Car makers in the UK and Japan are starting to design vehicles using a new battery technology originally developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). The UltraBattery, manufactured by CSIRO’s Japanese partner Furukawa Battery Company, combines a lead-acid battery with a supercapacitor to create a cheaper, longer lasting and more powerful battery for hybrid electric vehicles.
“The exciting thing about our UltraBattery is that it uses the familiar and low-cost lead-acid battery as a starting point but with our technology it takes on the characteristics that make it suitable for full hybrid and PHEV applications,” says David Lamb, low emissions transport theme leader for CSIRO.
Over a 12-month period the UltraBattery was tested in a hybrid electric test car on a track at the Millbrook Proving Ground in the UK where it surpassed 100,000 miles. The UltraBattery has a fast output for acceleration and when used with regenerative breaking can rapidly absorb energy normally wasted through the brakes.
The UltraBattery is currently only available for hybrid electric vehicles and has not yet been tested on pure electric vehicles. “The battery is not intended to go on sale as a replacement for regular car batteries, at least not for some time,” says Lamb. “The real opportunity is to ‘design-in’ to new vehicle designs.”
One compromise in the use of these batteries is their weight; it is much greater than conventional NiMH or Li-ion batteries. For the case of the test drive in the UK, the battery used weighs 45 kg versus a NiMH pack at 28 kg. The choice, according to Lamb, is between a 3-percent loss in fuel economy with the CSIRO battery and an added cost of approximately $2000 for traditional batteries.