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Monday 13 December 2010

World’s smallest battery created at CINT nanotechnology center.

A benchtop version of the world’s smallest battery — its anode a single nanowire one seven-thousandth the thickness of a human hair — has been created by a team led by Sandia National Laboratories researcher Jianyu Huang.

To better study the anode’s characteristics, the tiny rechargeable, lithium-based battery was formed inside a transmission electron microscope (TEM) at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), a Department of Energy research facility jointly operated by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

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Says Huang of the work, reported in the Dec. 10 issue of the journal Science, “This experiment enables us to study the charging and discharging of a battery in real time and at atomic scale resolution, thus enlarging our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which batteries work.

Because nanowire-based materials in lithium ion batteries offer the potential for significant improvements in power and energy density over bulk electrodes, more stringent investigations of their operating properties should improve new generations of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, laptops and cell phones.

What motivated our work,” says Huang, “is that lithium ion batteries LIB have very important applications, but the low energy and power densities of current LIBs cannot meet the demand. To improve performance, we wanted to understand LIBs from the bottom up, and we thought in-situ TEM could bring new insights to the problem.”

Battery research groups do use nanomaterials as anodes, but in bulk rather than individually — a process, Huang says, that resembles “looking at a forest and trying to understand the behavior of an individual tree.”

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The tiny battery created by Huang and co-workers consists of a single tin oxide nanowire anode 100 nanometers in diameter and 10 micrometers long, a bulk lithium cobalt oxide cathode three millimeters long, and an ionic liquid electrolyte. The device offers the ability to directly observe change in atomic structure during charging and discharging of the individual “trees.”

An unexpected find of the researchers was that the tin oxide nanowire rod nearly doubles in length during charging — far more than its diameter increases — a fact that could help avoid short circuits that may shorten battery life. “Manufacturers should take account of this elongation in their battery design,” Huang said. (The common belief of workers in the field has been that batteries swell across their diameter, not longitudinally.)

Huang’s group found this flaw by following the progression of the lithium ions as they travel along the nanowire and create what researchers christened the “Medusa front” — an area where high density of mobile dislocations cause the nanowire to bend and wiggle as the front progresses. The web of dislocations is caused by lithium penetration of the crystalline lattice. “These observations prove that nanowires can sustain large stress (>10 GPa) induced by lithiation without breaking, indicating that nanowires are very good candidates for battery electrodes,” said Huang.

Our observations — which initially surprised us — tell battery researchers how these dislocations are generated, how they evolve during charging, and offer guidance in how to mitigate them,” Huang said. “This is the closest view to what’s happening during charging of a battery that researcher have achieved so far.”

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Lithiation-induced volume expansion, plasticity and pulverization of electrode materials are the major mechanical defects that plague the performance and lifetime of high-capacity anodes in lithium-ion batteries, Huang said. “So our observations of structural kinetics and amorphization the change from normal crystalline ... have important implications for high-energy battery design and in mitigating battery failure.”

The electronic noise level generated from the researchers’ measurement system was too high to read electrical currents, but Sandia co-author John Sullivan estimated a current level of a picoampere flowing in the nanowire during charging and discharging. The nanowire was charged to a potential of about 3.5 volts, Huang said.

A picoampere is a millionth of a microampere. A microampere is a millionth of an ampere.

The reason that atomic-scale examination of the charging and discharging process of a single nanowire had not been possible was because the high vacuum in a TEM made it difficult to use a liquid electrolyte. Part of the Huang group’s achievement was to demonstrate that a low-vapor-pressure ionic liquid — essentially, molten salt —could function in the vacuum environment.

Although the work was carried out using tin oxide (SnO2) nanowires, the experiments can be extended to other materials systems, either for cathode or anode studies, Huang said.

The methodology that we developed should stimulate extensive real-time studies of the microscopic processes in batteries and lead to a more complete understanding of the mechanisms governing battery performance and reliability,” he said. “Our experiments also lay a foundation for in-situ studies of electrochemical reactions, and will have broad impact in energy storage, corrosion, electrodeposition and general chemical synthesis research field.”

Other researchers contributing to this work include Xiao Hua Liu, Nicholas Hudak, Arunkumar Subramanian and Hong You Fan, all of Sandia; Li Zhong, Scott Mao and Li Qiang Zhang of the University of Pittsburgh; Chong Min Wang and Wu Xu of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and Liang Qi, Akihiro Kushima and Ju Li of the University of Pennsylvania.

Funding came from Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development Office and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science through the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies and the Energy Frontier Research Centers program.

Source: NanoTechWire.com, December 12th, 2010

More electric cars, plug-in hybrids to come out over the next few years.

Every major automaker plans some sort of electric or plug-in hybrid offering over the next several years, a wave of competing technologies reminiscent of the beginning of the automobile age.

