1360-HP Electric Supercar Just Smoked Petrol-Powered Cars on the World-Famous Nurburgring

Breaking its own record by nearly 20 seconds.

Last year, electric-car startup NIO brought its 1360-hp EP9 supercar to the Nurburgring and set a blistering time of 7:05.00, making it the quickest electric car at the famous circuit. Now, NIO says the EP9 has returned to the ‘Ring and put down an astounding 6:45.90.

Uh, what? That makes the EP9 quicker than a Lamborghini Huracan Performante, currently the production-car record holder at the Nurburgring.

This blistering lap comes just a few months after the EP9 ran around the Circuit of the Americas faster than any other production car and set a record for autonomous cars at the Texas track. The EP9’s pace comes from electric motors at each wheel that combine to generate 1360 horsepower and–this isn’t a typo–4671 lb-ft of torque. Having a motor at each wheel gives the EP9 real-time torque vectoring, no doubt improving cornering speeds significantly.

Unfortunately, NIO hasn’t released a video of this Nurburgring lap yet, but a company representative told us that footage should be released early next week. To date, NIO has built seven EP9s, so we’re not sure it can be considered a “production car.” NIO itself doesn’t say the EP9’s time is a production-car lap record, for what it’s worth.

NIO announced recently that it planned on building more EP9s with a price of $1.48 million. The EP9 uses a carbon fiber tub built to FIA standards, can run a quarter mile in 10.1 seconds, and hit 2.53g in cornering.

We can’t wait to watch video footage to really see what the EP9 can do.



Henry Sapiecha

Australia surpasses Norway and Canada for renewable power projects

Investment in Australia’s renewable energy strategy has increased five times over since 2015, a report has revealed.

The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) has published a paper detailing progress towards the country’s 2020 renewable energy target (RET).

More than $4 billion was committed to the effort last year, which in time will add more than 2,000 megawatts of capacity to the grid.

Of the 98 new power plants accredited in 2016, 86 were solar and is said to reflect a rapid decline in cost and increased capacity of photovoltaics technology.

Small-scale renewable investment was also strong with 182,000 new installations in 2016, many of which were in regional areas.

Across Australia, there are now 2.6 million small-scale renewable systems covering around 15 per cent of Australian homes.

“Rooftop solar panels and household hot water systems generate more than 5,000 megawatts of power, nearly twice the size of the nation’s largest power station,” a CER spokesperson said.

“This massive ramp-up in investment has seen Australia become a top 10 destination in the world for renewable energy projects ahead of other resource-rich economies like Norway and Canada.

“Australia’s renewable energy target of 23.5 per cent by 2020 is now within sight, with the CER stating that ‘if this investment momentum continues in 2017… the 2020 RET can be achieved’.”

Henry Sapiecha

Light and quantum dots turn plants into clean usable hydrogen as fuel

Scientists have been sprouting new ways to cleanly produce hydrogen as a fuel source image www.energy-options.info

Scientists have been sprouting new ways to cleanly produce hydrogen as a fuel source

Hydrogen is often touted as a clean fuel source, as its use in cars only produces water vapor as a byproduct. The truth is though, that producing hydrogen in the first place can often be a process that relies on natural gas or other polluting chemicals that can damage the environment. Finding a way to produce hydrogen simply and cleanly would go a long way toward eventual use of the gas as a fuel source. And that’s exactly what researchers at the University of Cambridge (UC) have done, adding to a host of other green possibilities that have been proposed for creating the gas.

In the new Cambridge method, as with several other methods, the researchers used biomass as a starting point. In particular, they focused on lignocellulose, the support structure found in plants.

“Lignocellulose is nature’s equivalent to armoured concrete,” said Moritz Kuehnel, from UC’s department of chemistry and joint lead author on a new paper about the study. “It consists of strong, highly crystalline cellulose fibres, that are interwoven with lignin and hemicellulose which act as a glue. This rigid structure has evolved to give plants and trees mechanical stability and protect them from degradation, and makes chemical utilisation of lignocellulose so challenging.”

While lignocellulose can be converted into hydrogen, the researchers say that up to this point, the processes that do so rely on high heat, which means a good deal of energy needs to go into the task. Their new method relies simply on light along with a collection of nanoparticles.

The particles are actually very small semiconductors called cadmium sulfide quantum dots. First, they are suspended in alkaline water. Then, the biomass is added, the solution is beamed with light that mimics sunlight, and the dots go to work using the light to fuel a process in which they convert the biomass into hydrogen. The gas then rises out of the solution where it can be collected.

