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Will Batteries Power Us to the Future?

Over time the search for fuel has gone from the discovery of fire to steam engines, fossil fuels, nuclear power, solar power and battery energy storage systems (BESS). How to produce and store energy is a quest as old as we are.

The battery itself is nothing new, it’s simply a method to store energy for later use. The familiar dry-cell D battery was invented in 1898, the A battery in 1907, the AAA in 1911, and the rectangular 9v battery in 1956. And the lithium-ion batteries used in Teslas, iPhones and laptops have been used commercially for over thirty years. So, while an EV that reaches 250 mph and travels 300 miles on a single charge may seem like advanced technology, the batteries it runs on are not. 

We are at the beginning of a battery-powered era. Millions of EVs are now rolling out onto our roads and we need batteries to power them. To meet demand, enormous capital is going into the construction of giga-factories and rivers of cash are flowing to R&D in electricity storage. Battery technology startups in North America are receiving funds from private equity investors, as well as government entities like the U.S. Department of Energy and Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada. What do we hope to achieve? Is it the promise of greater mobility? Our hopes for a greener future? Or, the potential profits to be realized by joining the green economy? We could say, the answer is “yes, yes, and yes.” Money, mobility, and sustainability.

Battery power once seemed to offer a clear path to clean, efficient energy, but the realities of battery production and disposal have tempered enthusiasm. Batteries require large amounts of raw materials, and mining for them has environmental and human rights impacts. Batteries also threaten to create tons of electronic waste as they reach the end of their lives. While efforts are being made to improve the material supply chain and millions of dollars are being spent to extract minerals from old batteries and keep them in circulation, these problems have not yet been resolved.

It feels certain that research will yield the technology we need to sustainably produce, use and re-use batteries. There is hope that we won’t see too many instances of “technology for the sake of technology,” where a product is only a novelty, not the solution to a real problem. 

Of course, we do see cases in which battery-run technology enhance our life experience. For example, lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries are used in diverse medical devices such as pacemakers, external defibrillators, surgical tools, back-up monitoring systems and powered prosthetics and orthotics. There are everyday moments and tasks that are made quietly better because of batteries: A whole new category of products has developed from the integration of Batteries – MicroMobility – roughly defined by their usage as transportation, with minimal weight and speed. Some examples include e-strollers, that can reduce the effort involved in pushing the stroller uphill and over uneven surfaces, and e-bikes.

While eMTBs are used primarily on the trail, e-bikes now offer commuters more transport options and urban design is beginning to add bike paths and bike lanes to accommodate their usage. Imagine the errands that could be accomplished via e-bike instead of car – and the environmental impact that could make.

Can office furniture and work itself become part of the micro mobility world?

Office buildings, as we know, are powered by electrics and universal wi-fi, and most of the devices we use at work are powered by lithium-ion batteries. So how do batteries enhance the office experience? Our battery powered laptops, phones, and other tools provide “electric mobility,” the freedom to work, to collaborate, to socialize, and learn wherever you want to be. Teknion recently launched unTethered, which is a product portfolio of moveable furniture that comes equipped with battery packs – removing the worry about an adjacent power outlet. When power starts to dip, just swap in a fresh battery from the charging station and you’re good to go. 

Like the e-bike which gives you the power to go further and carry more, unTethered can extend your reach, your day, and your office.

As the world transitions to a carbon-neutral industrial base, with solar, hydro, and wind energy installed on the energy grid and electric vehicles replacing gas and diesel, the world will require a lot of batteries. As a society, we need to address a sustainable way to source materials, build and operate giga factories, produce batteries using renewable energy, and to effectively recycle batteries and their materials to reduce waste. Batteries look like the key to humanity’s future, but they currently come with a high environmental cost that has to be mitigated.

Let’s rise to the challenge.

Interested in learning more? Read the original blog from Teknion here

Teknion & OMNIA Partners

Teknion is a global brand with a local feel, committed to empowering people through design. Through OMNIA Partners, Teknion offers an integrated furniture portfolio with unlimited possibilities. Teknion is a little bit different—more approachable, more open to collaborative investigation, more focused on the right solution for each client.

Teknion makes 90% of what they sell, which allows them to deliver outstanding overall value, offering the best initial price to buy, maintain and own your new office furnishings. The furniture solutions from Teknion available through the cooperative contract connect people, technology and spaces—delivering integrated, sustainable furniture for government, education and nonprofit agencies nationwide.