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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)

Toyota: Better Hybrid Batteries Still Several Years Away
By Bill Visnic

Improvements over today’s familiar nickel-metal-hydride batteries will enable new performance and economy gains for hybrid-electric vehicles, but Toyota Motor Corp.’s HEV guru cautions the new batteries are not imminent.

Dave Hermance, executive engineer-Advanced Technology Vehicles, Toyota Technical Center USA Inc., says lithium-ion batteries, much like those used in many of today’s consumer-electronic devices, will produce new possibilities for HEV performance, but says it likely will be two years before the first production HEV using Li-ion batteries hits the showroom.

Speaking at the Convergence 2006 Transportation Electronics Conference here, Hermance says the auto and battery industries are anxious to speed Li-ion development for HEVs not just for their expected performance boost, but also because the price of nickel has tripled in the last five years.

That makes today’s NiMH batteries commensurately more expensive, despite the fact developers and suppliers have markedly reduced their energy density (and thus reduced the amount of nickel needed for a given amount of energy storage).

Li-ion batteries for HEVs are “on the horizon,” Hermance says, adding, “There is tons of money being spent on battery development.”

Hermance says Li-ion development is crucial before there can be reasonable expectation for so-called “plug-in” HEVs, which allow consumers to plug into a standard electrical outlet to charge a vehicle’s batteries.

The PHEV technology theoretically would enable greater fuel-economy benefits because the vehicle’s engine power would not have to be used as often to charge the batteries, but also because purpose-built PHEVs – with their more-powerful and higher-capacity batteries – would be able to run in a wider range of driving conditions solely on battery power.

When asked by a conference attendee if PHEVs will be on the road by 2009, Hermance says an OEM-produced PHEV is unlikely to be available by then because the batteries will not be ready. PHEVs “have to make the transition to Li-ion (batteries) to make it even remotely considerable,” Hermance says.

Meanwhile, the rated fuel economy of HEVs and conventionally powered vehicles is due for a disappointing downgrade in 2008. Hermance says that’s when the fallout will hit from new Environmental Protection Agency test procedures that result in the familiar city and highway mileage ratings on new-vehicle window stickers. Hermance says the EPA is expected to finalize the new tests by the end of the year, and all ’08 models sold in the U.S. will have to show fuel economy ratings derived from the new procedures.

Hermance says it is unfortunate the U.S. still expresses fuel economy on a miles-per-gallon basis, rather than the liters-per-100 km (62 miles) measure used in Europe.

“The Europeans got it right,” he says, noting that fuel used over a fixed distance is the better way to express fuel efficiency.

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
More from Dave Hermance

From Louisville, Kentucky's Courier-Journal via AutoblogGreen:

Prices surging for hybrid batteries
Switch to lithium may lower costs
By Robert Schoenberger

Although sales are booming, don't expect prices for hybrid cars and sport utility vehicles to drop any time soon.

During a visit to the company's plant in Georgetown, Ky., last month, Toyota Motor Co. Executive Engineer Dave Hermance said it has pushed down the prices on all major hybrid components by raising production volumes, but "we're reaching the end of those efficiencies."

And those cost cuts have done little more than offset skyrocketing prices for hybrid batteries.

Most gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles on the road use nickel-based batteries.

Nickel is also used in making stainless steel, and the popularity of that metal in appliances and industrial equipment has grown steadily.

"With stainless-steel demand still booming globally … the market is stretched to the absolute limit," said analyst Jim Lennon of Macquarie Bank in London. "The longer-term outlook for nickel looks increasingly better."

Hermance said the cost cutting on other hybrid components, such as drive motors and electronics, have helped keep production costs stable. But they haven't been steadily falling, as Toyota had hoped.

"It's certainly inspiring us to change the chemistry" of hybrid batteries, he said.

The most likely candidate to replace nickel is lithium.

Lithium-ion batteries have replaced nickel batteries in cell phones, small electronic devices and many cordless power tools, but Hermance thinks it will take about three years to make them viable for hybrid vehicles.

Lithium-based batteries cost a little bit more than nickel-based ones now, but higher production volumes should drive prices down, he said.

"There's a path to get those costs down" with lithium, Hermance said.

An added benefit is that lithium can store more electricity with less battery than nickel. That could mean cutting vehicle weight, further improving trunk space and fuel economy, or having higher-capacity batteries.

Higher-capacity batteries could lead to plug-in hybrids -- vehicles with cords that could be plugged into wall sockets to more fully charge batteries overnight.

Prototype plug-in hybrids have more energy to burn and can run longer without using gasoline. That could allow some commutes to be done without using gasoline at all.

Hermance said the first lithium-battery-powered hybrid should be on the road within three years. He expects all hybrids to be lithium-based within 10 years.

"Plug-ins will fall somewhere between there," Hermance said, adding that he expects those vehicles to be marketable within five years.

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Dave Hermance dies in plane crash

In a very sad development for Toyota in general, David Hermance, Toyota's executive engineer for advanced technology vehicles, died this past Saturday. Here's the story from Automotive News:

Toyota hybrid exec David Hermance dies in plane crash
by Mark Rechtin

David Hermance

LOS ANGELES -- David Hermance, Toyota's executive engineer for advanced technology vehicles, died Saturday, Nov. 25, when the airplane he was piloting crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

Hermance, 59, was Toyota's top American executive for alternative-fuel vehicles and emissions technologies in North America.

He was also an avid pilot who enjoyed aerobatics competition.

According to eyewitness and police reports, Hermance's plane was performing a series of loops in airspace over the ocean near San Pedro, Calif., reserved for aerobatic stunts. Witnesses said the engine revved hard during a descent but the plane did not pull up and hit the water.

Toyota confirmed a Los Angeles County Fire Department report that it was Hermance's body that was recovered. The fire department spokesman said Hermance died on impact.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the airplane was an Interavia E-3 that took off from the Long Beach Airport with just the pilot on board.

This is a picture of an Interavia E-3 airplane, similar to the plane
being flown by David Hermance when it crashed.

This reporter, who heard the crash from his house at about 1:20 p.m., heard the plane's engine revving louder and harsher than typically associated with the descent arc of a loop. A witness told KNBC-TV that he thought he saw a parachute trailing behind the plane, but it was tangled and not deployed.

The plane crashed about 400 yards offshore in about 60 feet of water. A civilian boat arrived on the scene within two minutes, and a lifeguard stationed at Western Avenue beach paddled out to the crash site as well. At least four Coast Guard and Los Angeles Fire Department vessels arrived on scene within 15 minutes. Skies were clear, with the occasional light wind gust at sea level.

Hermance was a frequent competitor in International Aerobatics Club competitions. The Interavia E-3 is specially designed to perform elaborate stunts at high speeds. Hermance often flew off the San Pedro coast to practice aerobatics maneuvers, which included loops, spirals and stalls.

The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to investigate the crash.

Hermance joined Toyota in 1991 after a 26-year career at General Motors. At GM, he held jobs in the automaker's vehicle emissions and durability testing departments.

Based at the Toyota Technical Center in Gardena, Calif., Hermance's first job for Toyota was evaluating car engines for North America. In 1992, he was put in charge of engine and drivetrain calibrations for North America.

Later in his Toyota career, Hermance became the automaker's point man for ongoing alternative fuel discussions with Congress, the media and the California Air Resources Board.

According to his biography on Toyota's media Web site, Hermance is survived by his wife, Mary, and two grown children.

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
More on Toyota and lithium-ion batteries

A BusinessWeek Online interview with Toyota's chief executive officer Katsuaki Watanabe contains this exchange on lithium-ion batteries:

Will Toyota's next generation of hybrids, which are expected in late 2008 or early 2009, focus on fuel economy or performance?
When we shifted from the first generation to the second generation hybrid we enhanced substantially performance in many different aspects. On top of that, we reduced both the cost and size by half. We are currently working on the third generation hybrid, which will also have a much higher performance and good mileage per gallon. On top of that we are now aiming at reducing, by half, both size and cost of the third generation hybrid system. We are not yet at the stage where we can disclose data relating to performance or fuel consumption.