In the study, a variety of unprocessed biomass was successfully used including paper, leaves and pieces of wood.

A strip of paper can be turned into hydrogen gas using the new process image www.energy-options.info

A strip of paper can be turned into hydrogen gas using the new process(Credit: University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry)

“Our sunlight-powered technology is exciting as it enables the production of clean hydrogen from unprocessed biomass under ambient conditions,” said Erwin Reisner, the head of UC’s Christian Doppler Laboratory for Sustainable SynGas Chemistry where the research was carried out. “We see it as a new and viable alternative to high-temperature gasification and other renewable means of hydrogen production. Future development can be envisioned at any scale, from small scale devices for off-grid applications to industrial-scale plants, and we are currently exploring a range of potential commercial options.”

The work of the researchers, which has been published in the journal Nature Energy, can now be added to other less energy intensive ways of producing hydrogen including another sunlight-based process that uses grass to produce the gas; an enzyme-based process that breaks down parts of the corn plant to release hydrogen; and a solar-powered way to split the water molecule into its constituent parts thanks to the use of hematite.


University of Cambridge
Henry Sapiecha

Tesla Powerwall: Australian 2016 Pricing Number Crunch and Payback Times

Back in May, 2015, the payback figures for the Powerwall were calculated based on an assumed Australian cost and example electricity prices. Now there are local installed costs available, we havec  recalculated and gone over the numbers. The question is, can the Powerwall give an acceptable payback period?

Check out our previous numbers, or catch up with the announcement of Powerwall in Australia. Of course, there are other groups offering competing technologies, for various prices.

But for now, this is what the Powerwall will cost. Hot tip, the juicy bits are in bold.


The prices used for this calculation are from the Natural Solar quote system. Due to various factors, such as install issues, prices will vary on a case by case basis.

The calculations are quite simplified and don’t account for a lot of financial factors, which can vary from person to person. But it’s a starting point.

Electricity prices are based on my own AGL bill and the calculations simplified. Swap your own power usage and costs in and re-run the numbers for a more personalised figure.

Prices used are $0.2377 per kWh, and $0.7596 a day surcharge for peak. Off Peak numbers are $0.0674 a kWh and $0.0517 a day supply charge. Solar feed in tariff is $0.051 per kWh.

We have used an average daily production of 3.9 kWh per 1kW of solar, for a Sydney location, based on figures from Solar Choice.

Powerwall + Solar

Natural Solar quote $16,390 for a 4kW solar system and 7kW Powerwall, installed. A 6kW system bumps the price up $18290. The prices includes any Government rebates.

If ordered before the end of January, 2016, there is a $1000 discount on the prices, which we have not included.

The prices are for single phase installations – three phase saves a little of the price. For our numbers, we used the single phase prices.

As of January 15, the prices are as below (with $1000 discount) for a Powerwall + solar and inverter, installed.

The 4kWp Three Phase $13,990 The 4kWp Single Phase $15,390

The 6kWp Three Phase $15,990 The 6kWp Single Phase $17,290.

The 4kW system will produce 15.6 kWh a day, about which 7.5 kWh is used to charge powerwall. The remainder is fed back to the grid, earning $0.4131 per day.

The Powerwall can offset around 6.5 kWh of power usage, saving $1.54505 a day.

The total saved and earned is $1.95815 a day, or $714.73 a year. Payback is 22.9 years.

The 6kW system saves the same power each day, but earns $0.8109 a day from the feed in tariff. The 6kW system saves $2.35595 a day, or $859.92 a year. Payback is 21.3 years.

4kW Payback: ~ 23 years. 6kW Payback: ~ 21 Years

Powerwall and Existing Solar

For owners with solar already installed, there is also an option to just have the Powerwall installed. Costs vary a bit depending on if a compatible inverter is owned, but given as $9500.

We assume that the current solar system has fully paid for itself (not just been paid for), otherwise it’s remaining cost needs to be factored in.

The Powerwall can offset around 6.5 kWh of power usage, saving $1.54505 a day.

Any potential feed in tariff is not included in the price, as it’s production is not included in the Powerwall cost. It could be giving additional savings however.

By charging the Powerwall (7.5 kWh), instead of getting the feed in tariff, $0.3825 is lost. Total saved is $1.16255 a day, or $424.33 a year.

Payback time is 22.4 years.

Powerwall + Offpeak charging

With no solar, offpeak power could be used to charge the Powerwall.

