Frontal view of Toyota Prius Mk III hybrid: its battery was innovated by Stan Ovshinsky
Ever since the first Toyota Prius hybrid cars began traveling on streets and highways in many parts of the world, more and more people have had the pleasure of driving these dual engine cars that incorporate both a standard gasoline engine and an auxiliary electric one. Since then, other hybrid models have been produced by companies such as General Motors with its Chevrolet Volt, which is a “plug in” hybrid with a gasoline engine for extending the car’s cruising range.
The Volt, parts of which have been made from recycled rubber and plastic materials, is in fact what one might refer to as a “reverse hybrid” with the prime power unit being the electric motor. Yet few people who own these cars, or understand the technology involved with them, are aware that Stan Ovshinsky is responsible for developing the nickle-metal hydride battery used in them.
Ovshinsky, who died a few weeks ago at the age of 89, founded the company Energy Conversion Devices in 1960. Besides being involved in developing car batteries, he also developed other clean energy devices including building integrated and rooftop photovoltaic solar panels.
An inventor and civil rights activist, Ovshinsky never went to college but during his lifetime earned more than 200 patents for his devices, many of which are still being produced.
In addition to producing the nickel-metal hydride batteries or NiMH batteries though a subsidiary company, Ovonic Battery Company, other tributes to the genius of this great man include being the world’s largest producer of flexible solar panels.
He is also credited with developing fuel cells and solid sate hydrogen fuel storage which could find use in developing hydrogen-powered cars and other machinery.
An NiMh hybrid car battery
NiMH hybrid car batteries are not as strong as the lithium ion batteries now being used in the new generation of electric cars. Plus they are dependent on rare earth metals which are now becoming more and more scarce.
Although these batteries are still being used in hybrid cars such as the Prius, more attention is being given to developing stronger and more powerful batteries to power such cars as the Tesla total electric sports models, and many others.
Nonetheless, Stan Ovshinsky’s legacy lives on in an idea that has revolutionized the auto industry.
Prius and battery photo: Wikipedia
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