Will Toyota use Lithium-Ion batteries in the next generation hybrids?
We will change the battery from nickel hydride to the lithium battery, and therefore we would like to reduce the size of the motors and inverters by half, so the overall size of the hybrid system can be reduced by half.

There's been a lot of discussion lately over how long it will take Li-Ions that are safe and durable for autos. Will the batteries be ready in time?
Yes, I believe we can develop this battery in time. Occasionally I visit the site where the development is going on to see the trial model.

But were you worried by Sony's problems last year when Li-Ions in laptops were reportedly catching fire?
Of course, we're experimenting on the problem that Sony encountered last year. We are making sure that the problem can be avoided. Automobiles are used in different conditions. For example, cars are used in temperatures from -20 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius and are constantly exposed to high vibrations. It's extremely difficult to build those systems for automobiles compared with cell phones which are used in relatively stable environments. These difficulties must be reflected in the design.

To read the full interview:

BusinessWeek Online also posted this online-only article on Toyota and lithium-ion batteries:

Toyota's Bid for a Better Battery
CEO Watanabe confirms that Toyota will develop new lithium-ion batteries for its third-generation hybrids

It's easy to see why Toyota's image as an environmentally friendly auto maker has gotten a bit scuffed up of late. The Japanese carmaker's recent focus on bigger, faster autos has made it an easy target for green groups.

At the North American International Auto Show in January, for instance, Toyota unveiled the all-new Tundra pickup, its biggest truck ever, and the FT-HS, a 400-horsepower concept car that uses the company's hybrid system to help propel it from 0-60 in four seconds. Small surprise, then, that environmentalists were complaining that it was more about performance for Toyota than ecology.

New versions of the Highlander and Sequoia sport-utility vehicles, meanwhile, will also be bigger and heavier than their predecessors. "That's not terribly green," says Kurt Sanger, an analyst at Macquarie Securities in Tokyo. "Toyota's fuel economy remains relatively good, but it's not getting better with the new products".

Yet Toyota should soon be giving the environmental lobby something to cheer about. In an interview with BusinessWeek on Feb. 16, Chief Executive Katsuaki Watanabe confirmed that Toyota's third-generation hybrid cars, due out in late 2008 or early 2009, will use lithium-ion batteries. Lighter and more powerful than the current nickel metal hydride packs, the new batteries will help make for more fuel-efficient hybrids. "We will change the battery from nickel hydride to the lithium battery," the CEO said during a rare one-on-one interview at the company's headquarters in Toyota City. Toyota officials say it's the first time Watanabe had confirmed the change of cells (see the excerpt and the link to the full interview above - Ed.)

While widely expected, some had wondered whether Toyota's li-ions would be available in time for its new hybrid system. Watanabe, who occasionally visits the site where the batteries are being developed, has no doubts: "We can develop the battery in time," he says.

It's not just the batteries that will be better. The rest of Toyota's next-generation hybrid systems will also be a big step up from what's on the road today. "We are now aiming at reducing, by half, both size and cost of the third-generation hybrid system," says Watanabe. That should go some way to bringing the price of hybrids closer to regular gasoline cars.

On performance, Toyota is more circumspect. Watanabe says the company isn't ready to reveal data on the extent to which performance and fuel efficiency will improve. Analysts suspect Toyota will lean more towards bettering the latter. "There will be a greater benefit for consumers who are really serious about fuel efficiency," says Koichi Sugimoto, an analyst at Merrill Lynch in Tokyo. He reckons fuel economy could increase by 20% to 30%.

If that proves correct, it should assuage the green lobby, which has complained that Toyota's hybrids—like the Lexus RX 400h and Toyota Highlander SUVs—don't have much better fuel economy than the gasoline-only versions.

Longer term, Watanabe reiterates that he believes hybrid sales could reach 1 million a year by the early part of next decade. At the Detroit show, Toyota North America chief Jim Press told reporters the company is looking to boost hybrid sales by 50% in 2007, to between 250,000 and 300,000.

To ramp up sales, Toyota will increase the number of hybrids on the market. Reports in Japan suggest the company plans to offer a hybrid version of any model that sells more than 100,000 units a year. "We're considering what sort of hybrid system can be applied to many types of hybrid vehicles," says Watanabe. But for hybrid sales to reach seven figures "we will probably have to double the number of models with a hybrid system installed." Applying hybrid systems to diesel and other alternative fuels is also under consideration.

If Toyota can achieve its goal of rolling out li-ion powered hybrids in double-quick time, it will widen its lead over other many auto makers. To catch up, the Big Three U.S. carmakers have asked Washington to subsidize advanced battery research to the tune of $500 million, spread over five years. General Motors, meanwhile, has asked Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions, a joint venture between automotive-systems manufacturer Johnson Controls and Paris-based Saft, and Cobasys, a joint venture between Chevron and Energy Conversion Devices (ENER ), to develop li-ions.

Still, Toyota should be wary of rushing. For one thing, its li-ions will need to be durable in order to win over buyers. "You don't want a hybrid car, which you already pay more for up front, where you have to replace the battery after a few years," says Macquarie's Sanger.

Then there's the safety issue. Last year, Sony took a $430 million charge after li-ion powered laptops caught fire. In cars, where the risks are greater, avoiding fires is even more important. "We're making sure that the problem can be avoided." says Watanabe. "These difficulties must be reflected in the design."

An additional comment worth making is that pundits and analysts believe that the main reason for Toyota's purchasing a stake in Subaru is the latter's lead in developing lithium-ion batteries for hybrid cars.

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
An Automotive News article on Ford's former "hybrid guru" Mary Ann Wright contains these excerpts that are relevant to this Roundtable thread:

Lithium ion batteries are viewed as the next big evolution of the hybrid powertrain. Not only is a Lithium ion battery lighter and smaller than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in today's hybrids, but it also is about four times more powerful. That means a hybrid could travel farther on electric power only, enabling dramatically better fuel economy.

Lithium ion batteries are also expected to enable plug-in hybrids.

Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe told BusinessWeek recently that the third generation of Toyota's hybrids, due in 2008 or 2009, would have lithium ion batteries.

The GM contract calls for Johnson Controls to develop lithium ion batteries for the Saturn Vue Green Line. Before installation, Johnson Controls must demonstrate that the batteries are reliable, durable and affordable when mass-produced.

Lithium ion batteries also have a big drawback: They can overheat and cause fires.

GM has big hybrid plans. The Chevrolet Volt concept, introduced this year at the Detroit auto show, is a series hybrid plug-in vehicle expected to use lithium ion batteries when it is built around 2010. And GM is just weeks away from launching the Saturn Aura Green Line.

Wright is known for problem-solving. Not only will she be working to ensure that Johnson Controls' batteries are ready about the same time as Toyota's, but she also will be competing against other startup battery makers.

(Mary Ann Wright's predecessor at Ford, Prabhakar) Patil, for instance, now is CEO of Compact Power Inc. The Korean-owned company, based in Troy, Mich., is also working on lithium ion batteries for hybrids.

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Interesting commentary from Winding Road

The Guys And Girls Who Will Own The Car Industry In Twenty Years
By Reilly Brennan

Sitting through numerous electric vehicle press conferences, meetings, and embargoed presentations, it’s clear that the future of the automotive industry is dependent on an ability to develop and implement batteries of serious strength and minimal size. As good as GM’s new Volt might seem, it’s nothing without a battery (or, actually, many little batteries). The manufacturer who is able to secure the best batteries will be able to market itself as having the longest range, which will be the way we measure efficiency in the future.

If the future of the car is dependent upon batteries, you would assume companies like GM, Ford, DCX, Toyota, and Honda are making their own batteries. You would be wrong. The majority (if not the entirety) of battery development in the world right now is being done by small, venture-funded startup companies comprised of brainy MIT engineers and some of the smartest people in the world. They are all working (rushing might be a better way to say it) to make par, which in this industry means the creation of a reliable lithium ion battery capable of running a Camry-sized vehicle for the same amount of miles (range) as a fuel-only vehicle does now. Alternatively, a battery-powered vehicle with a small fuel engine (called a “range extender”) would mean that a concept such as the Chevrolet Volt could travel up to 640 miles. That’s industry-shattering performance.