Assuming the full supply costs, charging the Powerwall costs $0.5572 a day. It can offset $1.54505 a day, giving a total saving of $0.98785 a day, or $360.57 a year.

We assume the same install cost as existing solar – $9500.

Payback is 26.35 years.

Going Off Grid

By ditching the connection completely, we can avoid the $0.7596 a day supply charge, but can’t sell back any excess power.

Each Powerwall needs around a 2kW of solar to be fully charged on an average day. Adding more powerwalls into the system gives greater capacity, but does not increase or decrease payback time.

No specific cost is given, but we have assumed $25,000 – the cost of a two Powerwalls, plus a 4kW to 5kW array, based on a combination of the above numbers.

Likely a real off grid system would need more Powerwalls, but the payback time is the same.

The system can save $3.0901 of electricity costs a day, plus the $0.7596 supply charge, for a saving of $3.8497 a day, or $1405.14 a year.

Payback time is 17.8 years.

Summing Up

For now, most people won’t get a very economically viable result from a Powerwall. Considering the warranty is for 10 years, a payback time higher than this is not ideal.

To get a 10 year payback, electricity prices would need to be $0.40 a kWh – not an overly high figure. Some providers do variable pricing, but the Australian average is closer to 30 cents a kWh, which gives a 14 year or so payback time.

For many people (such as myself), better payback can be had from simply keeping the money in an offset account. In the future, financing plans may improve the proposition.

There are a lot of factors that could affect the payback times, most importantly the cost of electricity. It’s hard to predict what electricity prices will be in the future, but with an increase in solar and battery storage, it is possible they could drop, further increasing the pay back time.

Still, the future of solar and battery storage is a bright one!


Henry Sapiecha


Australia positioned to be renewable energy superpower

The old joke says the questions in economics exams don’t change from year to year, but the answers do. Welcome to the economics of energy and climate change, which has changed a lot without many people noticing – including Malcolm Turnbull and his climate-change denying mates.

They’ve missed that the economics has shifted decisively in favour of renewable energy, as Professor Ross Garnaut , of the University of Melbourne, pointed out at an energy summit in Adelaide last October.

Illustration Glen Le Lievre. choices image www.energy-options.net

Garnaut is chairman of Zen Energy, a supplier of solar and battery storage systems. But there aren’t many economists who know more about the energy industry and climate change than Garnaut, who’s conducted two federal inquiries into the subject.

He says that, since his second review in 2011, there have been four big changes in the cost of renewable energy relative to the cost of energy from coal or gas.

wind-power-at-dusk image www.energy-options.net

First, the cost of renewable energy generation and energy storage equipment has fallen “massively”.

The modelling conducted for his inquiry assumed the cost of photovoltaic solar generation would fall by a few per cent a year. In practice, costs have fallen by about five-sixths since that assumption was made.


“Similarly large reductions have occurred in the cost of lithium ion batteries and related systems for storing energy,” he says.

There have been less dramatic but substantial reductions in costs of equipment for electricity from wind and other renewables.

The cost reductions come from economies of scale in the hugely increased production by China and others, plus savings through “learning by doing”. Advances in technology will keep prices falling after scale economies have been exhausted.

Second, there have been “transformational improvements” in battery storage technology, used at the level of the electricity grid, to ensure balance between supply and demand despite renewables generators’ “intermittency ” (inability to operate when the sun’s not shining or the wind’s not blowing).

Third, there’s been a dramatic reduction in the cost of borrowing the money needed to cover the capital cost of generation equipment.

Real interest rates on 10-year bonds are below or near zero in all developed countries, including Australia.

“These exceptionally low costs of capital are driven by fundamental changes in underlying economic conditions and are with us for a long time,” Garnaut says.

Low interest rates reduce the cost of producing, storing and transporting renewable energy more than they reduce the cost of fossil-fuel energy because renewable costs are overwhelmingly capital (sun and wind cost nothing), whereas fossil fuel costs are mainly recurrent (digging more coal out of the ground).

Fourth, there’s been a dramatic increase in the cost of gas – and thus gas-fired electricity.

Ten years ago Australia had the developed world’s cheapest natural gas – about a third of prices in the US. Today, our prices are about three times higher than in the US.

Why? Because the development of a liquid natural gas export industry in Queensland has raised the gas prices paid in eastern Australia to “export parity” level – the much higher price producers could get by selling their gas to Japan or China (less the cost of liquefaction and freight).

It’s worse than that. Because foreign investors were allowed to install far too much capacity for LNG exports – meaning none of them is likely to recover their cost of capital – they’ve been so desperate for throughput they’ve sometimes bid gas prices well above export parity.

