Battery experts told us they were not surprised by the A123 announcement, mainly because the lithium-iron phosphate chemistry it is using has long had a reputation for being less volatile than other lithium-ion chemistries.
"I wouldn't classify this as a breakthrough," said Elton Cairns, a battery expert and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California-Berkeley. "It's not like they've invented a new chemistry here. But it's been known by people who work on batteries that this material is much more stable than oxide-based materials. You don't get the thermal runaway with this that you might with other chemistries."
If the Nanophosphate EXT helps eliminate the battery cooling systems on big electric cars, it could be meaningful for EV engineers. Many electric cars employ liquid-based coolants, along with the associated pumps, compressors, and machined plates containing channels that permit the coolant to flow. In an MIT Technology Review article this week on the A123 announcement, a National Renewable Energy Lab engineer said the savings for automakers from the new chemistry could climb as high as 10 to 20 percent per battery pack. Some big EV batteries now cost upwards of $30,000.
Experts said they expect automakers to take a hard look at the possibility of eliminating their cooling systems. "We don't know if they'll want to eliminate the cooling system," Cairns said. "That's an engineering design choice based on how warm they want the battery to get."
A123 has recently fallen on hard times as a result of a $55 million battery recall and a $125 million net loss in the first quarter of 2011. In light of its recent struggles, industry analysts said they would wait to see how significant the Nanophosphate EXT announcement really is.
"If it does everything they claim, then it's a pretty good step forward," said Dave Hurst, senior analyst for Pike Research. "But we'll just have to wait until it gets into a vehicle to see how important it is."
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller.
First never believe anything Pike says as they are mostly wrong. Not sure who is paying them off or if they are just incompendent. Likely getting paid to give a customers viewpoint/bias.
Next as an EV designer, builder and driver one should never design a larger battery pack without cooling. Cars get 60C just sitting in the summer sun turned off. Just ask anyone in the south.
EV's shouldn't have more than 100-150 mile range as after that a ICE generator is far more cost effective and gives unlimited range. All my EV's have or will have a 40lb generator giving unlimitede range. 80 mile range is probably the sweet spot.
A123's have so little resistance they put out huge amounts if specific power with little heat generation. I agree this is just a small improvement mostly gained by higher battery weight/kwhr. This means more material though as they said, Iron, alum, Lithium, plastic, etc is cheap with most under $4/lb and averaging about $6/lb. Most Lithium batts are about 22 lbs so it's just not that costly.
I buy complete A123 battery pack systems/BMS, etc for about $700/kwhr custom made from cylinder cells that can and has done 170mph and 7.9sec 1/4 mile though that was recently broken to 200mph and 6.9sec EV IIRC.
Beth, you are right there. Time is an issue. It takes time to prove a technology does in practice what it does in the lab. I think they have something here, and it is a good trend. Let's see if investors think so too.
On paper, or maybe even in limited testing, it seems like A123 has made a big leap with its lithium-ion cells in terms of reducing cooling requirements. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of skepticism that the company will have to over come. Commercializing these efforts will take a lot of time and money, which is something A123 and its battery maker competitors don't necessarily have.
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