So, who has the best batteries? The short answer is nobody. No one is able to deliver on the Chevrolet Volt’s promises at the moment. Placing a label of “best” on any battery startup at the current time would be like picking a horse to win the 2027 Kentucky Derby, when the entire field isn’t even alive yet. Whichever horse emerges as the fastest and lightest will undoubtedly be the richest–and a bidding war will ensue to get that company’s batteries. “Intel Inside” will be the way we think of the powerplants in the cars of the future, except it will likely be “Sanjay Viyaraman’s Battery Co. Inside.”

A larger question remains: why aren’t the large car companies buying battery startups, or at least investing in them? If GM can spend its money to develop hot washer fluid in the Lucerne, or Toyota can invest in electronic music magazine URB, why can’t they throw $20M at a couple of smart battery engineers in Silicon Valley or Boston or Ann Arbor?

And that commentary was, in turn, inspired by a New York Times article on battery startup A123Systems, which appears in the next post:

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
A New Battery Takes Off in a Race to Electric Cars

VROOOOM! Or, rather, much more softly: brmmm.

A123Systems, a start-up in Watertown, Mass., says it has created a powerful, safe, long-lived battery. If the cell fulfills the ambitions of its maker, that softer sound will be the future of automobiles.

To date, all-electric vehicles have failed because their batteries were inadequate. General Motors’ futuristic EV1 car of the late 1990s was doted upon by environmentally conscious drivers who admired its innovative engineering, but because the car used large, primitive nickel metal hydride batteries, its range was limited, its acceleration degraded as the batteries weakened with age, and its two-seat layout was not very comfortable for big, corn-fed North Americans.

“The problem came down to usability,” said Nick Zelenski, G.M.’s chief vehicle engineer. “You had to plan your life around when you were going to charge the EV1.” G.M. built only 1,117 of the experimental cars because it believed that American drivers would not buy such an affront to the national ideal of the open road.

Now, G.M. is planning two plug-in hybrid vehicles. Like the Toyota Prius and other available hybrids, the G.M. models will supplement their electric motors with power from internal combustion engines. What’s different is that most of the power for daily commuting will come from battery packs that can be recharged from ordinary household sockets. The new models are expected to have a range of at least 40 miles without using their gas engines. While that is less than the range of the all-electric EV1, the hybrid nature of the new models will give them far greater total range.

G.M. says that the extra cost for the battery packs mean that plug-in hybrids will sell for thousands of dollars more than comparable, non-electric vehicles. But the average driver, going 40 miles a day, would also save $450 a year if gasoline were $2 a gallon. Because the median daily travel of the average American car is 33 miles (well within the new model’s electric range), the cars would achieve 155 miles to the gallon, and many drivers would fill up with gasoline only every few months.

G.M. hopes to begin selling the first car, a plug-in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue sport utility, as soon as 2009. The second, the Chevrolet Volt, which exists only as a concept-model prototype, is a startling departure from traditional automotive design. The Volt’s internal combustion engine is not attached to the drive train as current hybrids are. In the case of the Volt, it is used only to recharge the vehicle’s batteries. In short, the Volt would function as a true electric car, with the insurance of an internal combustion engine — and not coincidentally it is also designed as a recognizably conventional American compact, seating five, which could drive hundreds of miles to Mother’s at Thanksgiving.

“The real breakthrough is with the new batteries, which offered us energy density — which in turn provided us with a reliable, high-powered package in a relatively small space,” Mr. Zelenski said.

G.M. selected A123Systems (along with its partner Cobasys) to develop batteries that might be used for the Saturn Vue, he said, and it is considering awarding A123Systems a similar contract for the Volt concept car, to take advantage of the company’s remarkable new rechargeable lithium batteries.

Rechargeable lithium batteries have been used in laptop computers and mobile phones since the early 1990s. (Their common name, “lithium ion batteries,” is a tautology, since all batteries conduct electric current by allowing the passage of ions between two electrodes.) But despite their lightness, rechargeable lithium batteries — which often use a compound of highly reactive cobalt oxide — have hitherto been thought impractical for transportation because they are insufficiently powerful and might, if pierced, jarred or overheated, explode or burst into flames.

A123Systems batteries are different. Yet-Ming Chiang, a professor of materials science and engineering at M.I.T. and a co-founder of A123Systems, described their advantages: “Used in a hybrid vehicle, our batteries deliver faster acceleration than any other batteries of the same size,” Professor Chiang said. “And the chemical stability of the cathode material greatly improves safety as well as extending battery life.”

The history of A123Systems offers a lesson in entrepreneurial adaptability. When Professor Chiang and two others founded the company in 2002, it was devoted to a radical business proposition: it hoped to develop a technique where component materials would “self assemble” into a practical lithium battery. “Imagine sprayable batteries, conforming to the shape of a device or an appliance,” Professor Chiang said. “They could also be deposited in very small volumes to power micro and nano devices.”

But self-assembling batteries, despite their intriguing potential, proved intractably hard to develop — or, at least, more expensive and less sure than the immediate commercial possibilities of a rechargeable lithium battery with novel applications. “It just wasn’t working,” said Bart Riley, another of the co-founders, and A123’s vice president for research and development. (The third co-founder is Ric Fulop, now vice president for business development, who has also participated in the start-up of five other companies.)

By late 2003, the company had abandoned self-assembly for another, less alchemical but still dramatic technology. In place of cobalt oxide, it used a commonplace substance, iron phosphate, but assembled it in a novel, nano-structure — the particles used were 100 times smaller than conventional oxides and eight orders of magnitude more conductive than conventional phosphates. The new combination offers high power, stability and longevity.

Shifting to the new technology seems to have been a wise, if hard, decision. Today, A123Systems, a privately held venture, has raised more than $102 million in funding from a variety of investors including Sequoia Capital, Motorola and General Electric. It has 250 employees in China, Taiwan, South Korea and the United States. Apart from its developmental work with G.M., it manufactures the batteries that drive Black & Decker and DeWalt professional power tools.

According to David Vieau, A123Systems’ chief executive, the company enjoys “hundreds of millions of dollars” in contracts.

The former commitment to self-assembly is preserved only in the company’s nerdy name, derived from an equation called the “Hamaker force constant,” which is used to calculate attractive and repulsive forces at nano-dimensions, and which begins “A123...”

While A123Systems still hopes to return to self-assembling batteries one day, it remains focused for now on the future of transportation. In this, the company’s founders and senior officers mix business acumen with a kind of millennial fervor: they sincerely believe that their rechargeable lithium batteries could reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

These plug-in hybrids “will cut gasoline demand over 70 percent for most drivers, and carbon emissions by 50 percent, which will have a significant effect on the environment,” Mr. Vieau said. Driving a plug-in hybrid powered by batteries from A123, most drivers would seldom use their gasoline engines. And while the electricity that charged the batteries would derive mostly from carbon dioxide-producing power plants, burning gasoline is the most polluting transportation energy of all, according to a 2005 study by the Argonne National Laboratory.

A123Systems’ ambition is to apply a new technology, born from original science, to solve a difficult problem. The company’s chairman is Gururaj Deshpande, the entrepreneur who also is a co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks. As he explained: “This company can play a role in reducing our dependence on oil and in cleaning up the environment. Any company that gets to contribute to those efforts in whatever measure would have done good in the world.”

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
A very informative article from

Demand for Hybrid Batteries to Increase, Study Reveals
By Byron Pope

If the cost of lithium-ion batteries doesn’t decrease as projected, it could jeopardize the development of advanced hybrid-electric vehicles, such as plug-in hybrids, one market research analyst says.

Future applications of HEV technology will need the greater efficiency and longevity afforded by Li-on batteries, says Joe Iorillo of Freedonia Group Inc., an Ohio-based market research firm. But the cost is prohibitive when compared with nickel-metal-hydride applications.

Battery packs on most HEVs today comprise hundreds of individual NiMH cells, similar to D-cell batteries used in items such as flashlights. Today, one NiMH cell costs about $1, while a Li-ion unit cost just under $3, Iorillo says.

