Has Stanford Found the Shipstone?
One of Robert Heinlein's later, odder novels was one called Friday, set in a fairly-near-future world. While it had some interesting political notes (the former US has been balkanized into a dozen or more independent nations) the technological setting was based on a device called the Shipstone, after its inventor. To paraphrase as best I can without digging out the book, "To call a Shipstone an improved storage battery would be to call an atom bomb an improved firecracker."
We may be, if not all the way there, another big step towards this. The folks at Stanford have come up with an improvement in lithium-ion batteries which effectively raises their storage capacity by a factor of 10. The battery that powers your computer for 2 hours now would run for 20 on this new device.
So our firecracker, if not yet to atom-bomb levels, is at least elevated to a-big-stack-of-C4 level. The talk is about how this would take the electric car to acceptable levels of both function (500 miles between charges is close to infinite as that's about as far as anybody can, or at least should, drive in a given day) and affordability. The all-electric Tesla is great but it's a hundred thousand friggin bux.
My interest is more in the get-every-home-off-the-grid angle. The developments in thin-film photovoltaics are spectacular, and even old-fashioned heavy PV silicon cells are to the point where you can buy a panel at Tractor Supply stores. The bitch with both solar and wind though is that you only get a trickle of power out of these so you need someplace to store it up. A great whacking stack of car batteries is not, um, practicable for most, and they don't last all that long anyway.
Details over at a diary at the House of Orange with a 500 plus comment thread already so i haven't read the whole thing. Discussion towards the top of the page centers around "How can keep the goddam greedheads from buying this up and burying it until they figure out a way to use it to keep screwing us."
***Digression for SF geeks:
Which, interestingly enough, was what the Shipstone company wound up doing in Heinlein's book. They had spaceships and flying cars--known as "Authorized Power Vehicles" since you needed government permisison to buy one, which was rare--but Regular People had to get around town with horses. When the Mexican government tried to renegotiate some terms with the firm, "unknown terrorists" nuked Acapulco. When a guy nearly 20 years dead could predict things this well it might be wise to consider building some alternatives in early.