The world needs Thermal Batteries and a new hero.

I find British humor hilarious, watching reruns of the Tracy Ullman show still to this day and when that satirical puppet show Spitting Image skewered box office mega-mogul Tom Cruise, off the charts, funny.

My take to add some levity to the observable facts, Earth is not flat BUT it is on fire(in between the floods). It doesn’t seem funny to see climate change deniers on TV reporting on the floods, while they give their views against renewable energy, electric vehicles, and the perils of solar energy, without the recovery of the bodies.

My other British connection, the distinguished author John Hardy, whose 2012 book Ice-free I have used for over a decade as a reference source for my electric vehicle edification. John and I conversed often at the electric vehicle conventions here in Cape Girardeau, in which the hodgepodge group of electric car builders got together, discussed the future of the electric motor to drive the masses and played with High-Voltage. 

John Hardy’s recent paper covering cell imbalances in lithium-ion batteries; Rethinking lithium-ion battery management: Eliminating routine cell balancing enhances hazardous fault detection. Journal of Energy Storage July 2023 brought back the memories of cell balancing at EVTV so important to a stable battery pack.

Jack Rickard founder and host of Electric Vehicle Television was big on bottom balancing, which is essential to controlling lithium-ion batteries without a BMS or battery management system. If you want to know how batteries balance works, find a battery device with two batteries, replace one full cell with an empty battery.

 In short order, the full battery will transfer its electrons to fill the empty battery. You end up with two half batteries, and if you run your device very long, your batteries will be dead.

Jack would have every new battery bottom balanced by using his nifty resistor device to create a small load. Usually done by an hourly wage person like me. Kept people out of mischief he always said.

To bottom balance I would hook up alligator clips to the positive an negative terminals one at a time, pull the cell down in voltage which starts around 4 volts, by applying “faux loads” to bring the single cell down to 2.75 volts, the bottom. The second half of bottom balancing was to set the top charge to below the max capacity of 4.2 volts to leaving room for overcharge. Lithium batteries don’t tolerate being over discharged or overcharged, but they prefer to be kept in a safe range, just like Goldilocks. It’s the battle of overcharge versus over discharge. This scenario of a faulty cell over discharged then a battery pack left on a charger during charging that creates the fires making headlines. There’s power in the cells the size of a cake mix box that can’t charge alone. EVTV had a policy of not leaving any device on a charger overnight other than factory Tesla with safety settings.

 The object of bottom balancing was not to have to invest in an expensive battery management system or BMS and all that went along with it, and a lot went along with a BMS that could make an engineer cry faster than a Texas Instruments scientific calculator, I reckon I’ve bottom balanced a few hundred lithium-ion battery cells. But for some unknown reason I still managed to get into mischief.

 But what about other batteries? Does “energy” need to be balanced in any cell storage? Of course, the British engineers have already hypothesized and experimented with the heat battery, supported by a paper or two in a distinguished journal.

Such as

Potential analysis of pumped heat electricity storages regarding thermodynamic efficiency

Dennis Roskosch Renewable Energy

Pumped thermal energy storage (which also goes by other names, including the “Carnot Battery” and “Pumped Heat Storage”) is now a reasonably well-established Thermo-mechanical storage concept.

The equation of physics, “ballpark mathematics heat storage,” relates the “Carnot battery” to the amount of heat pumped and stored over time, given by the equation w = xxy + x-z. Z being how many showers a family of four takes per week. Oh, the Brits and their battery management analysis papers.

Do heat storage batteries work? Yes, and I found a company that knows all about it. I’m not an Engineer nor do I claim to be even close. I’m a Midwestern pragmatist, a non-practicing garage tinkerer. A battery is a battery, just a way of storing energy. It my learned opinion its charged or a brick. So, I have been looking for a heat storage battery technology that works, to finish my endgame of a total energy End solution to this puzzle of renewable energy. My inventor’s hunch was copper tubing embedded in concrete tube buried in the ground for geo-thermal, rooftop solar panels that both circulated pre-heated water and boost with electrical resistance coil, and boom Badda bing free hot water for eternity.

Andy Kaufman, of the American TV series Taxi and of Saturday Night Live, is standing there, waiting for the right moment to drop the needle on his photograph record and play the antique lines of the theme to the Mighty Mouse cartoon show. Mighty Mouse originated in 1942, the peak of World War II dubbed the mouse of tomorrow he was Mini-Superman, hero for the masses facing the brutality the German invasion in the ongoing threats of the looming war machine that was destroying cities and killing people. Mighty mouse nemesis was Oil-Can Harry. What did Mighty Mouse say? “Here I come to save the day. Mr. trouble never hangs around when it hears that mighty sound.”

James Macnaghten of Caldera is my pick for a Mighty Mouse move in tomorrow’s energy storage, and that dirty fossil fuel industry could use a thermal battery storage system. He’s a man ready to drop the needle on his invention.

James Macnaghten has had his many adventures as an internationally respected climate change warrior for the renewable energy system. Since I’m a ruffian, let me roughly describe the Caldera design of a heat storage battery. He and a fellow entrepreneur started Caldera in 2017 because they firmly believed that the world needed a heat storage battery with connectivity to renewable energy. The design involves a barrel filled with rocks, which is then filled with molten aluminum to fill in the gaps. Coils of tubing for fluid are vacuum-sealed, and heating occurs through the resistance of the aluminum when solar electricity is applied. It’s brilliant.

And boy howdy does it hold heat, 100 kwh at 500 degrees Celsius fully discharged at 21 days, (for any American that’s way too hot to shower with) and 200c for six months. Caldera’s battery cost is affordable around $150 per kilowatt hour, (in a reference note energy storage such as lithium batteries store at around $500 to $1,000 per kilowatt hour). for the purposes of this blog we shall equate thermal storage and electrical storage the same, Based on the Wikipedia Carnot equation definition therefore patterns are beginning to emerge in energy storage, and if you can consistently pattern, one can manage and reduce costs on scale. At industrial scale Caldera is expecting to hit a product cost of around $50/kWh

James Macnaghten is looking for money, and he needs to find it through crowdfunding. His heat storing battery is a technology with impact on the future. Here is a link to his website

From a recent interview with James Macnaghten

As I understand your system from watching YouTube videos, it works: it is a approximately 100 kW heat storage battery in which it circulated fluid to produce either usable hot water or boiler water for heating.

You mentioned the proximity to renewable power sources, I feel strongly about that. Where solar energy is maximum and where people consume energy are two different geo-locals. I am a proponent of solar battery trains (not yet invented LOL) that would transport energy at a much lower cost and avoid the entanglements of power lines.

What do you think about your storage devices being portable? How far by train are you from max solar arrays?

James Macnaghten:

 “It is too heavy and I would not recommend using it for this purpose.”

In my basic understanding of your concept in the (big picture) blog, I propose presenting this product as a component of my complete microgrid solution. The solution includes multiple components such as solar panel arrays, a lithium-ion battery backup, inverters and rectifiers, a smart breaker box panel, monitoring with a display with AI capabilities, and bi-directional Electric vehicle charging, enabling the use of a car as a battery as well.

James Macnaghten:

 “Yes, that all sounds sensible.”

“My basic premise is that we should focus on implementing all of the easy ways to cut carbon first and quickly. Worrying about the end game at the moment is not helpful.”

When the villain chases and you don’t know what to do. Mighty Mouse is there to save the day. In our last episode, we left our hero surrounded by Climate Change deniers while the villain Oil Can Harry is in pursuit of Mighty Mouse’s girl Renewable Pearl with the pure heart, stay tuned.

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