Friday, December 14, 2007

Super Charge It

This has been a good week for new advanced battery announcements. Here is a big story from the Japanese electronic giant Toshiba:

"Toshiba have stunned the world with their announcement of what's pretty much the holy grail in Lithium battery technology – the Super Charge ion Battery, which recharges up to 90% of its energy in just five minutes, and has a lifespan of over 10 years. Slow charging has been the key hurdle to public acceptance of battery-electric vehicles as viable distance travelers, so this breakthrough has all sorts of implications for the automotive industry as well as being a very welcome upgrade to a whole host of other portable devices.

The first of Toshiba's groundbreaking SCiB packs will ship in March 2008 to an industrial systems market that Toshiba forecasts being worth 100 billion Yen by 2015.

There's no mention of when the technology is likely to hit the consumer market, but with such rapid charging ability, ultra-long life and high resistance to rupture and combustion, the SCiB looks like the first of a new generation of battery cells that will allow electric vehicle drivers to top up their cells in nearly the same amount of time a petrol vehicle takes to fill.

To this end, Toshiba is working on a high-performance version of the SCiB targeted at the automotive industry.

The development of high-powered, long-lasting, rapid-charge battery cells offers the automotive industry a simple and extremely efficient alternative to Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, whose competitive advantage thus far lies in their ability to refuel in a similar manner to petrol-powered cars. Batteries, it can be argued, are much more energy-efficient, delivering as much as three times more power from the electricity grid to the wheels as fuel cell vehicles are able to.

And thanks to the Energy Blog , here is another announcement from a consortium consisting of Misubishi and GS Yuasa.

GS Yuasa Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation announced that, effective December 12, they have formed the joint venture company "Lithium Energy Japan" to produce large capacity and high performance lithium-ion batteries.

GS Yuasa possesses advanced technologies in large lithium-ion batteries and is striving to broaden their applications. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Corporation intends to enter the battery manufacturing business and aims to create other related businesses as well. Finally, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is working to promote greater use of electric vehicles, which is the ultimate in environmentally-friendly automobiles.

Through the development, production, and sales of these batteries, the new company will demonstrate how environmental technologies can be incorporated into society and accelerate the use of these technologies as well, including electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and energy recycling systems.

Not to be out done, another battery called "Li-tech" has been developed by a consortium of German companies, including Bosch, BASF, and Volkswagon. Here is part of the story from,

Li-Tech claims to have created a new lithium-ion battery, called Separion, that out-does the current offerings from the likes of Toyota and some French car makers.

What differentiates it from similar batteries is that the electrodes are separated by a flexible ceramic membrane that provides greater thermal stability, according to the German group.

Felix von Brock, director of German Akasol research center, commented, "It’s a true technological break … It is a crucial boost for the success of lithium-ion batteries … We think the first series of electric cars could arrive within five to 10 years. "

Meanwhile in the United States, General Motors has launched what it calls the auto industry's first design studio focused exclusively on electric plug-in vehicles. Its first order of business is getting the Chevrolet Volt on the road by 2010.

The E-Flex Design Studio will employ 45 designers, engineers and scientists to develop vehicles featuring plug-in hybrid technology.

The ambitious program offers the strongest evidence yet that the world's largest automaker is serious about its campaign to improve fuel efficiency, embrace hybrids and develop alternative-fuel vehicles.

So, as the Plug in Hybrid momentum continues, the technology "to make it happen" develops at an accelerating pace.



Blogger felixkramer said...

All these announcements about stunning new batteries are somewhat beside the point. First, if you read the details, you see that they're mostly 5-10 years away for automotive applications -- which means they're in the category of what the software industry calls "vaporware" -- announcements designed just to stir the pot.

The point is that we have good enough batteries right now, and to the extent they improve, it's all for the better, but we don't have to depend on them. GM, for instance, says it has batteries that meet its standards at the cell level and it's now testing packs for the Volt and Vue.

One more thing: "fast charge" gets everyone's attention, but it's completely unnecessary for plug-in hybrids. And for EVs, it would require a new charging infrastructure, and comes with its own downside: very fast charging of batteries turns out to be less energy-efficient.

-- Felix Kramer, Founder,

10:34 AM  
Blogger AE said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments Felix.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent point Felix. We have the technology and both NiMH along with Lithium Ion batteries. Your example of the many vehicles you have converted and inspired others to do is the answer.

All the auto makers have to do is follow your example and do something with what they have. If it improves even more great ,if not 100 mpg is pretty good.

3:04 PM  

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