Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lithium Ion Batteries for Hybrids Coming Soon

It looks like volume-production lithium ion batteires for use in hybrid electric vehicles could be coming soon.

Green Car Congress reports that the Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions (JCS) joint venture has signed a letter of intent with a major vehicle manufacturer to supply lithium-ion hybrid vehicle batteries. The LOI is for the development phase, which is expected to lead to volume production for a late 2008 model year vehicle.

JCS will reportedly invest $15-$20 million for the production of the lithium batteries. This will be the first JCS European HEV lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant.

Last month, the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) - a consortium of the US Council for Automotive Research&mash;an umbrella organization for collaborative research among DaimlerChrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. - awarded the JCS joint venture a 24-month contract to continue its development work for advanced, Li-Ion batteries for HEVs.

The focus of that project is on accelerating Li-Ion technology development by improving battery power in low temperatures, and creating solutions that reduce battery system costs.

JCS says that it has made tremendous progress in both the chemistry and manufacturing of lithium-ion hybrid batteries for HEV applications since the launch of the joint venture in January 2006, due to the combined strengths of both parents.

Lithium ion batteries have had problems with safety, with cold starts and with charge times that have made them a second-choice to Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) batteries for hybrid applications, up to this point. However, Li Ion batteries offer:

  • superior power and energy densities to NiMH, and thus lighter weight;

  • lower volume-production costs (although slightly higher low volume production costs);

  • low self-discharge rate and significantly higher coulombic efficiency than NiMH (~100% for Li Ion and <66% for NiMH) - coulombic efficiency refers to the portion of energy recovered from the battery that is initially used to charge the battery (i.e., energy out divided by energy in).

  • does not suffer from the 'memory effect' (NiMH suffer from minor memory effect, although not as bad as Ni Cadmium batteries)

  • These characteristics make Li Ion batteries the presumed long-term replacement for NiMH (although carbon-nanotube ultracapacitors could give Li Ion a run for its money eventually) and it looks like the time is nearing when Li Ion batteries begin to replace NiMH for use in automotive applications.

    [It's also worth noting that it seems like the large majority of hybrid and electric concept cars unveiled in the past year have featured lithium ion battery packs (see for example: the Ford Reflex hybrid, Subaru's B5-TPH hybrid and R1e urban electric car, and Mitsubishi's Concept-CT hybrid all shown at the Detroit Auto Show plus Mitsu's Concept-EZ electric vehicle, Volvo's 3CC hybrid, and of course the smokin' Tesla Roadster to name a few (dozen)).]

    2 comments:

    Tom Konrad said...

    I hope they have better quality control than Sony's Li+ batteris that went into Dell and Apple laptops. Still, we need PHEVs *now*, and Litium Ion is the most power dense storage currently available...

    WattHead said...

    Tom wrote: "I hope they have better quality control than Sony's Li+ batteris that went into Dell and Apple laptops. "

    Yeah, no kidding! That was a major 'whoops' moment (and I'm sure somebody got fired over the recall).