Lack of demand is already causing problems for some lithium-ion battery manufacturers. In recent years, two lithium-ion battery makers -- A123 Systems and Ener1 -- have filed for bankruptcy protection. And in February, a US Department of Energy investigation discovered that idle employees of LG Chem Ltd. were playing board games, watching movies, and volunteering at local non-profit organizations during work hours, after the company took more than $150 million in federal funds to help build its battery cell manufacturing plant. The battery manufacturer was subsequently asked to repay $842,000 in taxpayer funds.
Experts say the situation has been getting worse for lithium-ion, following the massive public attention of overheating incidents on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. “The glamour has definitely faded for lithium,” Cole told us. “The Boeing situation was the crowning blow.”
To be sure, lithium-ion will continue to play a role. Ford Motor Co. announced late last year that all its new hybrids would migrate to lithium-ion. And Pike Research declared earlier this year that the emergence of plug-in hybrids would boost lithium-ion sales over the next few years. ”Sales of lithium-ion batteries will be better than they have been,” analyst Dave Hurst of Pike Research told us. “But they still won’t be very good.”
The question now is how much of the hybrid market will still belong to lithium-ion. Most industry analysts still expect plug-in hybrids to be the province of lithium-ion batteries. However, the low end of the hybrid market -- mild hybrids and start-stop micro-hybrids -- will be a mix, with lead-acid, nickel-metal hydride, and lithium-ion grabbing chunks of the market.
”Lithium-ion is still a very solid player,” Cole said. “But now we’re entering a more realistic period with respect to batteries. The hype is over. The cost is going to have to come down now."
Interesting story, Chuck. I think it's a bit early to count out lithium ion, especially with some new research in different chemistries. But with all the negative publicity and the current limitations of the technology, there is certainly room for another battery chemistry to take its place.
If they could do something to improve the old technology that would be fantastic. Lead-acid is forgiving and easily remanufactured, but it's also heavy and has a poor life-cycle under constant use. It's great for starting cars, though.
Alternatives to the internal combustion engine. A dressed up older battery technology may help break through the difficulties. Or perhaps something else. So far it looks like lithium-ion will see some challenges.
Lead-acid batteries have lowest energy-to-weight and energy-to-volume designs, making them very big and heavy for the total amount of power that they can put out. But they do have a very high surge-to-weight ratio, which means that they have the capacity to deliver a big jolt of electricity all at once. This feature makes lead-acid battries perfect for applications that need a big, sudden surge of power, such as car starters.
Weight is a major issue. I have an electric mower that I modified so I could run from a battery pack and charge it with solar panels. Yes, a green lawn mower. It cost more than I will ever save in fuel, and the original 17AH SLA cells only last about three years. I repacked the mower with a 10AH NiMh that produces the same run time at about 1/3 the weight, a huge savings.
I only have one season in the NiMh pack, so I can't comment on life, but there is one downside. It's very easy to monitor the State Of Charge (SOC) for SLA cells, but impossible with NiMh. Since I charge with solar panels I have no way of knowing how much energy is going into the cells, so I had to add a Coulomb counter to monitor the charge. There are plenty of charge monitors on the market used for model aircraft and the like, but they have quiescent currents in the tens of mA range, not suitable when a cloudy day only yields that much from the panels, so I had to build my own monitor that idles in the uA range. Like I said, I'm never going to recoup the cost from fuel savings, but it's been a good learning experience.
So, from what I've learned, SLA is heavy, has a poor service life for a constant draw in the 1/2C range, but is very easy to monitor the SOC. The current NiMh technology is fairly light and handles a 1C draw very well, but you can't monitor the SOC very well.
Multiple problems from this PR. First I've driven lead power EV's for 15 yrs and they work very well thank you.
But the $ values in the piece have little to do with reality. If any OEM is paying more than $250/kwhr for Lithium cells they are fools. Retail is $400/kwhr with many reliable choices now. It's almost low enough to get me to switch and will when this set of batteries wear out.
Yet that is what the lead he says would cost. In fact OEM lead costs are well under $70/kwhr as I get them for that.
While lead is heavy and the rule of thumb is you need 100 lbs of battery/ 100 lbs of vehicle for an honest 100 mile range.
The way to make this work is make the vehicle lightweight, low aero, rolling, etc drag. This in as strong as a steel one would weigh 500-600lbs for a nice, safe 2 seater. So for 100 mile range you'd need just 600lbs of battery which equals 12 golf cart batteries.
As lead is by law 100% recycleable you just pay to have it reformed after the first set, $700 OEM which would be needed every 4-7 yrs or so at 50% of that.
But vehicles like that would only cost $8-10k and never rust away needing few parts and big auto can't have that!!
I should also note that all this is 1960's tech!!
But as lithium is lightweight and the 22lbs/kwhr are mostly common 1- $4/lb and only .5 of not expensive, $8/lb lithium. Iron, copper, alum, plastic, carbonate are most of the rest so within 5 yrs lithium will be as cheap as lead, winning the race.
I also use electric mowers, but I coose the plug in variety, so that I never need to recharge them or replace those short-lived battery packs. Now I am on mower #4, because they do wear out eventually, usually a motor failure. My friends with the batter mowers can usually get one mowing per charge, unless the grass is a little bit higher, in which case they can't mow the whole lawn at one time.
Probably the present level of development will be adequate for the stop-start driving mode, except for those vehicles with the air conditioning system running constantly. That mode is simply not compatible with stop-start driving. so while the best use of staop-start will both reduce pollution and improve mileage a lot, I can't predict that it will be accepted by a large portion of the driving population. Of course, it may be possible to produce a car that has a much lower cooling requirement so that the ten horsepower air conditioning system would not be needed. That is probably the single huge engineering obstacle that we have in store between current and future autos.
I'd like to see an unbiased analysis of the real, long term environmental impact of electric and/or electric hybrid vehicles verses internal combustion engines. These are touted as being green, but when the full impact of all these batteries is included, my suspicion is they will pale in comparison to a efficient IC engine. Europe, New Zealand, and Australia have been using clean burning 3-cylinder diesel engines that get 60 MPG for years. Meanwhile excessive government regulations and the green propaganda has clouded the US from a real technical assessment of the problem and the best solutions.
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
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