According to a report today out of the Wall Street Journal, there’s a small team now working on battery tech within Google[x]—and it’s being spearheaded by former Apple battery expert Dr. Ramesh Bhardwaj. The group was originally started in 2012 with an intention of researching how other companies’ tech could be integrated into Google’s products, but “people familiar with the matter” say that the four person group has expanded to research technology that Google might “develop itself.”
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In late 2012, a team led by former Apple Inc. battery expert Dr. Ramesh Bhardwaj began testing batteries developed by others for use in Google devices. About a year later, the group expanded to look at battery technologies that Google might develop itself, according to people familiar with the matter.
The group, part of the Google X research lab, is small, with just four members. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment or to make Dr. Bhardwaj available..
This isn’t exactly a surprising revelation considering Google’s continued moves into consumer electronics. Formerly a company that solely offered a search engine as its main product, Google has in recent years expanded to offer smartphones made in partnership with Android OEMs, and has introduced several new technologies of their own that are dependent on battery tech. Google Glass, Project Loon, and the upcoming self-driving car, in particular, are good examples of projects that may succeed or fail based largely in part on the battery tech within them.
Emerging battery technologies promise bigger gains. Solid-state, thin-film batteries transmit a current across a solid, rather than liquid, making them smaller and safer. Such batteries can be produced in thin, flexible layers, useful for small mobile devices. But it isn’t clear whether they can be mass produced cheaply, said Venkat Srinivasan, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
Many of the world’s top technology innovators have started working on battery technology in some way, but improvements have only been modest over the years in comparison to semiconductor technology which seems to be getting better at much faster rates. Maybe the moonshot mentality of Google[x] will bring on some much-needed leaps—only time will tell.