Did you plug in your cell phone before you went to bed last night? Did you get some work done on your laptop during the morning commute? It is fascinating to think about just how much of our daily lives are influenced by batteries. We take batteries for granted because we have never known a world without them. But that world did exist.
Imagining what life would be like without batteries is difficult. Any attempt at doing so usually revolves around watching old movies set in time periods before every home and business had electricity. We take a nostalgic look at the days of old without being able to truly understand them.
Electricity Changed a Lot of Things
Walt Disney and his team of imaginers designed and built an attraction known as Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress for the 1964 World’s Fair. The attraction was a rotating theater with an animated stage show detailing the progress of technology from the turn of the twentieth century until the early sixties. A big part of the show was the introduction of electricity into the American home.
The Carousel of Progress is still running at Walt Disney World in Florida. And though it has been updated somewhat, electricity still plays a significant role in the story. Why wouldn’t it? Electricity changed a lot of things when we started hooking our homes to it.
Electricity meant no more hand-washing the laundry in a big tub. It meant no more candles and kerosene lanterns. Having electricity in the home opened the door to refrigerators, electric stoves, dishwashers, and even the radios and televisions that have entertained millions of Americans for generations.
Then Came the Battery
It is interesting to note that batteries existed for years prior to electrical transmission technology. They didn’t enjoy widespread adoption because they were difficult to make, costly to maintain, and impractical due to a limited number of applications. But once electricity was being transmitted to homes, there was a new urgency to develop better consumer batteries.
It is a good thing those batteries were eventually designed. These days, we rely on batteries to power the majority of our electronics. Batteries make our data-driven world mobile, thanks to everything from smartphones to tablets and laptops.
Believe it or not, a lot of our consumer electronics wouldn’t even exist without batteries. According to the engineers at Salt Lake City’s Pale Blue Earth, sensitive electronics cannot be powered by AC current because they need a consistent voltage you can’t get with AC. Batteries produce DC power, the more consistent power-sensitive electronics require.
Exploring the Possibilities
Mastering the battery concept has allowed us to begin exploring new possibilities. For instance, you might utilize USB rechargeable batteries to power your hand-held electronics. The same lithium-ion design that makes those batteries possible acts as the foundation of the much larger batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs).
Tesla was one of the first carmakers to come up with a viable EV. Nissan, Chevy, Ford, and a few others have followed suit. But why limit the technology to passenger vehicles? Engineers are now working on electrically powered tractor trailers, cargo ships, and even planes.
There is no denying that batteries play an ever-increasing role in daily life. They are everywhere. The more we use them, the more we depend on them. We have gotten so used to batteries that we are aggressively pursuing ways to make them better. And why not? A lot has changed since the days before batteries existed. The world is better off for it.