Osaka Sangyo University student Takashi Sudo drove a drycell battery powered vehicle to a reported record speed of 122 km/h (75.81 mph) on Saturday 4 August 2007. The vehicle averaged 105.95 km/h (65.83 mph) over a 1 km (0.6 mile) course. The 38 kg (84 lb.) carbon fiber composite car was powered by 192 AA batteries. A Japanese agent for Guiness was present and will recommend the team's entry to the Guiness Book of World Records.
What is the take-away message for TreeHuggers? Obviously, in the first analysis, this is a gimmick to sell Matsushita (Panasonic) disposable batteries to serve the growing demand for power to digital devices. Not an eco-friendly option in comparison with rechargeable batteries.
But there is no question that the future of electric technology depends upon innovative battery developments. The Oxyride batteries depend upon a new cathode material of Oxy Nickel Hydroxide and manganese dioxide and graphite to deliver 1.5 times more power for a longer battery life. Life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of this extra power are a complicated topic, and will depend greatly on how the heavy metal components in the battery are managed at the end-of-life, so it is impossible for the average consumer to judge if the Oxyride's longer lifespan is an environmental advantage (for those unusual times when a disposable battery is the only option--if that is even an ethical option today???). But one can hope that the students at Osaka Sangyo University have learned great insight into efficient automobile engineering, which we will hope to see coming to fruition in the electric cars of the future.
Treehuggers will continue to look to events which demonstrate the power of rechargeable batteries, such as the motorcycle speed record and the Tesla or the Lightning. In the meantime, Matsushita: how about turning your R&D; budget to the next generation and pumping out batteries that provide better power without hitting the garbage can after snapping 1.5 times as many pictures as the next-best loser battery? Or a spectacular media event focusing on how the disposable batteries can be recycled for a sustainable solution?