Apart from making gas-fired power more expensive relative to renewables, this has implications for how we handle the transition from “base-load” coal-fired power (once you turn a generator on, it runs continuously) to intermittent solar and wind production.

It had been assumed that gas-fired power would bridge the gap because it was cheap, far less emissions-intensive than coal, and able to be turned on and off quickly and easily to counter the intermittency of renewables.

Now, however, without successive federal governments quite realising what they’d done, gas has been largely priced out of the electricity market, with various not-very-old gas-fired power stations close to being stranded assets.

What now? We thank our lucky stars the cost of energy storage is coming down and we get serious about storage – both local and at grid level – using batteries and such things as “pumped hydro storage” (when electricity production exceeds immediate needs, you use it to pump water up to a dam then, when production is inadequate, you let the water flow down through a hydro turbine to a lower dam).

In other words, the solution is to get innovative and agile. Who was it who said that?

Turnbull’s party seem to be pro coal and anti renewables partly because they know we have a comparative advantage in coal.

We can produce it cheaply and we’ve still got loads in the ground. The rest of the world is turning away from coal and the environmental damage it does, but let’s keep opening big new mines and pumping it out, even though this pushes the prices our existing producers get even lower.

If the banks are reluctant to finance new coal mines at this late stage, prop them up with government subsidies. Join the international moratorium on new mines? That would be unAustralian.

But get this: Garnaut says we also have a comparative advantage in the new world of renewables.

“Nowhere in the developed world are solar and wind resources together so abundant as in the west-facing coasts and peninsulas of southern Australia. South Australian resources are particularly rich…

“Play our cards right, and Australia’s exceptionally rich endowment per person in renewable energy resources makes us a low-cost location for energy supply in a low-carbon world economy.

“That would make us the economically rational location within the developed world of a high proportion of energy-intensive processing and manufacturing activity.

“Play our cards right, and Australia is a superpower of the low-carbon world economy.”

commercial business loans info flyer www.money-au (13)

Henry Sapiecha

Will that be cash or car? Jaguar and Shell roll out in-car fuel payment app

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The Jaguar XE supports the Shell mobile pay app

Cashless payments have rolled out on phones and smartwatches, but up until now they hadn’t made it into cars. That’s set to change, thanks to a collaboration between Jaguar and Shell that allows drivers to pay for their fuel using the touchscreen in their car.

jaguar-shell-cashless-payment-image www.energy-options (2)

Instead of getting your hands dirty at the in-pump card reader or waiting behind hordes of people in the cashier queue, owners with the Shell app installed in their central InControl touchscreen can use the app to pay. It links up with PayPal or Apple Pay, with plans to add Android Pay later this year.

The process is fairly simple – having opened the app on the touchscreen, you enter a five-digit security code and pick a pump. All things being equal, the car uses navigation data to work out which Shell station you’re at, making sure you don’t end up paying for gas somewhere down the road. Once you’ve done all that, a receipt is displayed on the dash to confirm your payment has worked. That information can also be automatically forwarded on to your email address, making it easier to track expenses or keep receipts on work trips.

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“Making a payment from a car’s touchscreen will make refuelling quicker and easier,” says Peter Virk, Director of Connected Car and Future Technology at Jaguar. “With this new system you can choose any pump on the forecourt and pay for the fuel even if you’ve forgotten your wallet or can’t find your credit or debit card. You will save time because there’s no more queueing to pay in a shop, and for drivers with children, it won’t be necessary to wake them up, or unstrap them from their seats to take them into the shop.”

jaguar-shell-cashless-payment-image www.energy-options (4)

The app is being rolled out as a wider update to the XE, XF and F-Pace ranges. The F-Pace will now be available with a new E-Performance Diesel, which uses just 4.8 l/100 km (59 mpg) on the combined cycle and emits 125 g/km of CO2. It will be joined by a 237 hp (177 kW) diesel and a 248 hp (185 kW) turbocharged petrol four-cylinder. The same engines will also be on offer in the XF, while the XE S has been boosted from 335 hp (250 kW) to 375 hp (280 kW) for 2018.

jaguar-shell-cashless-payment-image www.energy-options (5)

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jaguar-shell-cashless-payment-image www.energy-options.info

The app will be able to download from February 15, but it will only be available to buyers in the UK initially. Android Pay and global support are expected to roll out later this year.

