When technology talk is dominated by the next new handset, smart watch or operating system, rather more fundamental issues do not always get the airtime they deserve.
Even when an important subject is tackled, such as how we store electrical power in a safe and efficient way, the conversation usually boils down to what type of battery Apple, Google and the rest will choose for their latest consumer device.
Battery technology is one such fundamental that deserves the full attention of the technology community. No amount of innovation in devices and appliances in the consumer market and industry really matters if there is no equivalent progress in the sophistication of power sources. One man who seems to understand this principle is South African-born businessman Elon Musk.
Best known as the man behind the electric car manufacturer Tesla, Elon Musk is reported to have directed considerable resources to the production of a new type of battery in a vast facility in the Nevada desert.
In late March, Musk tweeted a tease for a new product announcement at Tesla’s Hawthorne Design Studio slated for Thursday April 30th, adding that it was not a new line of cars.
With all that solar power being generated, it almost feels like something is needed to complete the picture …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 31, 2015
If the rumours are to be believed, this date will see the public unveiling of a battery that will finally provide the cost-effective power storage that has long eluded the industry.
Of course this could all be too good to be true. Scientists and engineers have worked at improving rechargeable technology over the years with varying degrees of success. Lithium technology has long been trusted for a wide range of consumer and industrial applications.
It allows specialists to design custom battery packs in order to meet clients’ specific discharge and storage requirements. However, it is efficiency that is lacking in current cells, with industry insiders hoping that Musk has found a breakthrough.
Whilst he may genuinely want to improve the outlook for power storage for generations to come, Musk is fully aware of the vast sums to be made from the production of a battery technology the entire world will want to emulate. With orders flooding in, and companies lining up to create custom battery packs for use in a whole host of applications, it is doubtful that Musk is working solely for the good of mankind.
Nevertheless, there is hope among some commentators that the announcement on April 30th could be a game changer.