Kaizen - Continuous Improvement on the Batteries for Electric Cars
Batteries are the Focus of intense Kaizen these days...
One component in automobiles that has not significantly evolved so far in more than 100 years is the Battery. Electric storage was addressed in 1859 when Gaston Plante invented the rechargeable battery. This invention of the Lead-Acid battery has been since improved but has shown limitations to the needs of Electric Vehicles. Henry Ford and Thomas Alba Edison built a couple of electric cars in 1910 and 1911 decided that their idea of electric cars was not so practical, so Ford Motor Co embraced the internal combustion engine as the main source of energy to move the car, and the battery was used only as utility storage for the convenience of having lights in the vehicles. Those uses have since evolved big time. Today the battery helps with a larger number of accessories.
The high and uncontrollable prices of gasoline and diesel are now bringing new attention to electric cars. They have been out there for more than 40 years but only in very small volumes. Again the battery being the main concern. In the late 1990s General Motors produced a few EV1s a very compact and functional electric car and Vacaville, a small city 30 miles SW from Sacramento, CA was the perfect arena for the trial. Even the city got several of those vehicles. Though experimental they behaved pretty well, but at some point by unknown reasons GM decided against the project and recalled the cars to demolish them.
It is until recently in the first decade of the 2000s that the idea is in the process of reviving, since Toyota has taken the initiative with the Hybrid Prius, also Honda has their Honda EV and GM 1999 EV1Ford EV Ranger and Toyota’s Rav4 were produced until 2003. At this time Ford is producing the Escape Hybrid and the General Motors’ Chevy Volt will hit the showrooms in 2010 or earlier.
As we speak, improvements are underway...
Thousands of engineers and researchers keep working at the evolution of the batteries. From the old Lead-Acid that we still use in our cars, to Nickel-Metal Hydride that is used in our phones, cameras and plenty of items you have, and there is now a new animal: Lithium-Ion batteries. This seems to be the best solution so far and is being applied to the Volt and others. Simultaneously a couple of new lines of businesses are being developed at fast pace: The Conversion Kits and The Conversion Services, besides a hundred books and manuals for the enthusiasts and people who love the Do It Yourself challenges.
Electric Vehicles are the American solution, they are more energy efficient, reduce our dependency on fosil fuels and imports, and Prevent Pollution!