Source: Jaguar


Henry Sapiecha

Art Rosenfeld, ‘Godfather’ of Energy Efficiency, Dies at the age of 90yrs

-Rosenfeld-godfather-of-energy image www.energy-options.info

Physicist Arthur Rosenfeld, who spearheaded breakthroughs in energy efficiency for lighting, refrigerators, televisions and other electronics while working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has died. He was 90.

Rosenfeld died Jan. 27 at his home in Berkeley, said Lawrence Berkeley National Lab spokeswoman Julie Chao.

Rosenfeld was known to his colleagues as California’s “godfather” of energy efficiency, a field he is credited with creating.

A native of Alabama, he was known for his detailed calculations, but also for his talent in translating the results into terms that could be easily understood.

A particle physicist, he moved to Berkeley in the 1950s to work in the particle physics group of Luis Alvarez, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1968.

A turning point in his career came in 1973 when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declared an oil embargo. Knowing he would have to wait in a long line the next day to buy gas, he decided to calculate how much energy could be saved by turning off unused lights.

“After 20 minutes of uncovering light switches (and saving 100 gallons for the weekend), I decided that UC Berkeley and its Radiation Laboratory should do something about conservation,” he wrote in a 1999 autobiography of his career, “The Art of Energy Efficiency.”

He received numerous awards and honors, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011 — the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement — for the development of energy efficient building technologies.

Gov. Jerry Brown said that during his first term as governor in 1975, Rosenfeld told him that simply by requiring more efficient refrigerators, California could save as much energy as would be produced by the then-proposed Sundesert Nuclear Power plant.

“We adopted Art’s refrigerator standards and many others, did not build the power plant and moved the country to greater energy efficiency,” Brown said in a statement after Rosenfeld’s death was announced.


Henry Sapiecha

Latest long-lasting ‘battery’ can charge in seconds, doesn’t degrade

If this battery breakthrough makes it beyond testing, waiting for your smartphone to charge up could be a thing of the past.

supercapacitor-battery image www.energy-options.info

This tiny, flexible supercapacitor can charge in seconds. Image: University of Central Florida

Scientists have developed a method for creating small, flexible supercapacitors that could mean blisteringly fast charging times and more reliable batteries.

While lithium-ion batteries can break after about 1,500 charges, this supercapacitor can be recharged 30,000 times before degrading, according to scientists at the University of Central Florida. Better yet, the supercapacitor can charge in a blink of an eye and wouldn’t need topping up for a week.

Supercapacitors use static electricity to store energy, as opposed to batteries which use an electrochemical reaction.

“By replacing batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” said Nitin Choudhary, a postdoctoral associate and one of the main authors of a new paper outlining the procedure.

The supercapacitors they’ve created are also flexible, which could help address one of the main pitfalls of devices such as the Apple Watch.

Historically, one of the main disadvantages of supercapacitors is that they hold far less energy than a similarly-sized lithium-ion battery. So researchers have been exploring the use of nanomaterials, such as graphene, to improve capacity.

As noted by Engadget, supercapacitors store electricity statically on the surface of a material and require two-dimensional material sheets with enough surface area to hold lots of electrons.

Yeonwoong ‘Eric’ Jung, an assistant professor at UCF and nano-materials researcher, said the chief problem with existing approaches has been in integrating these two-dimensional materials into existing systems.

“That’s been a bottleneck in the field. We developed a simple chemical synthesis approach, so we can very nicely integrate the existing materials with the two-dimensional materials,” Jung said.

Their supercapacitors are packed with millions of nanometer-thick wires wrapped in two-dimensional materials.

“A highly-conductive core facilitates fast electron transfer for fast charging and discharging. And uniformly coated shells of two-dimensional materials yield high energy and power densities,” the university explains.

Jung is in the process of patenting the method. However, he warned it could be some time before this technology is seen in electronic gadgets and vehicles.

“It’s not ready for commercialization,” Jung said. “But this is a proof-of-concept demonstration, and our studies show there are very high impacts for many technologies.”

It’s unclear whether the supercapacitors would be suitable for replacing lithium-ion outright or complementing them, since they’re ideal for providing energy when vehicles or devices need sudden bursts of power and speed.

However, Choudhary said the technology is already outperforming lithium-ion on some measures in small electronic devices.

“For small electronic devices, our materials are surpassing the conventional ones worldwide in terms of energy density, power density and cyclic stability,” he said.