General Motors Co. this month will start shipping its Chevrolet Volt, which uses a gas engine to generate electricity when the batteries run out. It will be available for sale in California in December. Next week, Nissan Motor Co., whose North American headquarters are based in Franklin, will launch its Leaf, which is powered only by batteries.

Ford will come out with an all-electric version of its Focus compact car next year.

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In November, the Japanese automaker Toyota became the latest to unveil a pure electric vehicle, the RAV4 compact crossover, showing it off at the Los Angeles auto show. It's scheduled to go on sale sometime in 2012.

In Middle Tennessee, Nissan will spend more than $1 billion to build a lithium-ion battery plant and add a Leaf assembly line at its Smyrna manufacturing complex for the Leaf, with production to begin there in late 2012.

Until then, the company will import Leafs from a plant in Japan that has limited capacity, which means the vehicles will be in short supply until the Smyrna operation goes online.

Others planning to introduce electrics over the next two years include Fiat, Honda, Mitsubishi, Smart and Mini.

"Electric vehicles are finally real and not an R&D project," said Mark Sogomian, a partner at Ernst & Young.

Source: Tennessean.com, by G. Chambers Williams III, December 12th, 2010

Sunday 28 November 2010

President Obama Takes Break from NATO, Afghanistan to Check out Hybrid Car.

Taking a break from sessions on NATO and Afghanistan, President Obama got a look at a plug-in hybrid car on display at the convention center in Lisbon.

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The electric/gas vehicle is an Opel Ampera, produced in Detroit where the GM Chevy Volt is made. It has the same technology as the Volt and both will be marketed in Europe starting in late 2011, according to Guillermo Sarmiento, managing director of GM Portugal, and Volker Hoff, vice president of Opel.

Mr. Obama sat in the driver’s seat and got an explainer on the car from Hoff. The president noted to the pool reporters watching the demonstration that the engine was silent – “Can’t hear it, can you?” he asked?

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You couldn’t hear the engine but you could hear a continuous ding-ding-ding – the president left the car door open as he chatted with Hoff. .

“Another example of GM technology that is going to have great appeal here in Europe,” the president said.

Mr. Obama has spoken frequently about the potential for hybrid cars and he noted that Portugal has placed an emphasis on the vehicles, offering subsidies. He said he hopes to GM will market this car “all across Europe”

“These gentleman are excited about the prospects,” he said of Sarmiento and Hoff. “This is the future. Right here”

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The car may be a collector’s item – President Obama inked his autograph on the rear driver’s side panel. Hoff and Sarmiento said after the demonstration that they want to get other world leaders to sign it and then put the vehicle in a museum.

Source: ABCNews, by Karen Travers and David Kerley, November 20th, 2010

GM's Chevy Volt wins Green Car of the Year

The Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car, the centerpiece of a revitalized General Motors Co, was named 2011 Green Car of the Year on Thursday.

The highly anticipated Volt received the industry's top environmental honor the same day GM shares began trading -- the biggest U.S. IPO ever.

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The Volt edged out the Nissan Leaf and three other gas-sipping cars for the prize, which is awarded by Green Car Journal.

"With the Volt we are making a bold pronouncement," said Joel Ewanick, GM's marketing chief, who accepted the award for the company. "We need to be more aware of CO2 and fuel efficiency and it's a great start, but we're many, many years away from making that leap to where we need to be."

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Winning Green Car of the Year is yet another feather in the cap of the recovering 102-year-old automaker, which went from near-death in 2008 to a 2009 government bailout and bankruptcy to 2010 unlikely Wall Street flotation favorite.

General Motors' Volt, which its makers have touted as the symbol of a leaner and greener U.S. auto industry, is designed to run on electric power for about 40 miles, at which point it relies on a gasoline engine to charge the battery.

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The Nissan Motor Co Ltd Leaf is a plug-in that runs fully on electric power. The Leaf will, on full charge, run for 100 miles or so, depending on road and weather conditions.

Other finalists for the award included Ford Motor Co's new Fiesta, which can achieve 40 miles per gallon in highway driving. It was the only finalist not to use electric drive.

Two hybrids, the Hyundai Motor Co Sonata Hybrid and Ford's Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, were also in the running.

In limited numbers, both the Volt and the Leaf will be available in some areas of the United States later this year.

Source: Reuters, November 18th, 2010

It’s Electric! Dutch McDonald’s offering vehicle charging stations

One McDonald’s franchisee in The Netherlands is really thinking ahead. Panky Nefkens, who operates McDonald’s in Lelystad and Almere, is now offering his customers the chance to charge their electric cars and scooters.

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According to EV World, two EV-Box Charging Stations were put into service at the quick-service restaurants on Nov. 11, which is marked as “National Sustainability Day” in The Netherlands. It does not cost money for customers to charge their electric vehicles at these locations.