“Costs are really plummeting,” Iorillo tells Ward's. “If battery producers can establish economies of scale like they have for Li-ion batteries for cell phones and laptop computers, that will contribute greatly to bringing costs down.”

In 2000, one Li-ion cell cost $5-$6.

Meanwhile, a Freedonia study suggests the market for Li-ion batteries destined for U.S. HEVs will hit $70 million by 2011. And by 2016, that total should more than quadruple to just under $300 million, the study says.

But first, Li-on battery technology must overcome significant hurdles, Iorillo warns.

“Some Li-ion batteries have been known to burst into flames,” he says, “and that concerns a lot of battery manufacturers for hybrid vehicles, because if that happened on that large of a scale it would be catastrophic.”

Says a spokesman for General Motors Corp., which made headlines at January’s Detroit auto show by unveiling the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid concept car: “Cost is a huge issue, no doubt about it. Another thing is durability. Li-Ion batteries have to be appropriately addressed or (plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles) are not going to happen.”

Leading battery manufacturers currently are hard at work trying to overcome Li-Ion’s shortcomings, Iorillo says, listing such research leaders as A123 Systems, Cobasys LLC, and a partnership between automotive supplier Johnson Controls Inc. and Saft Advanced Power Solutions, which has a contract with GM to produce the Li-ion battery pack for the upcoming Saturn Vue PHEV.

Battery manufacturers are “trying to address the volatility and durability issue with Li-Ion batteries,” Iorillo says. “Plus, they don’t know how they’ll perform in crash tests.”

However, a Ford Motor Co. spokesman says there are a variety of unforeseen variables that may drive down costs, such as government funding; partnerships between automotive companies; and even financial backing from electric companies, which stand to make a profit from PHEVs.

“It could take many different roads; there are a lot of unknowns,” the Ford spokesman says. “Until you grasp how these factor come in, it can’t be definitive.”

While auto makers and their battery suppliers try to advance the technology, some industry observers say battery technology cannot be pushed any further. California-based engineer Steve Bloxham, who is developing a light-vehicle application of hydraulic hybrid technology, notes batteries operate on a narrow band of usable energy, unable to fully charge or discharge.

“Since the 1830s, batteries have been looked at closely by people with a lot of money,” Bloxham says. “Pretty much every stone has been turned, looking for different batteries. We’re at the limit.”

While Iorillo is not so pessimistic, he admits the battery research clock is ticking.

“The next few years will be the real test to see if once the novelty of hybrid technology wears off it’s still going to have that kind of growth going forward,” he says. “If gas prices continue to be at the $2.50-$3.00 range, it will support the demand for hybrids.”

As gasoline prices in the U.S. continue to rise, so do sales of HEVs, according to Ward's data.

In January 2004, total HEV sales in the U.S. amounted to a meager 4,291 units. In March of this year, that number hit 34,639.

To satisfy the demand for HEVs in the U.S., auto makers such as Ford and Toyota Motor Corp., both of which offer hybrids today and promise more in the future, say the supply of batteries for the vehicles is of utmost importance.

And while Li-ion research continues, the NiMH market remains strong. Freedonia forecasts sales of NiMH units will amount to nearly $925 million by 2016.

Demand for Hybrid Batteries to Increase, Study Reveals

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
More from Winding Road

Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe told BusinessWeek recently that the third generation of Toyota's hybrids, due in 2008 or 2009, would have lithium-ion batteries.
Maybe not, according to a new Winding Road article (thanks to Garage Moderator EricK for finding it):

Japan Report: Toyota Postponing Lithium-Ion Prius?
By: Peter Nunn

Toyota is postponing the use of lithium-ion batteries in the next Prius, according to Japan’s Nikkan Kogyo newspaper, citing safety concerns.

Lithium-ion batteries are big in consumer electronics: compact, light, and packing a sizable storage capacity, they can also bring trouble. Remember the exploding PC battery scandal that rocked Sony last year?

Compared to the nickel-metal hydride battery pack in the current Prius, lithium-ion would be the neater, more technologically advanced solution, and in Toyotaspeak are “close to the level at which they can be mounted in cars.” But, the paper says, Toyota has put caution before innovation this time round… and being mindful of Toyota’s quality issues and soaring recall rate of late, maybe that’s a sound choice.

Winding Road » Archive » Japan Report: Toyota Postponing Lithium-Ion Prius?

In a curious juxtaposition, that article contains a link to a via Business Week article on a Toyota Prius that was retrofitted with lithium iron phosphate batteries (including plug-in capabilities) by the Lithium Technology Corporation (LTC) and achieved 125+ miles per gallon fuel efficiency. The article is mostly repetitive gushing Press Release-speak with a couple of specs here and there, so I'll just provide the link:
Long-Range Lithium Battery

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Might GM beat Toyota to market with a lithium battery?

Quite possibly, according to this article from The Car Connection:

Li-ion Not Ready for Prius
Higher-mileage batteries no longer part of the plan — at least initially.
by Bengt Halvorson

The Wall Street Journal reports that Toyota has decided against the use of lithium-ion battery technology - at least initially - in the next-generation Toyota Prius, which is still expected in fall 2008.

The company will instead, at launch, use a new version of the company's existing nickel metal hydride battery pack in the new Prius, an inside source told the WSJ.

The battery system that Toyota had been considering, which was to be supplied by Panasonic EV Energy Co., would have enabled significant packaging benefits for the next Prius, as lithium-ion batteries allow an equivalent energy capacity to be stored in a smaller, lighter package. The only downsides for this relatively new technology, which is already commonplace in laptops and some personal electronics, are initial cost, which has been coming down considerably, and the safety and reliability concerns associated with the tendency of these batteries to run hot.

Hybrid experts have been anticipating substantially improved mileage in the upcoming Prius, due to the lithium-ion system's reduced weight, increased battery capacity, or a combination of the two benefits.

The WSJ mentioned that this delay might give General Motors a boost, as it has been aiming to get its Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid - which will sport lithium-ion batteries - to market by fall of 2009. If its launch can stay as scheduled, it now may be the first lithium-ion vehicle from a major automaker.

Company president Katsuaki Watanabe has recently been emphasizing the company's need to maintain its product quality. Recent product woes in the U.S. include a highly publicized engine-failure issue that may affect up to 30,000 new V-8 Tundra pickups.

A Toyota Motor Sales USA communications officer would not comment on the Prius decision, but said, "Our research and development, including that for Prius, is broad-reaching and being carried out from various angles."

Li-ion Not Ready for Prius Car Reviews - The Car Connection

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
...and speaking of the Wall Street Journal...'s an interesting, informative article:

Toyota Delays Next Hybrids on Safety Concerns

Toyota Motor Corp., which used the green image of its gasoline-electric Toyota Prius to propel a U.S. sales surge, has decided to delay by one to two years the launches of new high-mileage hybrids with lithium-ion battery technology because of potential safety problems. The slowdown could offer General Motors Corp. and other rivals a chance to narrow the gap in the race to define future clean-vehicle technology.

Until recently, Toyota was preparing to roll out a dozen new and redesigned hybrids using new lithium-ion battery technology in the U.S. between 2008 and 2010. Its hybrids now use nickel-metal-hydride batteries. But safety concerns with the lithium-ion technology have forced Toyota to back away from that timetable, people familiar with the company's strategy say.

The rollout -- critical to Toyota's goal of selling 600,000 hybrids a year in the U.S. by early next decade, up from nearly 200,000 last year -- is on hold, according to Toyota executives knowledgeable about the company's hybrid-product plans for the U.S. market.

Toyota also postponed plans for hybrid versions of its big and fuel-thirsty Tundra pickup and its Sequoia sport-utility vehicle, though the executives added there is a chance Toyota would revive big-truck hybrids and come out with them by 2013 or 2014. GM and Chrysler LLC, owned by Cerberus Capital Management LLP, plan to launch hybrid large SUVs next year, using a system developed jointly by GM, Chrysler, DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG.

The batteries Toyota is trying to develop use particles of lithium cobalt oxide. But such batteries have shown a tendency to overheat, catch fire or even explode. Tomomi Imai, a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo, declined to comment. But, according to Toyota executives, similar problems with lithium-ion batteries for laptops made by Japan's Sony Corp. sounded an alarm because the chemistry of the Sony batteries was similar to batteries Toyota was trying to use for future hybrids.

