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GE Built a Better Bus Battery

Electric cars and buses may quickly be gaining ground on their internal combustion counterparts, but they still face numerous technical hurtles before becoming the de facto transportation technology, the first of which is that current battery chemistries either allow for high voltage output over a short time or low voltage over a long time. If only there was a way to combine the best of both batteries. Oh wait, GE just did.

Most fuel-cell powered buses are powered by Lithium-ion batteries. These are great for quick acceleration but tend to dump more energy than the system actually needs, which drains them quickly and results in an average range of just 50 miles before needing a recharge. That’s about half of what a majority of the transit and school bus lines in America travel daily, so you either need to double your fleet or double the size of the fuel cells to make up the difference, neither of which is a particularly cost effective approach to the problem.

GE’s solution was to instead allow the Li-ion batteries to do what they do best—provide large amounts of current—while pairing them with its own proprietary Durathon battery, which provides less current but holds a much larger charge. Durathon is a new nickel-sodium chloride mix. Accoriding to GE:

During charging, chloride ions are released from sodium chloride and combined with nickel to form nickel chloride. These sodium ions then migrate from the cathode reservoir through a beta alumina separator into the anode reservoir. During discharge, the reverse chemical reaction occurs and sodium ions migrate from the anode reservoir through the beta alumina separator into the cathode reservoir. There is no self-discharge because sodium ions can move easily across the beta alumina, while electrons cannot.



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