Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Boe Smith on Feb 19, 2009 with no responses

The Rise and Fall of the Battery

Tags:

The battery has been the Achilles heel of all electronic manufacturers, for many years top companies have been optimizing their products in order to get more play time out of them. The rise in popularity with portable devices have increased this need tenfold.

I found myself in a local coffee shop the other morning, doing what I do the most, soccer mom watching, and writing. I had my coffee, notepad, and new (3 month old) laptop. Everything was flowing nicely, my writing was producing a pretty good story plot for a script I was working on.

Then it happened. My laptop’s low battery alert message jumped onto my screen, like Christian Bale jumping on a lighting technician. I sprung from my seat and began digging through my laptop bag to get the power cord. Once I found it, I raced off to find an outlet to plug into.

After searching the room frantically for what seemed to be several minutes, I finally found an outlet behind a large couch. I raced over to get my laptop that was on the other side of the room. By the time I plugged my laptop in, it was too late, my work had been lost. Damn me for turning off auto save!

This leads me to a question that has been bothering me for a while now. What is the purpose of having a “portable” computer with such limited-use restraints? Why can’t we spend $2,000 on a great laptop that we’re able to enjoy a movie or two on, without having to plug into an outlet before the movie’s end? I will tell you why, because we still rely on batteries.

We need batteries for our watches, cell phones, MP3 players, and computers, the list goes on. One would find life pretty boring, and often hard at times without batteries. I don’t know what I would do without my ‘Ice Ice Baby’ blaring in my ears as I work out at the gym.

We have been relying on batteries to power our devices since the 1800′s, and over the years we have made vast improvements. Sony revolutionized consumer electronics with the release of the ‘Lithium-Ion’ battery in 1991. The advent of the Li-ion battery gave birth to the portable era we live in today, but it’s just a bad-aid for a bullet hole wound that will soon leave us drained. We need more focus not only on alternative power, but one that will last longer.

How does wireless electricity sound to you?

I have read many articles talking about ‘New battery technology’ in the form of 300% better Li-ion’s, fabric that held enough energy to power a small light bulb, and even mud that had a natural occurring bacteria that held power. The one that stood out from the rest was an article on ‘wireless energy‘.

The thought of never having to worry about a device’s battery going dead sounded great. This technology would remove the need to plug in, but not remove the need for batteries. One still needs a battery to hold an electrical charge, but having more options to charge on the spot, would be great. This could turn out to be the next light bulb, or just another pipe dream, only time will tell.

The future should excite you, not instill fear. Luckily, the innovators of today don’t run on batteries.