Toyota became the industry's first auto maker to introduce a vehicle that taps gasoline-electric hybrid propulsion technology in late 1997 when it launched the Prius in Japan. While rivals like Honda Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. have matched the company with their own hybrids, GM has taken nearly a decade to catch up. Late last year the Detroit auto giant launched its first full-fledged hybrid, using the nickel-metal-hydride battery, the 2007 model year Saturn Vue Green Line crossover.

Lithium-ion hybrids, expensive in comparison to standard gas-combustion autos, won't likely sell in high volume in the near term. Still, if GM can field a plug-in hybrid ahead of Toyota, it could help the Detroit auto maker move beyond its reputation in the U.S. for old technology and poor fuel economy -- an image GM executives say is undeserved.

Toyota hit the brakes on the newer-technology hybrids because of problems with the safety of lithium-ion-battery technology, which the auto maker was counting on to make hybrids even more fuel-efficient and more affordable. Packing more electricity into the same space and weight as current systems using nickel-metal-hydride batteries, lithium-ion batteries would allow hybrids to achieve 60 to 70 miles a gallon in normal operation, compared with the 40 to 50 miles per gallon the Prius gets now.

Toyota had planned to use lithium-ion batteries starting with the next-generation Prius, originally scheduled for launch in late 2008, but has decided not to because of safety concerns, say Toyota executives familiar with the company's plans. The company will instead use the conventional nickel-metal-hydride batteries it has been using in the Prius since its launch. The next-generation Prius, using conventional batteries, is now expected to launch in early 2009.

The first Toyota hybrid that uses lithium-ion battery technology won't arrive in the U.S. until early 2011 when a derivative of the Prius, a wagon, comes out, company executives say -- a delay of at least a year from the original plan.

Tony Posawatz, GM's vehicle-line director for the Chevrolet Volt and related hybrid vehicles, said GM's first lithium-ion hybrid will be the Saturn VUE Green Line plug-in hybrid -- which individuals knowledgeable about GM's product plans say could hit dealer showrooms as soon as late 2009. So-called plug-ins recharge batteries by plugging into the electric grid. GM also plans to launch a plug-in lithium-ion hybrid car called the Volt by 2010.

Mr. Posawatz said in an interview he is confident that GM's lithium-ion hybrid strategy is on track.

GM is counting on a different kind of lithium-ion technology. A123 Systems, a Watertown, Mass., start-up that has come up with a lithium-ion battery based on iron phosphates, which it says is more chemically stable than others, is one of a handful of likely candidates to supply lithium-ion batteries to GM.

A senior Toyota executive said the timing for the launch of Toyota's first lithium-ion-battery hybrid model is close to being finalized, though the company's medium-term hybrid plan is "still very, very fluid in some aspects." The executive said the lithium-ion Prius will most likely hit the market in early 2011 but that there is a force within Toyota's engineering and product-development division that is insisting on launching the model by the end of 2010. In that case, it could be a horse race between Toyota and GM.

Delays to the next-generation Toyota hybrids also offer an opportunity for rivals that have bet on clean diesel.

Honda for example, is pursuing a multipronged approach to alternative technologies, including a newly developed diesel engine. As Toyota grapples with lithium-ion technology, John Mendel, a senior Honda executive in the U.S., said the delays will likely provide Honda and others "a big break" to build up awareness of diesels.

Honda still sees long-term potential in lithium-ion technology, said company President Takeo Fukui. But Mr. Fukui said he is skeptical the technology can be made reliable enough for vehicles in the next few years. By 2009, Honda plans to launch in the U.S. a subcompact hybrid with improved nickel-metal-hydride batteries. A hybrid version of the Civic now costs about $4,000 more than a comparably equipped gasoline-engine Civic model. With the new subcompact, Mr. Fukui says Honda is trying to cut the hybrid premium to less than $2,000.

Volkswagen AG, BMW and the Mercedes-Benz unit of DaimlerChrysler also plan to field modern diesel engines in U.S. models starting next year. The challenge for diesel is meeting tough U.S. clean-air rules. European auto makers say they now have the technology to do that, although it will be costly at first. Fearful of being left behind, Toyota last year bought a 5.9% stake in Isuzu Motors Ltd. to gain access to the latter's clean-diesel technology.

Toyota's move to slow hybrid launches comes as the company's president, Katsuaki Watanabe, decelerates the company's breakneck expansion pace, which vaulted it past GM to be the world's No.1 auto maker by vehicle sales volume this year. Toyota's financial resources give it an advantage in developing more-fuel-efficient vehicles.

Aside from the planned lithium-ion Prius wagon, Toyota now plans to launch as many as nine other lithium-ion-battery hybrids in the 2011-2012 period. Among them are a new wagon-style crossover with three rows of seating and a wagon derivative of the Camry.

Toyota Delays Next Hybrids on Safety Concerns -

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
A concise summary of the Toyota vs GM lithium battery situation

In case your head is spinning from information overload, Michael Kanellos of CNET's Crave blog has neatly summed up the main points of the above WSJ article in this one, which was located by my.IS member uberchuckie:

Has Toyota delayed new Priuses? Is cobalt to blame?
Bob Kanode, the CEO of Valence Technology, which makes lithium-ion batteries for vehicles, recently said one of the big issues for the electric car world was going to be cobalt versus phosphate. And he may be right.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Toyota has delayed a new generation of hybrid vehicles, including a new Prius, because of concerns about safety and reliability of the batteries inside them. These batteries are lithium cobalt oxide batteries, the same chemistry used in laptop lithium batteries. (Currently, Toyota hybrids use nickel metal hydride batteries.)

Toyota was supposed to start introducing the lithium-ion hybrids between 2008 and 2010, according to the Journal. Instead, it will continue with nickel metal hydride, the Journal states.

Toyota has hotly denied the allegations that it has delayed or changed its product line. However, it affirmed a position it has stated for some time: that there are safety and reliability issues with lithium-ion batteries. The official Toyota blog states:

"We have consistently affirmed that there are many issues that need to be resolved, beyond the safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries, before a commercial lithium-ion-equipped hybrid--and what we're talking about here is the so-called plug-in hybrid, or PHEV--is ready for the market.

"These issues include battery cost, availability, performance and packaging. All of the carmakers face the same problems when it comes to these issues. The answers, unfortunately, are not just around the corner".

This is not a new position for Toyota. Dave Hermance, a now deceased Toyota exec often credited with bringing the Prius to prominence, voiced similar concerns about plug-ins in an interview with me in 2005.

But back to Kanode. Valence, among other battery start-ups, focuses on lithium phosphate. These batteries don't back the same energy density as lithium cobalt batteries, but they are safer.

"Lithium cobalt for cell size will give you more energy," he said last month. "But by definition, lithium cobalt will never be safe."

If Toyota is in fact experimenting with lithium cobalt batteries, and is having problems, we may be witnessing a formula war coming to a head.

General Motors, by the way, is working with A123 Systems on a lithium battery. It is phosphate based. (Altair Nanotechnologies uses a similar chemistry.)

Has Toyota delayed new Priuses? Is cobalt to blame? | Crave : The gadget blog

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Has GM leaped ahead of Toyota in plug-in hybrid development?

It certainly seems that way, according to this BusinessWeek article:

GM's Plug-In Push
General Motors is developing a plug-in hybrid technology for its Chevy Volt that is miles ahead of Toyota and Honda
by David Kiley

Don't tell General Motors Vice-President of Research and Development Larry Burns that the Chevy Volt plug-in gas electric hybrid vehicle it plans to launch is a marketing ploy to improve GM's brown image with consumers.

On the other hand, Burns admits that GM is spending SUV loads of money to make sure the Volt comes to market on time, and ahead of Toyota, in 2010 in the hopes of changing the marketing nightmare the company faces. "No question, it is our intent to leapfrog Toyota in this technology," he says.