Read more on battery technology


Henry Sapiecha

Everything You Should Know About Nuclear Fusion, Explained in just a few Minutes

A colorful primer on one power source that maybe could change everything as we know it in power production.

fusion-power-schematic image www.energy-options.info

Fusion power is the holy grail of energy production. Short of building some sort of Dyson sphere around the sun, it’s the cleanest, most efficient source of power we could hope to achieve. The only catch is that is expensive, complicated, and hard.

Fusion reactors, which are not yet good enough for commercial use, can be nightmarish tangles of technology that are damn near impossible to fully understand. And that’s because maintaining the plasma required to make a sustained fusion reaction is incredibly challenging.

Just knowing how it works and wanting it really bad was enough to almost make it happen

You’ll probably never understand the complicated ins and outs of fusion power, but there’s no reason not to understand the basics, and this terrific video from Kurzgesagt covers them, quickly, colorfully, and well.


Henry Sapiecha

Why Samsung’s Note 7 crisis could soon assist in solving the problem of poor battery life

The recall could provide researchers with a huge batch of potentially faulty batteries that could be tested to improve battery technology in the years ahead

smartphones image www.energy-options.info

Most accidents caused by smartphones are caused by distracted drivers or pedestrians. But a phone that bursts into flames – as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7s have been doing – comes with a level of uncertainty that borders on terrifying, especially when these fires take place in airplane cabins.

From the publicly available information, it doesn’t appear Samsung knows the technicalities of the problem, and external experts know even less. This uncertainty could cause consumer confidence to wobble, which makes it vital for the whole industry to identify and fix the problem as quickly as possible. In the meantime, Samsung has warned the debacle could cost the company more than £2 billion over the next six months, on top of the costs of recalling millions of handsets.

The sheer scale of the problem could, however, be a unique opportunity to improve battery safety across the industry for the future. If Samsung made its faulty batteries available to researchers, it could effectively crowd-source work into why they went wrong. This would provide much-needed insight into how batteries and their manufacture could be improved.

Scientists and engineers in battery research have a closely related problem. Research on battery safety is more important than ever, but it is very difficult to get obtain batteries that are actually faulty. You can artificially introduce obstacles into a model production line, but then you are only investigating a self-created problem, which limits potential to learn new lessons.

The Note 7 recall could provide researchers with a huge batch of potentially faulty batteries. Samsung, with their millions of recalled handsets, could turn a corporate and environmental nightmare into a benefit for scientific research by initiating a global crowd-sourcing consortium of hundreds of academic battery laboratories.

One of the big questions is what is going wrong with the Note 7 batteries? A previous mass recall of faulty batteries by Sony in 2006 was down to the presence of small metal particles left in the battery cells by the manufacturing process. As the battery was charged and discharged, or put under mechanical pressure, these particles led to the growth of little trees of metallic lithium known as dendrites in one of the electrodes. These eventually penetrated the battery’s other electrode and caused a short circuit. They then heated up like a wire in a traditional light bulb and ignited the flammable electrolyte in the cell, consuming oxygen from the positive electrode material.

It is not yet known if the Note 7 battery has suffered a similar problem. Today’s battery technology has moved on, packing more energy into the same space than in 2006. Modern batteries are built using advanced manufacturing techniques that coat powerful thin layers of active electrode materials onto thin aluminium and copper foils.

Metal particles of the kind that caused the problems back in 2006 would cause modern batteries to fail before they leave the factory. But the Note 7 battery problem could be caused by much smaller dust-type particles, small voids in the electrode material or manufacturing inconsistencies.

All lithium ion batteries undergo the so-called “formation” process after the mechanical manufacturing. This involves charging and discharging them a fixed number of times in a way that forms internal protection layers and allows any side-reaction to happen in a controlled way. Cells that show any irregularities will be recycled. But this process can’t (yet) detect symptoms that would point towards a future failure. We would only know about such a problem once hundreds of thousands of units have been manufactured.

Samsung’s problem does give us an opportunity to study battery failure in much greater depth. This could allow us to improve future manufacturing technology and defect detection. By agreeing on a portfolio of diagnosis methods with the firm, scientists around the world could find out what’s wrong with the faulty cells. They could also work out methods to spot problem cells before they dangerously heat up, and fix the production process accordingly and introduce a new post-production check.

The biggest problem perhaps would be Samsung’s guarding of its intellectual property, which may explain why the company hasn’t had its Note 7 batteries tested externally already, despite it being considered good practice in the industry.

But the risk of corporate damage resulting from the disclosure of a few company secrets would arguably be much smaller than that caused to consumer confidence by battery failures on any future models.


Henry Sapiecha