The US only has half the technology needed to decarbonize

According to the lead scientist inArgonne National Laboratorythe United States has only half the technology needed to decarbonize its electricity and transportation sectors by 2050.

“The United States has about half of the commercial technology the country needs to decarbonize,” says George Crabtreeresponsible for the efforts of American laboratories to develop the next generation of batteries for transportation and networks.

Regarding the network“we have solar panels, wind turbines, storage batteries in the form of lithium-ion batteries, and we can implement these elements to decarbonize the network”, affirms George Crabtree.

However, we do not have commercial technology for the other half, which for the network is long-term storage. […] A lithium-ion battery can discharge at full power for four hours. We are therefore far from having reached our goal. We need the next generation. »

The passage of a cloud can reduce solar production by 70%, says George Crabtree. “This is a loss that you have to make up for, and you have to do it on the spot. The lithium-ion battery is perfect for this. However, when the cloud remains over a location for several days, the lithium-ion batteries discharge in four hours and cannot compensate for the loss.

“When it comes to long-term storage, up to ten days straight, we run into problems,” says George Crabtree. “And this is where we need next-generation batteries, which must be much cheaper than lithium-ion because they are not used as often. »

Since 2021, George Crabtree has led the Joint Energy Storage Research Center, headquartered in Argonne. A battery he developed attempted to reach the ten-day goal, and although it fell short, it was commercialized.

Regarding transportation, “we have electric vehicles (EVs), but they’re only light vehicles,” says George Crabtree. “We can handle passenger cars, light transport, but not rail, not long-haul trucks, not shipping and not aviation. For these sectors, it usually takes two to three times, or even more, the energy density of the battery. »

According to George Crabtree, passenger cars emit about 50% of greenhouse gases from transportation, and lithium-ion can easily help reduce these emissions.

“Long-distance road, rail, sea and air transport make up the remaining 50%,” and they represent the biggest challenge. Much larger and much heavier vehicles require batteries with a much higher energy density.

The most likely first step will be a solid-state variation of the lithium-ion battery.

“If we get a solid-state lithium-ion battery, which could happen within the next five years (I’m maybe a bit optimistic), it will increase the energy density of light vehicles. And that includes vehicles like vans and even, in in some cases, city buses that need a bit more energy density. But then the electrification of all heavy transport becomes a difficult task. »

However, this progress must be rapid if the United States and other countries are to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. “Setting a deadline makes the situation even more urgent,” concludes George Crabtree.

Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Jeff MacMahon

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