Nissan is using recycled Leaf batteries to power street lights

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Nissan is using old Leaf batteries in a very meta way: To power streetlights that will make roads safer for vehicles and pedestrians. Called "The Light Reborn," it uses a solar panel that charges up a battery, which can then power the LED at night wi…
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Tesla says it’s being underpaid because its batteries are too fast

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It looks like Tesla's batteries are too fast for their own good. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, the company claims it's not being properly paid for the electricity its South Australia battery farm is generating for the country's power grid. An…
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Electric Vehicles Are the Future, but Their Batteries Are Stuck in the Past

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Electric vehicles, many believe, will save the planet, and the humans that live on it. But that only if making them doesn’t decimate it (and us) first. How’s a car owner to choose?

Most traditional cars run on lead-acid batteries. Lead-acid batteries are fairly cheap, perform well in cold temperatures, and don’t put drivers at risk if they’re not charged properly.

But there’s something sinister at play. One of the reasons lead-acid batteries are so much cheaper is because they’re recyclable. But that process comes with its own host of problems. It’s often workers in developing countries doing the recycling, using highly unsafe methods, as a recent investigation into a spate of debilitating — and even fatal — lead poisonings in Kenya showed. Wealthier nations like the U.S. have laws that require more careful (and, therefore, more expensive) processing for these batteries. So instead they export them to places with fewer regulations, causing workers to suffer.

So some automakers have shifted to lithium-ion batteries. Primarily used in electric cars, these batteries are lighter and can store a charge longer, but they’re much more expensive ($ 1700 per battery, compared to $ 120 for a top-end lead-acid battery, according to Road and Track). And if they get damaged, the highly reactive lithium inside can, well, explode. Not ideal.

Lithium-ion cells also rely on a limited supply of rare-earth metals, which are environmentally hazardous to mine. Workers, including illegal child laborers, operate under harsh conditions to produce them.

That leaves the conscientious car owner with an impossible choice. Do you buy the electric vehicle to minimize your carbon footprint but with the knowledge of the human suffering and environmental damage it takes to make it?

What we really need, if EVs are going to become truly widespread, is a new kind of battery.

There seem to be plenty of candidates, from the much-hyped but not-yet-realized solid state batteries, to rapidly-charging supercapacitors, or even batteries that run on just carbon and water. Indeed, according to Financial Times, venture capitalists have already invested a record $ 1 billion in advancing next-generation battery technology in 2018. That’s already double that of 2017, and we’re three months into the year.

But none of these battery concepts is mature enough to even come close to powering something like a car. To be viable alternatives, they’ll need a lot more development, time, and money. In the meantime, though, lithium-ion batteries have still gotten the most funding over the past two years, Financial Times reports, because investors already know they work.

That’s not going to push the technology forward. For green technology to become widespread, experts believe advanced batteries are one of the biggest needs. If we’re going to cross that threshold, we’ve gotta break away from what has worked in the past.

The post Electric Vehicles Are the Future, but Their Batteries Are Stuck in the Past appeared first on Futurism.

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Here’s a rugged coffee maker that runs off power tool batteries

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Japanese power tools manufacturer Makita has released a new rugged coffee maker that runs on battery power. The CM501DZ uses the same lithium ion battery packs as various Makita tools; the company says the largest 18V BL1860 battery is good for brewing about 640ml, or 5.3 cups.

Makita released its first cordless coffee maker a few years ago, and naturally now also sells various flavors of coffee pods for the machines. You can, however, use them with regular ground coffee, in case you want to brew artisanal blends in the middle of nowhere.

The Asahi Shimbun says Makita expects the new model to be popular with construction workers on building sites. I expect it to be popular with me on my apartment’s roof. It’s out now in Japan for…

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Is Apple Buying Cobalt Directly from Miners to Make Safer Batteries?

Apple is currently holding discussions to secure long-term supplies of cobalt, a metal used in smartphone batteries, according to a new report. Reportedly, Apple is in talks to begin buying cobalt directly from mining companies. Cobalt, a hard silver-gray metal, is an essential material in the production of lithium-ion batteries used across Apple’s product lineup. […]
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Apple in talks to buy cobalt for batteries directly from miners


(Reuters) — Apple Inc is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt for iPhone batteries directly from miners, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing sources.

The iPhone maker is seeking contracts to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt for five years or longer, Bloomberg reported, citing an anonymous source.

Cobalt prices have skyrocketed of late due to an expected growth in demand for electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Apple may end up deciding not to go ahead with a deal, the report said, citing another source.

Apple was not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.

(Reporting by Mekhla Raina in Bengaluru; editing by Sunil Nair)

Apple – VentureBeat

Apple is buying cobalt for iPhone batteries before Tesla takes it all

Apple iPhone batteries

According to a report from Bloomberg, Apple is in talks with mining companies to secure long-term supplies of cobalt, a key element in the lithium-ion batteries that power virtually every gadget the company makes.

