General Electric’s research team has unveiled its new Durathon battery, which the company says makes it cheaper to power buses using clean energy. It is used in tandem with a lithium battery and a hydrogen fuel cell, a combination that the researchers say makes it possible for the vehicle to achieve full performance with a much smaller fuel cell than previously possible.
The battery builds on previous tests with a dual-battery system on a clean fuel hybrid transit bus, combining a high-energy density sodium battery with a high-power lithium battery. This echoes a previous attempt by Harvard scientists to create a fuel cell that produces and stores energy. The idea is to combine the power of acceleration made possible by lithium batteries, with the storage capacity of sodium batteries such as the Durathon.
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Range is a common concern for vehicles powered with batteries. However, statistics show that it should not be a major worry for bus operators, since the majority of transit buses circulating on American roads travel less than 100 miles (160.9 km) per day. There is a total of 846,000 buses registered in the U.S. and if all of them switched to cleaner, emissions-free energy systems, the reduction of emissions could be significant.
GE said that in 2013, thousands of Durathon batteries will be shipped from its Energy Storage business in Schenectady, New York to customers in the telecommunication arena, benefiting markets such as Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. In those areas, many cell sites (where antennas and electronic communications equipment are placed) are powered with diesel generators. The Durathon can also provide back-up power at similar sites affected by an irregular supply of electricity from the grid.
As more intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar enter the grid, GE envisages that utilities will also benefit from its battery technology, as it could help renewable power producers to meet strict grid interconnection regulations by providing operators with grid stabilization.
In the video below, GE engineer Tim Richter shows how Durathon batteries fit into the on-board energy management system of a bus.