The United States has only half the technology needed to decarbonize

According to the chief scientist of theArgonne National LaboratoryThe United States has only half the technology needed to decarbonize its power and transportation sectors by 2050.

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

Speaking of network“We have solar panels, wind turbines, storage batteries in the form of lithium-ion batteries, and we can use those elements to decarbonize the grid,” confirms George Crabtree.

“However, we don’t have commercial technology for the other half, which is long-term storage for the network. […] A lithium-ion battery can be discharged at full power for four hours. So we are far from having achieved our goals. We need the next generation. »

The passage of a cloud can reduce solar production by 70%, says George Crabtree. “It is a loss that must be made up for, and now. The lithium-ion battery is perfect for this. However, if the cloud stays over one location for several days, the lithium-ion batteries will discharge in four hours and will not be able to make up for the loss.

“We run into problems with long-term storage of up to ten consecutive days,” says George Crabtree. “And this is where we need next-generation batteries, which need to be a lot cheaper than lithium-ion because they’re not used that often. »

George Crabtree has headed the Joint Energy Storage Research Center based in Argonne since 2021. A battery he developed attempted to meet this ten-day goal, and although it did not make it that far, it was commercialized.

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

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

“The remaining 50 percent is long-distance road, rail, sea and air,” and they pose the greatest 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 variant of the lithium-ion battery.

“If we get a solid-state lithium-ion battery, which could happen in the next five years (I’m maybe a bit optimistic), it will increase the energy density of light vehicles. This includes vehicles such as delivery vans and sometimes even city buses that require a little more energy density. But then the electrification of all heavy transport becomes a daunting task. »

But 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 by Forbes US – Author: Jeff MacMahon

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