Coming from Behind
What marketing nightmare? GM has been unleashing the best vehicles it has ever produced. Quality is better than ever. Designs are being lauded. And critics are falling over themselves praising new versions of such previously dullard drives as the Chevy Malibu. Even a Buick, the Enclave SUV, is drawing kudos, and GM can't make them fast enough to meet demand. But overall, GM sales are down almost 6% this year, compared with a drop of 2.5% for the industry through the first 10 months of the year.

Not only does GM's portfolio of brands have an awful time resonating on the East and West coasts, but research commissioned by the automaker spelled out in how little esteem cutting-edge customers hold GM. A survey cited by Burns showed that 70% of respondents think of GM as "part of the problem" when it comes to climate change and pollution, while 70% view Toyota as part of the solution. Moreover, consumers believe GM's brands have much lower quality scores than they really do, because of how poorly GM has marketed its brands over the years. "It's a huge hole to dig out of," says Burns.

But GM is showing signs of life in the arena of "green" image making that, if the company gets it right, could shed stardust on its whole brand portfolio. As GM and Toyota battle for superiority and market momentum with the next gas-saving technology—plug-in-hybrids—many analysts and engineers say GM may, for a change, have the advantage over Toyota. "GM has quietly closed the technology gap with Toyota and looks like it is pulling ahead in plug-ins," says Brett Smith, director of forecasting at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Changing Horses
Talk is cheap. But there is buzz in the industry's engineering and supplier community that GM's advantage is that it chose better battery technology than Toyota in the first place to develop its Chevy Volt plug-in car for sale by the end of 2010. Toyota has been focusing its battery development on cobalt oxide-based lithium-ion batteries, the same technology that's used in cell-phone and laptop batteries. But fires in laptop batteries earlier this year derailed optimism about their application in cars.

Meantime, GM has been pursuing a nano-phosphate-based battery with privately held battery technology company A123 Systems, in Watertown, Mass., whose technology is the kind used in lithium-ion batteries that drive cordless power tools. And it's this technology, which is not subject to fires and packs more power and battery life, that is emerging as the favored pathway for plug-ins. "There are a lot of problems with cobalt-oxide, including scaling it up for cars because of the cost and availability of cobalt," says Ann Marie Sastry, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Toyota, too, has been working with nano-phosphate as a hedge, but on a slower track than its cobalt-oxide program, which was in a joint-development project with Panasonic. And GM is working with cobalt-oxide on a slower track for the same reason. But GM's nano-phosphate development is, according to supplier company sources working with Toyota, at least a year ahead of Toyota's. "All hell has been breaking loose at Toyota on its plug-in program for the last three months as it changes horses," says one supplier company executive working with Toyota.

Consumer Readiness
Toyota and Honda have been uncharacteristically open in their criticism of GM's plug-in push. At the Tokyo Motor Show, Honda CEO Takeo Fukui said his company won't pursue plug-ins at all, because he feels they don't deliver enough environmental benefits. Toyota's project general manager in its hybrid vehicle system-engineering division, Yoshitaka Asakura, said he isn't even sure consumers want a plug-in, and that while Toyota is developing a plug-in Prius as a trial balloon, it is looking more for ways to expand its existing hybrid systems.

Honda's bearishness on plug-ins doesn't cloud the potential of the technology. Honda, while leading all auto companies operating in the U.S. in fuel economy, has proved to be especially tone-deaf in understanding the U.S. market for its vehicles. It launched the Insight hybrid around the same time as Toyota's Prius, but its size and unappealing styling made it a dud. The Civic hybrid has been a steady seller, but it is dropping its Accord hybrid, which didn't sell at all and offered little fuel economy benefit over the nonhybrid Accord. Toyota, whose executives say they don't believe GM can get a battery small enough to fit in a car and have a 40-mile range, meanwhile, is heavily invested in its hybrid system and has the advantage over its rivals in passenger car hybrids.

Indeed, some believe the "wow" factor of getting more than 100 mpg could help plug-ins eclipse the popularity of hybrids. GM says the Volt technology will allow consumers to go up to 40 miles on battery power, after which the gas engine kicks on to recharge the battery while the driver continues. If a driver makes several short trips on battery power, the battery can simply be plugged in overnight to recharge. Many drivers could go weeks without gassing up. And electricity at night is cheaper than daytime recharging. Dr. Gary Vas, director of the University of Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and a nuclear energy professor who is leading a study of plug-in vehicles, says the early indication on a study he is leading on the marketability of plug-ins "shows that consumers are more than ready to embrace it."

Toyota executives have said they believe the right model for plug-ins will enable drivers to go perhaps as much as eight miles on a charge before the gasoline power kicks on. University of Michigan's Sastry says such a conclusion may be dictated by the technology they have chosen, rather than consumer research. "I don't have any doubts that consumers will react very strongly to a 40-mile gas-free range," says Sastry.

Marketing Benefit
Consumer acceptance of the technology will depend a great deal on the price of the car, which GM insiders say will likely be between $25,000 and $30,000, and the final design. GM says it will build the Volt on the same engineering platform as the new Malibu. But it is a system GM can expand to other vehicles just as Toyota rolled out its hybrid system to five other Toyota and Lexus models.

GM engineers say the Volt and electric car program have "an open purse," meaning that when they need more money, they get it. A123 Systems Chief Executive David Vieau says GM's schedule for 2010 is "a risk" as far as using the nano-phosphate battery, but he believes they'll make it. In any case, GM is working with multiple supplier companies to give it the best chance. "But it's pretty clear GM will have an early advantage" when they start delivering cars. Robert Lutz, GM's chief product executive, says GM testers will be driving a prototype by this April.

When Toyota launched its first hybrids, it lost money for a few years on each one until the cost of the technology came down as sales volume went up. But the halo effect of the hybrid more than made up for it. The same internal study at GM that indicates consumers see the automaker as "part of the problem" also showed that the image of the Prius led car buyers to believe that Toyota's trucks and SUVs were about 25% more fuel efficient than they really are. Says GM's Burns: "We didn't understand the marketing benefit to the whole company that a hybrid would have, but Toyota schooled us on that."

The question is, does the student have what it takes to outsmart the teacher?

GM's Plug-In Push

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Will Toyota's first lithium battery car be a Lexus?

That appears quite likely:

Toyota's first lithium likely a Lexus
But battery technology has a long road to travel
by Mark Rechtin, with contributions by Hans Greimel - Automotive News

The first Toyota hybrid vehicle with lithium ion batteries will not be a Prius. It likely will be a Lexus.

Kazuo Okamoto, Toyota Motor Corp.'s executive vice president of r&d and product development, said the first lithium ion vehicle will be a limited-edition, low-volume vehicle. He declined to confirm that it would be a Lexus.

Lexus executives have said the automaker is studying whether to build a hybrid-only Lexus that would not share its underpinnings with a conventional Toyota vehicle.

But don't hold your breath for the vehicle, one of Toyota's top alternative-fuels engineers says.

Toyota does not see breakthrough developments in lithium ion battery technology in the near future, said Bill Reinert, national manager of the advanced technology vehicle group for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

"Nobody has the technology right now for a 150,000-mile lithium ion battery," Reinert said. "There have been tests in a lab, but not enough road tests with heat, cold, snow and salt."

This rebuke of the perceived next generation of battery technology likely will be poorly received by environmental groups, who previously have hailed Toyota's green leadership, Reinert admitted.

His comments may sound as though Toyota is reversing course on green technology, whereas others such as General Motors are bullish. But Reinert insists that Toyota is merely being realistic. The automaker would rather not raise buyers' hopes, only to dash them.

"Until we are really comfortable with the technology, we won't install it," he said in an interview at the Tokyo auto show. "It could be the following generation or a mid-cycle change."

Lithium ion batteries have had problems with excessive heat and even fires in some test vehicles. Reinert concurred with Okamoto that the first lithium ion vehicle would be a "Prius-type vehicle."

But once that vehicle is launched, lithium ion likely will migrate to the Prius. Toyota is packaging the next-generation Prius with a nickel-metal hydride pack but configured so it can slot lithium ion batteries into the space.

Even if lithium ion is proven, Toyota likely will keep it in just the hybrid-only vehicles and keep nickel-metal hydride batteries in vehicles that also offer standard engines, such as the Camry and Highlander hybrids. Mostly, that is for cost reasons, as lithium ion is projected to cost substantially more than nickel-metal hydride.