Apple doesn’t make its own batteries (yet), so buying up the raw materials is an unusual step for the company. But it’s a necessary evil, and it’s all thanks to Tesla and the explosion in popularity of electric cars.

Although the electric car market is still relatively small right now, auto manufacturers are preparing for a steep increase in demand for electric vehicles in the next few years. That will stress the world’s supply of cobalt, and that reality is reflected in the current price. Bloomberg notes that Cobalt prices have soared from a little over $ 20,000 per metric ton back in September 2016 to $ 80,000 per metric ton right now.

That’s caused the companies that rely on cobalt the most to go directly to the miners and sign contracts to ensure future supplies, while also locking in a price to hedge against future price increases. Two-thirds of the world’s cobalt production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a region not exactly known for its stability.

So on the surface, the Bloomberg report looks like Apple doing the responsible thing and ensuring it has a consistent supply of an important manufacturing product at a reasonable price. But given Apple’s recent interest in designing all its own modems and processors for use inside its gadgets, it also raises the possibility that the company could start involving itself more in the battery manufacturing process.

Currently, Apple contracts out the battery manufacturing for the iPhone, just like it does with the bulk of components. But as battery science continues to improve and battery quality control becomes ever more important, it’s easy to believe Apple could want to exert more and more control over the manufacturing process — and locking down the necessary resources to do so would be a good first step.

Apple – BGR

A fix is rolling out for Chrysler’s rebooting screen problem, but some car batteries have already died

After spending the better part of the week dealing with endlessly rebooting Uconnect infotainment systems, Fiat Chrysler customers across the Northeast are finally seeing their cars mostly return to normal. A majority of the customers who spoke to The Verge earlier this week about their malfunctioning vehicles have reported back that the maddening reboot loop has stopped. According to numerous exchanges with the Uconnect customer support account on Twitter, other customers are seeing the same thing. For some it’s come too late, as the constant rebooting has drained their vehicles’ batteries completely.

The problem began over the weekend after an over-the-air update apparently went out to certain 2017 and 2018 model year cars. After that,…

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Surface Pro 4 batteries and TypeCovers are dropping like flies

Many Surface Pro 4 customers are angry as hell. Not only are their screens getting the shakes; their batteries are dying prematurely and, in some cases, their TypeCovers turn into boat anchors.

Surface Pro 4 screen flicker problems persist. Per the Flickergate website:

We are customers of Microsoft who have invested $ 1500+ on new Surface Pro devices which have developed screen flickering, rendering the devices unusable. The flickering normally occurs 1 year after purchase when the warranty is already expired. This means that owners are forced to pay $ 800 for an out-of-warranty exchange from Microsoft. However, many users experience the same flickering on their refurbished Surface Pro replacements.   2000+ customers have complained on Microsoft’s support forums and this number is growing by the day.  However, Microsoft has not acknowledged the issue.   We recommend potential buyers to AVOID surface pro devices until Microsoft has fixed this problem because there is a high chance that your device will become unusable within a year.

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Computerworld Mobile

Phew: iPhone X and iPhone 8 won’t be throttled when their batteries get old

iPhone X Slowdown

Not only did Apple release a new iOS 11.3 beta version that includes the new battery health and speed throttle features, but it also revealed more details about its biggest scandal to date, the iPhone slowdown issue. The company issued an ample letter to Congress in which it explains the whole mess. One of the gems included in the letter is the fact that the iPhone X and iPhone 8 series won’t be slowed down when battery life starts sucking, which is obviously great news for anyone who currently owns either phone model and plans to hold onto it for more than a year.

When Apple released the first iOS 11.3 beta a few weeks ago, we warned you that iPhone X and iPhone 8 users would not get the new throttle toggle in the Settings app. Instead, they’ll just be treated to a new battery health screen. This seemed to be an indirect confirmation from Apple that the iPhone X and iPhone 8 don’t have to be slowed down in about a year from now, once the battery starts showing its age.

At the time, we told you that Apple might change its mind down the road. After all, the iPhone 7 series was just added to the iPhone slowdown “program,” which initially covered only the iPhone 6/6 Plus and iPhone 6s/6s Plus.

In its letter to Congress, Apple made it clear that the iPhone 8 and iPhone X handsets that were released last fall won’t be affected by slowdowns. The company also updated an online support document about iPhone battery and performance with specific details about the new handsets.

iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X models use a more advanced hardware and software design that provides a more accurate estimation of both power needs and the battery’s power capability to maximize overall system performance. This allows a different performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown. As a result, the impacts of performance management may be less noticeable on iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. Over time, the rechargeable batteries in all iPhone models will diminish in their capacity and peak performance and will eventually need to be replaced.

As you can see above, Apple still reminds you that all iPhone batteries are ultimately prone to degradation and they’ll need to be replaced at some point. But at least iPhone X and iPhone 8 users won’t have to worry about having the speed of their phones slowed down in the future, or about unexpected shutdowns.

Here’s Apple’s full response to Congress:

Apple – BGR