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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In Past Tense: The story of Paul’s phones

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

In Past Tense is our series of articles in which GSMArena veterans take you on a nostalgia-infused ride through the years. Hi, I’m Paul, the veteran here at GSMArena Towers and my journey takes us on a slightly longer track when compared to previous installments in this series. Before owning my first mobile phone I had access to one through the UK company I worked for, and I’ve racked my brains, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what make or model it was. What I do remember though is pranking my friends, I used to call them up while stood outside their house, pretending I was at…

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In Past Tense: The story of Kaloyan’s phones

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Past Tense is our latest series of articles in which GSMArena veterans take you on a nostalgia-infused ride through the years. Experience first hand how the industry evolved and how it shaped us, one phone at a time. How this tech journalist started his way Hi, my name is Kaloyan, 32y old, and I’ve been with GSMArena for 10 years and counting. Three years ago, I shared my phone history with our readers in a rather dry, list-like manner. Now that we’re running the Past Tense featurette, I’ve decided to retell my story but with a shifted focus. So, how did I choose my first…

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Apple sold more wearables than any rival last quarter thanks to strong demand for the Apple Watch 3. According to the latest data from IDC, it’s the first time Apple outsold both Fitbit and Xiaomi. And it beat ’em by a huge margin.  Fitbit and Xiaomi primarily make cheap fitness trackers, while Apple offers more expensive smartwatches, […]

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Bad News: The Amazon Might Be Past the Point of Saving

The Point of No Return

The world’s forests are shrinking. For years, they’ve withstood a multitude of human impact. But according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances, they may be reaching a crisis point. If deforestation goes beyond 20 percent of its original spread, the Amazon Rainforest will have reached the “point of no return”.

In the study, Thomas Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre set out to concretely establish that tipping point, as well as concretely identify what must take place for it to be reached. Essentially, they wanted to know how far deforestation could progress before the rainforest’s water cycle would cease to support the ecosystems within it.

“If the climate changes – by deforestation or global warming – there’s a risk that more than 50% of the Amazon forest becomes a degraded savannah,” Nobre told Euronews, emphasizing that in the last 50 years, deforestation has made its way to about 17 percent of the Amazon’s vegetation.

By their estimates, it would take just an additional three percent to render the rainforest unsalvagable.

While deforestation poses an imminent and severe risk to the rainforest, it is not the only threat to these ecosystems. Climate change and the use of fire also play a major role in this region’s ongoing ruin. In addition to its potentially decimating what’s left of the rainforest (and the wildlife that inhabit it), the degradation of the water cycle would also have a severe impact on South America’s human population.

Despite this grim prediction, we have not yet reached the point where there is no turning back. The Amazon Rainforest may be close to the point of no return, but it has not yet passed it. The right kind of human intervention could help steer the forest away from imminent doom — but in light of the destruction that’s already been done, and the speed of its continuation, putting a stop to it won’t be easy.

The post Bad News: The Amazon Might Be Past the Point of Saving appeared first on Futurism.

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Flipboard CEO Calls out Apple News for ‘Living in the Past’

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