McDonald’s Corp. is no stranger to implementing environmentally-conscious practices. For example, 20 years ago, it became the first Fortune 500 company to work with an environmental group toward achieving sustainable solutions. In Switzerland, the company installed dry urinals to cut water consumption in 2008, and began converting cooking oil into biofuel to operate delivery trucks. Also, a handful of franchisees have subscribed to stringent LEED certifications in overhauling their specific locations, prompting the company to turn their iconic Golden Arches green.

With his units’ McDrive feature, Nefkens said it was important for him to stop talking about the environment and act. In addition to implementing the stations, he also issued an electric vehicle for the restaurant manager and an electric scooter for staff.

Source: QSRweb.com, November 24th, 2010

Saturday 18 September 2010

Ford Canada's CEO: Gas prices will spark electric vehicle growth.

Only a small percentage of consumers will switch to battery-only powered vehicles by the next decade, says the president and CEO of the Ford Motor Co. of Canada.

During a luncheon speech presented by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, David Mondragon predicted fuel prices will rise by 2012 with oil prices at or above $120 a barrel.

That will lead consumers to look for more fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars.

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"As fuel prices go up, the viability of pure electric vehicles becomes much more relevant to consumers and much more affordable," said Mondragon in an interview after his speech.

"(But) we still have a major hurdle to overcome with regard to infrastructure."

The surging oil price will have a ripple through to gas prices and the segmentation in the auto industry of more trucks sold than cars will shift to smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles being more attractive to consumers.

However, Mondragon said by 2020, internal combustion engines will represent about 75% of global demand. Hybrids could represent 20% to 25% and pure battery electric vehicles could represent only 1% or 2% of industry sales.

Mondragon said a number of factors will hold back the consumer market in electric cars. Cost of ownership is one major factor. The average payback of a hybrid today is about seven years, while for a pure electric vehicle it ranges from 10 to 15 years depending on government incentives.

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He also said charging electric vehicles can double the daily household use of electricity. The current infrastructure grid is not capable of handling the demands.

"We still have a major hurdle to overcome with regard to infrastructure and we need a lot of charging infrastructure throughout the country and it needs to be feasible for consumers as well."

Mondragon said Ford is investing nearly $1 billion on electric technology. The company, he said, is the No. 1 hybrid producer in North America.

"We're bringing to market, over the next couple of years, five new electrified vehicles," said Mondragon, who was also in Calgary for the official grand opening of the Woodridge Ford Lincoln dealership.

"Over the next 10 years, we'll come to market with many more hybrid vehicles than pure electric vehicles and it goes back to this infrastructure issue."

Source: The Calgary Herald, by Mario Toneguzzi, September 17th, 2010

Clever cars to mean safer driving.

Sensors embedded in future vehicles could also let emergency services work out the severity of the crash and how many people were involved. The predictions came at a symposium considering the changes ushered in by the spread of small, smart processors.

The growing number of on-board computers could also spell big changes for the way people drive. "The car is probably going to be the most compute-intensive possession that we will have," said Steve Wainwright, European manager at Freescale Semiconductor which makes many of the chips inside car control systems.

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Mr Wainwright said average cars have 25-30 electronic control units onboard already and high-end cars probably carry up to 80. These tiny computers are in charge of many car systems such as stability control, power distribution, safety and many others.

Increasingly, said Mr Wainwright, they are helping to augment a person's driving skill and that trend would only continue as technologies such as collision detection systems and radar become more commonplace.

"All of us who feel we are better drivers now than we were 10 years ago, that's probably because we are getting more help then we realise," he said at the Future World Sympoisum, a conference organised by the UK's National Microelectronics Institute.

Quick response Paul Burnley, an analyst from automotive market research firm SBD, said cars in the future would be among the first to react after a crash. They might send data about their location and the number of occupants in a car to get the emergency services responding much more quickly. "More advanced systems will be capable of sending data from distributed sensors in the car to the emergency services," he said. "Perhaps letting them analyse this and build a profile of the crash and evaluate the risk of serious injury to the occupants."

Clever in-car systems would be essential as the world moves from petrol-driven cars to hybrid and electric vehicles, he said."The 'hop in the car and drive where you want' mentality is not one we can carry forward to electric vehicles," he said. "Fears about range anxiety and charging infrastructure are starting to dominate discussions about such vehicles."

Only with sensors that can accurately determine the distance a car can travel given the charge in its batteries and know the location of the nearest charging station, will the move to electric vehicles be more palatable, he said.

Source: BBC News, by Mark Ward, September 17th, 2010

What BMW's Learned So Far From the Mini-E Electric Car Trial.

As the second half of the twelve month MINI E field trial begins this week, the outcome of interviews and objective data collected from the first three months, of the December to June 2010 phase of the trial has now been analysed. The key results show that MINI and the BMW Group are gleaning valuable learning that will help shape the specification and operating characteristics of its Megacity vehicle which will make its debut in 2013.