Okamoto said those vehicles would receive hybrid variants when they are redesigned.

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
ExxonMobil, of all companies, announces a significant lithium battery improvement

ExxonMobil Improving Li-ion Safety, Performance
By Mike Sutton

ExxonMobil Chemical Co. and its Japanese affiliate, Tonen Chemical Corp., develop a new separator-film technology for lithium-ion batteries aimed at improving the power, safety and reliability of next-generation hybrid-electric and pure-electric vehicles.

Unveiled at the Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exposition in Anaheim, CA, the separator material has the potential to improve the energy efficiency and affordability of future low-emissions vehicles, ExxonMobil says, noting the film material can be tailored to meet the needs of various manufacturers in emerging markets.

The separator film, which serves as a barrier between a battery’s positive-cathode and negative-anode terminals, is an integral part of battery-system design and is critical to overall performance. Failure of the semi-porous film in Li-ion batteries was the primary cause of excessive overheating – resulting in some explosive fires – in certain consumer electronic devices last year.

General Motors Corp., along with various other auto makers and battery suppliers, have made improved Li-ion safety one of the main concerns in developing future HEVs and EVs, such as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in HEV concept.

“One of our safety solutions improves the thermal mechanics of one of the battery’s most vital components – the separator,” says ExxonMobil Senior Vice President Jim P. Harris. “With what are essentially very thin, but critical layers of highly-engineered film, you can improve the battery’s safety performance and help make the next generation of hybrid and electric vehicles possible.”

Key to the new separator material is its production using a proprietary wet, bi-orientation manufacturing process that results in fine, highly uniform pores, the company says.

Co-extruded using special heat-resistant polymers, the new separators exhibit properties such as enhanced permeability and higher meltdown temperatures and melt integrity, which significantly improve a battery’s safety margin.

In addition, the films help maintain the battery’s mechanical integrity, while also contributing to rapid shutdown performance in the event of a failure.

ExxonMobil declines to indicate what other organizations were involved in the development of the new materials, but commits to participating in improving vehicle efficiency.

“We are investing resources to customize these new separator films to meet the specific Li-ion battery system requirements and will continue to work with all manufacturers to speed the progress of next-generation vehicles,” Harris says.

ExxonMobil Improving Li-ion Safety, Performance

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Stanford University's nanowire batteries

My.IS member EricK found this awesome article:

Stanford's nanowire battery holds 10 times the charge of existing ones

Stanford researchers have found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices.

The new version, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours, a boon to ocean-hopping business travelers.

"It's not a small improvement," Cui said. "It's a revolutionary development."

The breakthrough is described in a paper, "High-performance lithium battery anodes using silicon nanowires," published online Dec. 16 in Nature Nanotechnology, written by Cui, his graduate chemistry student Candace Chan and five others.

The greatly expanded storage capacity could make Li-ion batteries attractive to electric car manufacturers. Cui suggested that they could also be used in homes or offices to store electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

"Given the mature infrastructure behind silicon, this new technology can be pushed to real life quickly," Cui said.

The electrical storage capacity of a Li-ion battery is limited by how much lithium can be held in the battery's anode, which is typically made of carbon. Silicon has a much higher capacity than carbon, but also has a drawback.

Silicon placed in a battery swells as it absorbs positively charged lithium atoms during charging, then shrinks during use (i.e., when playing your iPod) as the lithium is drawn out of the silicon. This expand/shrink cycle typically causes the silicon (often in the form of particles or a thin film) to pulverize, degrading the performance of the battery.

Cui's battery gets around this problem with nanotechnology. The lithium is stored in a forest of tiny silicon nanowires, each with a diameter one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The nanowires inflate four times their normal size as they soak up lithium. But, unlike other silicon shapes, they do not fracture.

Research on silicon in batteries began three decades ago. Chan explained: "The people kind of gave up on it because the capacity wasn't high enough and the cycle life wasn't good enough. And it was just because of the shape they were using. It was just too big, and they couldn't undergo the volume changes."

Then, along came silicon nanowires. "We just kind of put them together," Chan said.

For their experiments, Chan grew the nanowires on a stainless steel substrate, providing an excellent electrical connection. "It was a fantastic moment when Candace told me it was working," Cui said.

Cui said that a patent application has been filed. He is considering formation of a company or an agreement with a battery manufacturer. Manufacturing the nanowire batteries would require "one or two different steps, but the process can certainly be scaled up," he added. "It's a well understood process."

Stanford's nanowire battery holds 10 times the charge of existing ones

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
As more and more carmakers jump on the lithium-ion bandwagon, Honda disagrees

Honda's Fukui: Nickel battery is best bet for hybrid
Honda won't follow rivals down lithium-ion road--for now

From Detroit to Tokyo, automakers are banking on lithium-ion batteries to power the next generation of hybrid and electric vehicles, starting as early as next year.

But Honda President Takeo Fukui says the technology is still too unreliable to warrant mass production. What's more, Honda's highly anticipated "affordable hybrid"--its answer to the Toyota Prius--will debut next year with standard nickel-metal hydride power packs.

"Lithium-ion batteries are still not usable from our perspective," Fukui told Automotive News in an interview at Honda's Tokyo headquarters on Wednesday, March 19.

"In terms of reliability and durability, I must say there still remain some concerns," he said. "I don't think they are necessarily best suited for mass-produced vehicles."

Honda's caution stands in marked contrast to the optimism voiced by rivals such as General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. All have announced plans to sell cars equipped with lithium-ion batteries. Mitsubishi hopes to have its i MiEV electric vehicle on the road in Japan as early as 2009.

Hybrid hopes
The lithium-ion race is also important because Honda is trying to catch Toyota in hybrid vehicles. Honda is introducing its new dedicated hybrid early next year, with an eye to selling 200,000 units a year. The company wants hybrids to make up 10 percent of sales by 2012.

Toyota is planning to use lithium-ion batteries in a plug-in hybrid to arrive by 2010.

Nickel-metal hydride is the current hybrid standard. But automakers see lithium-ion batteries as the next step because they are smaller, lighter and pack more electricity. The problem is lithium-ion batteries tend to overheat.

"Timingwise, I would say there is no possibility we would resort to lithium-ion batteries" in the new hybrid due next year, Fukui said. Still, the car will be engineered so lithium-ion batteries can be swapped for nickel-metal hydride batteries later.

Details of Honda's new hybrid, billed as the Prius killer, are largely under wraps. Honda is aiming to price it below the current Civic Hybrid, whose sales have been lackluster.

The engine will be based on the Civic's, Fukui said. But the upcoming hybrid will have a newly designed motor and engine control unit, making it lighter and more compact.

That also will help bring down its cost, he said. The Civic's base engine in the United States is a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder.

Fukui said the car will have a global nameplate, like the Accord and Civic.

As for styling, he said the new hybrid will take cues from the sleek, wedge-shaped FCX Clarity sedan, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle Honda will start leasing this summer.

"That's more or less the image we're striving for," Fukui said.

Many partners
Many of Honda's rivals have committed to a single partner in lithium-ion research. Toyota has teamed with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Nissan with NEC Corp. and Mitsubishi with GS Yuasa Corp.

But Honda is playing the field. It is working with Matsushita, Sanyo Electric Co. and several others that Fukui declined to name. But that doesn't mean Honda is behind, he said.

"There's a word in Japanese, soukon, for people who decide to get married too soon," he said. "It's like marrying a girl who's only 13. You don't know how that girl will turn out as a lady."

Fukui also downplayed the immediate potential for electric vehicles.

"It's not really practical as of yet, based on our experience," he said. Recharging times are still too long and the driving range is still too limited, said the Honda chief.

"But that depends on the evolution of the battery," Fukui said. "It might be that we come up with a battery that has 10 times the performance of the existing lithium-ion battery. And if that happens, maybe there will be a leapfrog to electric vehicles."

