Battery Breakdown

Mention the term "alkaline battery" and folks of a certain generation will remember the old Eveready battery commercials with actor Robert Conrad daring the viewer to knock the battery off his shoulder. Very macho. Now, alkaline has moved from manliness to money-saving, as the fine folks at Princeton University have been granted almost $1 million from the US Department of Energy to develop alkaline batteries suitable for electric-vehicle use, Princeton Patch reports.

Specifically, the amount granted was $963,389 (the government's never been about even numbers) and is one of nearly two-dozen grants totaling about $36 million towards what the DOE calls its Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems program (get it?). The idea is that alkaline is a more abundant and less expensive alternative to the lithium required for the lithium-ion batteries currently used in most advanced plug-in vehicles. Various analysts came out last year saying that battery-pack costs could drop to about $250 per kilowatt hour by 2015, down from as much as $700 last year, so the question is whether that target can be hit and if the Ivy Leaguers can beat it.

Pictured above is Lew Urry from Energizer, holding up an original alkaline battery first marketed in 1958 (and a 2002 model). Urry helped develop the first commercially viable alkaline battery.