San José State University
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The Timeline of the
Development of Battery Technology

Batteries provide power for a multitude of devices. The dream of the early 21st century is to have batteries provide the power for personal travel vehicles. In the competition with gasoline for vehicular power battery technology is up against some enormous disadvantages compared to gasoline in terms of density of energy per unit volume and per unit weight. The graph below is based upon figures given by Robert Bryce in his book Power Hungry. The units are in terms of kilowatt-hours because that is the quantity of energy per se that the general public is most familiar with. Megajoules as a unit of energy is meaningless to most people.

The comparison of energy per unit weight is not necessarily the final criterion, but it is relevant. Allowance should be made for the relative efficiency of the motors required to utilize that energy. Likewise the relative weight of the motors should enter the comparison. But the above comparison of the energy density of batteries with gasoline leave little doubt that it is almost impossible for battery technology to overcome the disadvantage compared to gasoline.

Timeline of the Development of Battery Technology

(To be continued.)


Seth Fletcher, Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy, Hill and Wang, New York, 2011.

Michael Shnayerson, The Car That Could,, Random HOuse, New York, 1996.

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