There have been battery recalls announced in the past few
months involving names such as Dell, Lenovo, Apple, Toshiba,
and Fujitsu. The
seemingly weekly recall announcements have had many industry watchers and
consumers asking for alternatives to current battery technology. But for all
the talk of exploding batteries and with recalled units now topping the 7
industry will be sticking with lithium-ion batteries for the foreseeable future.
As shocking as the number of recalls may seem, there have
still been fewer than 50 incidents involving the faulty batteries. Also,
companies like Hewlett-Packard have yet to announce recalls for its
Sony-manufactured batteries and has no plans to do so. The company is confident
in the safety of its battery packs and lithium-ion batteries as a whole.
Quite frankly, there really is no credible alternative to
lithium-ion technology at the moment. For all the talk of fuel cell technology,
which Toshiba recently
had on display, the infrastructure to make such technology viable for
consumers is not yet in place. eWeek
Moreover, although the
recalls have sparked moves by some in the PC industry to increase the care with
which lithium-ion cells are manufactured—one group is working to establish
universal cell manufacturing standards, for example—there appear to be few
lithium-ion alternatives on the horizon at the moment that don't involve
trade-offs in energy density, cost or both. Some options, such as zinc-silver
batteries, use entirely different chemistries, while others reformulate
lithium-ion designs by introducing new materials. Numerous manufacturers are
also designing fuel cells, which convert hydrogen into electricity. But none
are without challenges, ensuring that in the absence of a dark horse
replacement candidate, lithium-ion or some version of the chemistry is likely
to power notebooks for years to come.
So while we may not see an alternative to lithium-ion
technology take over in the near future, there are other ways to squeeze more
run time out of notebooks. The Mobile
PC Extended Battery Life (EBL) Working Group is collaborating to ensure
that business notebooks will be able to operate for eight hours on a charge by
the year 2008. The group is working to develop 72-watt hour batteries, 3-watt 14"
and 15" XGA LCD panels and dramatically reduce power requirements in
processor/chipset designs to achieve this goal.