What is the future for batteries?

Most things we use nowadays use batteries. We caught up with the experts on batteries at the IFA Electronics Show to find out what the battery technology of the future will be like.
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What is the future for batteries?

TV remotes, starter motors on cars, laptops and smartphones. It seems like almost everything uses a battery, and that means at some points it’s gone flat on you. We caught up with some experts on batteries while we were at the IFA Electronics Show to see what the future holds for battery technology.

Mehmet Turker works for CEBA. Not heard of it? Well, the army has. And the navy. CEBA is massive in the field of military batteries, making them for everything from night vision goggles to walkie talkies. And now it’s broadening out into things for you and me.

‘Battery development is only about half way, there’s still a lot to come’ Says Turker. So, what does he mean?

WHAT WILL THEY BE MADE OF?

CEBA’s stainless steel power banks
CEBA’s stainless steel power banksEnlarge Enlarge

Two of the biggest industries for batteries are electric cars and smartphones. And the future for batteries is very different depending on what you’re putting the battery into. There are also two main types of batteries. Those that use Nickel, and those that use Lithium.

When it comes to smartphones, we’re using Lithium based batteries right now, but Lithium Polymer batteries, a special, improved blend of metals, are beginning to creep in. These offer faster charging, more capacity, and, crucially, can be made to whacky shapes, and ultra thin, like CEBA’s 2.2mm batteries. They can even be heavily curved to squeeze round components, so are perfect for small, mobile devices.

The power banks are less than half as thick as an HTC One M8
The power banks are less than half as thick as an HTC One M8Enlarge Enlarge

For electric cars though, Turker reckons that Lithium isn’t the best bet. ‘It’s because of safety. Nickel batteries are very stable, so in a collision, the battery isn’t that dangerous. Lithium batteries might give a bit more power, but the battery is more unstable if it gets hit hard. I wouldn’t want to see two lithium powered cars get in a collision together.’ Interestingly, car manufacturer Tesla is using lithium batteries in its cars. But companies like Honda and Nissan are developing Nickel batteries.

Jason Zhang from TM3, who make batteries for hundreds of types of phones, also pulled out Tesla, but saying that its Lithium batteries, and the ones being developed by Apple, will be the future. Lithium it is then.

WHAT ABOUT FAST CHARGING?

In the next few years, we won’t really be too worried about how long a battery lasts. That’s because rapid charging will come in. And by rapid, we mean very, very fast. A whole smartphone battery in a matter of seconds.

Don’t get too excited though. The batteries need to be specially designed and built to be charged that fast. Think of charging a battery like pouring a big cup of water into a bucket. With only one cup and one bucket, all that water takes a while to pour in. But with loads of cups and loads of buckets, you can pour water in much faster. That’s how rapid charging works, the battery is split up and each section is charged at the same time. Phones will soon charge faster than the kettle boils.

WHAT ABOUT WIRELESS CHARGING?

Everyone we spoke to was actually pretty clear. If a battery can be charged in seconds, wireless charging wasn’t so important. It’s more of a luxury, but something that is definitely coming. Combining super rapid charging with wireless charging would be brilliant. It’ll spread to shops, restaurants and practically everywhere else we go and stand still for 10 seconds, because it’ll be so fast and simple to use.

WILL FAST CHARGING REPLACE A LONG LIFE BATTERY?

The people at CEBA were fully behind rapid charging, saying that batteries will still need to be charged regularly for the foreseeable future. Zhang at TW3 though was having none of it. ‘We’d be expecting batteries to charged very quickly and last a long time’. How long? He wouldn’t say, but speaking to phone manufacturers across the show, they’re aiming at 5-7 days as the target in the next few years.

Visit CEBA and TM3 to find out more about their products and services.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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