Honda's Fukui: Nickel battery is best bet for hybrid - AutoWeek Magazine

3,889 Posts
Although it is becoming more and more mainstream, the hybrid market is still very much a techno-geek/ early adopter market. Not having the latest technology in their brand new hybrid may be a issue for these buyers. While most will put reliability and performance first, it may be a tough thing for Honda salesmen to explain when Chevy (of all makes) has a Lithium Ion pack out and Honda doesn't . I presume, that just because the cars won be using the packs now, Honda hasn't dropped research on lithium Ion entirely.

12,082 Posts
EEStor Advanced Capacitor Best Use In A Hybrid Car

EEStor is developing a high voltage capacitor that could be a breakthrough in the development of electric and gas hybrid electric cars. EEStor has developed an improved dielectric material that allows the use of very high voltages in their capacitor compared to traditional capacitors. The EEStor capacitor has the potential of making gas electric hybrid cars are reality.

The amount of energy that can be stored in a capacitor is determined by the formula:

E = (C * V2) / 2

E = Energy in Joules

C = Capacitance in Farads

V = Voltage

Being able to increase the voltage improves the storage capacity exponentially as the voltage increases. For example, conventional capacitors operating at 2.7 volts would require 45 million farads of capacitance to hold the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline (12.7 KWH). At 400 volts (a number I picked for comparison purposes only), a capacitor would only need 560 farads of capacitance. (EEStor actually hopes to get 3.5KV which would only require 7.3 farads.)

The production of these new capacitors has been delayed; my guess being that they are running into engineering problems trying to bring this technology from the lab to commercial scale production. When they are produced, Zenn Motor Company is planning on using them to power their all-electric vehicle. [I actually saw a Zenn all-electric car on the way to work today. Was in the city and I assume this car was running on lead-acid batteries.]

Assuming that supplies of this new capacitor may be limited, or that the capacitor may not be as inexpensive as EEStor expects, the best value-add for this technology will be for use in gasoline electric hybrid vehicles. A gas electric hybrid vehicle will typically get between 20% and 30% better fuel economy than a comparable gas only vehicle. It gains this advantage by using an energy storage device like a battery or capacitor, to smooth out the power flow from the engine and to recover the energy from braking. An engine that doesn’t need to provide bursts of power for accelerating can be smaller and can be tuned to only run in its most efficient power range. You don’t need a lot of capacity to perform this type of energy buffering. My guess is that about 300 Watt Hours (wh) would be sufficient. That’s the energy equivalent of about 3 ounces of gasoline or enough power to drive a 40 mpg car about 1 mile. This obviously would not work as a plug-in hybrid, but the technology could turn a 30 mpg car into a 40 mpg car.

Why not just use a 300 WH battery? The problem with a battery of that size is that it probably would not be able to produce sufficient current to drive the car. A battery has limitations on how fast it can charge and discharge. Because a battery changes chemical composition, it can degrade after too many cycles and start to loose its ability to hold a charge. A battery can also be very sensitive to temperature. You need a large size battery to be able to provide enough current to provide acceptable acceleration.

None of these should be problems for a capacitor. Because it is a solid state device, it should charge and discharge very fast. Because there is no chemical change, it should have a virtually unlimited number of cycles and should not be very sensitive to temperature. That means the capacitor buffering device can be relatively small.

A capacitor could also be used with a battery pack for plug-in electric hybrids (if battery storage is cheaper per wh). The battery in this car would not have to be as capable because it would only be used to recharge the capacitor. Charging the capacitor could be done at any power level, much in the same way a camera flash uses a capacitor to build up a charge from the battery. The battery in a camera can not produce enough current to provide the burst of power for the flash so it builds up current in a capacitor that is discharged to produce the flash. In this mode the battery provides an electrical assist to the car in a similar manner that the battery in a Toyota Prius provides a mechanical assist to the car.

If the capacitor (or capacitor/battery combination) becomes slightly larger, say 1.6 Kwh of capacity, then a plug-in hybrid becomes practical. At 1.6 Kwh, a 40 mpg car will be able to travel 5 miles on a charge. If all the trips are 5 miles or less then the car would never have to burn any gasoline. If longer distances are traveled the effective mpg is still enhanced. Based on average commuting distances (10% numbers are my estimated breakdown of a single number for comparative purposes) then 52 mpg could be achieved compared to 40 mpg for a non-plug-in hybrid. [This chart is only to show the greatly increased fuel economy based on even a small storage device and doesn’t reflect any actual car that I know about.] The key point here is that the first small 300 Kwh storage device adds more value per device than each incremental storage device added.

If you could charge the car at intermediate points, then fuel economy would improve even more. The capacitor has the advantage of being able to store its charge very quickly. I could easily picture grocery stores, offering free, quick charges to their customers. Just like selling milk below cost to get shoppers in the store. 1.6 Kwh of electricity would be only 16 cents at 10 cents per Kwh.

Notice that the most benefit from the energy storage device is from the first 300 wh of storage. This improves the car’s mpg from 30 to 40 (assuming a 30% improvement) by going to a hybrid. The next 970 wh of storage improves it another 30% to 52 mpg on average. If EEStor’s device turns out to be more expensive than they are anticipating, it would still have a tremendous value add to hybrid car technology as a small device. You would achieve overall better fleet fuel economy for 211 cars each with 300 wh devices than one all-electric car with one 64 Kwh storage device. General Motors could use this device in their Chevy Volt.

This is the type of technological development that might qualify for the type of program that John McCain suggested should earn a $300 million prize. I would suggest that the government might offer tax credits on the purchase of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric and pure electric cars as a way of stimulating demand. (John McCain also suggested a $5,000 tax credit to US Automakers for every zero-carbon emission car they sell.) Our automakers are going to need help if we expect them to make the financial investments in new, low carbon emission vehicles. Tax Credits might do more good than just offering a one-time prize.

I wish EEStor the best of luck in getting their new storage device into production. This is technology that could fundamentally change how cars are designed, significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and improve global warming.
Global Warming Examiner - EEStor Advanced Capacitor Best Use In A Hybrid Car -

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Discussion Starter #20
Will lithium run into the same supply-and-demand issues as petroleum?

John McElroy certainly sees it that way, as he states in this article he wrote for Autoblog:


Uh-oh. In the pell-mell race to develop lithium-ion batteries for plug-ins, EV's and hybrids, has any automaker taken a hard look at where all that lithium is going to come from? Guess what? Not only are global lithium supplies pretty tight, prices are about to skyrocket.

Today, the United States imports almost all of its lithium. We get most of it from Chile, then Argentina, and a little bit from Canada and Zimbabwe. The only producer in America is actually a German company, Metallgesellschaft, which has a mine in Nevada. Yet, even though we import most of our lithium, the United States is the world's largest processor of the material.

But a lot of others want to get in on the game. China, no surprise, is emerging as a major player. It's buying all the lithium it can from Australia. China does have some lithium sources of its own, but they're mainly in Tibet. (Say! Do you think that's another reason why they're so hard-core about keeping Tibet within the People's Republic?)

Right now, all lithium producers around the world are running flat out, and plans are afoot to ramp up production dramatically. But while there's a lot of lithium in planet Earth, I'm told that it's kind of like oil shale: it's there, but it's not cheap or easy to get.

And there are other competing demands for using lithium, like in producing ceramic, glass and aluminum. And for air conditioning systems. It's even used by the pharmaceutical industry for treating depression. Now the auto industry wants to start using huge amounts of it.

"Demand will soon outstrip supply. We're going to see prices spike," Christian M. Lastoskie, Ph.D., of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, at the University of Michigan, tells me.

You'd think that such a valuable material would get recycled a lot, but that's not the case. Today, only 3% to 4% is recycled, and while that will probably increase, it won't increase a lot. Recycling lithium takes a lot of energy, so much so that recycled lithium costs five to six times more than getting it from virgin material.

That could prompt battery researchers to search out other alternatives for advanced batteries, but so far not much has happened. "Everyone searching for alternatives keeps coming back to lithium because it offers so many advantages in weight and storage capacity," says Lastoskie.

It sure looks like the auto industry is locking itself into a future that depends on a precious resource, which is in tight supply, and that has to be imported. I'm just asking folks, but in our rush to get better fuel economy are we about to replace one form of dependency for another?

Autoline on Autoblog with John McElroy - Autoblog
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