salt reactor (MSR) technology, holds the promise of significantly less by-product waste, abundance of supply and therefore clean-cleaner energy at scale for the mass, as well as the ability to reprocess stockpiles of otherwise unrecyclable radioactive uranium waste from legacy reactors and major handicaps with regards to ordnance development.
As MSRs come with superior cost-competitive qualities for plant safety, security and engineering requirements, a number of smaller, more engineering and commercially viable MSR prototypes are expected to be installed by the 2020s, providing bountiful carbon-free power directly to communities and heavy industrial plants. Albeit being notoriously difficult to mine, should all go according to plan, China is getting closer and closer to realizing what is known as the Thorium dream. Chinese leaders joined a signing ceremony last September (2016) with Canada’s SNC-Lavalin, the owner of CANDU next-gen nuclear technology, to seal a deal for two MSR plants near Shanghai. The Thorium development could literally transform and even fulfill China’s energy requirement, for good. If anything at all, as a viable backup to the slower-to-garner wind and solar energy. Thus, energy security for the region at large.
4.France & The UK: No more sales of fossil fuel cars by 2040
Following Germany’s track to trail-blazed clean energy territory, France and The UK have banned fossil-fuel based powertrains from 2040 onward, also, as part of the Paris 2015 effort to tackle air pollution.
ClientEarth CEO James Thornton shared his thoughts that the development “is a huge statement of intent from the French government and an example of how we’re likely to see exponential change in the coming years as governments grapple with the necessary changes we have to make for air quality and our climate”.Volvo, for example, along with a handful of other companies that has made the adjustment to embrace e-powertrains, solely, should be doing very well going forward while outlooks for ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) developments is bleak. “This is now clearly the direction of travel and industry players who are not on board will find themselves struggling before long”, reported The Independence, UK.
Despite several good news regarding development in America such as the Hyperloop and Tesla’s on time delivery of Model 3 that confirms viability of the gigafactory and battery technology, however, the US Presidential Election in 2020 remains the largest obstacle to global progress in accordance with the Paris accord due to Pres. Trump’s strong policy to negate away from the agreement and regress to conventional power production via fossil-fuel such as coal and gasoline. The 2020 election represents a pivotal point in that a re-election of the same president will unequivocally serve as an formal endorsement by the majority voters to support conventional energy; and thus, a new generation of federal subsidy and policy that cradles greenhouse gas emitting stratagems.
Goodenough has a word or two for the trumpet Tweeter. The new battery chemistry will be good enough this time: a “safe, low-cost, all-solid-state cell with a huge capacity giving a large energy density and a long cycle life suitable for powering an all-electric road vehicle or for storing electric power from wind or solar energy.” Should he be right, as he has proven times over and again, those that embrace massive costs of harnessing and transporting fossil-fuels would be no match to operators with the light footedness of significantly cheaper, cleaner and storable light from outer space
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