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The key findings from the first six months of the UK field trial are as follows:

  • MINI E usage differs only marginally from a control group of MINI Cooper and BMW 116i drivers in terms of average journey distance, daily mileage and frequency of use.
  • Before the trials began, users expected limitations in terms of range and charging times. In practice these have only proved to be barriers in a very few specific cases.
  • Users felt reassured that both the MINI E itself and the charging process are completely safe.
  • There was a very strong feeling from both private and fleet users that renewable energy should play an important role in future electricity generation. There was also a strong feeling that the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) should be charged using renewables to optimise the ecological advantages of an EV.
  • The BMW Group is trusted to provide a technically mature solution to the challenges presented by EVs. Users reported a need for more interior space for journeys requiring more passengers and more storage capacity.
  • Users felt strongly that public charging facilities for EVs were desirable and even essential. However, at the same time, the majority claimed that they coped without public charging facilities.
  • In summary, users liked MINI E’s lack of noise, the convenience of home charging, low off peak power charges, not having to go to a petrol station and queue, driving a zero emissions vehicle, MINI E’s acceleration characteristics and regenerative braking.
  • Drawbacks include current mileage range for certain journeys, limited carrying capacity and sub-optimal car performance during the extremely cold weather conditions in December 2009 and January 2010.

MINI E average trip distance mirrors that of cars in the same segment The National Travel Survey reveals that the average single trip length for car users in the UK is 8.6 miles, a distance almost exactly matched by MINI E drivers at 8.5 miles. Using the same survey data, 90% of all trips are 15 miles or under, while another 8% are between 20 and 35 mile. Only 2% are above 35 miles. Using a control group of MINI Cooper and BMW 116i customers these statistics are reinforced, MINI Cooper drivers averaging 7.3 miles and 116i drivers only 6.8 miles. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that there are no objective limitations on average daily use for MINI E drivers.

The same conclusions can be drawn by analysing average daily distance driven. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirms that 22.8 miles is the average private daily mileage across the UK. For MINI Cooper and 116i it is 27.0 and 26.1 respectively while, again, MINI E experience slots right in the middle at 26.7 miles. The conclusion is that MINI E daily driving use matches cars in a similar segment almost exactly.

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Reasons for non use Naturally not all trips could be taken in the MINI E. Reasons quoted by users for not using their MINI E were for longer journeys (89 per cent said this had occurred for them) and limited space, either for carrying shopping or because they needed more than two seats. Lack of space was quoted by 67 per cent of users for not using MINI E on odd occasions. These are characteristics that the future Megacity vehicle will address.

Charged experiences The process of charging MINI E from the charging box supplied and fitted at users’ homes was convenient and appreciated by the MINI E pioneers. On average the cars were charged every two to three days. Two thirds of users charged their car three times a week or less while only six per cent charged daily. It is clear that users quickly adapted to charging overnight when electricity costs are cheaper and it also suited the daily routine of the drivers.

When asked whether users saw a need for a public charging infrastructure 87.5 per cent agreed that it is necessary, with only 12.5 per cent seeing no need. However 75 per cent of all users also said they could use their MINI E without a comprehensive charging infrastructure.

In summary the home charging was seen as safe and easy to operate, users easily adapted to a charging routine and most charged their MINI E overnight. Actual charging times were seen as efficient with some users becoming so happy with it they found it more convenient than having to queue up at a petrol station. Participants would like a public charging system but did not need to rely on one.

Renewable energy All users, both fleet and private, feel that renewable energy generation should play an important role in future electricity generation. There is a similar agreement from users that it is important to charge the MINI E batteries with renewable energy with 100 per cent of fleet users and 89 per cent of private drivers holding this opinion. However, only 22 per cent of private, and 72 per cent of fleet, drivers thought that EVs should be exclusively powered by renewable energy.

The $64 million question - would they buy one? Would this early experience of MINI E encourage the pioneers to buy an electric vehicle? The initial conclusion from the first phase of the trial is a resounding, but qualified, ‘yes’. The MINI E drivers all appreciated the use of a zero-emissions car that removed emissions from their immediate environment, the reduced reliance on fossil fuels and the lower noise pollution inherent with an EV. They also appreciated the dynamic acceleration characteristics of MINI E and its regenerative braking performance.

There are, of course, barriers to a possible future purchase. Both the current driving range and the carrying capacity for passengers and cargo are viewed as limiting factors. Also, the sub-optimal performance of the car in very cold weather needs improvement.

On balance, though, all were convinced about the viability of electric vehicles in an everyday UK road environment and to a man, and woman, all claimed that taking part in this study had increased their enthusiasm to buy an EV as well as reducing the time frame in which they plan to do so.

There is the small question of price as well. Like all drivers their purchase intentions are price-sensitive. However almost half of the users stated that they would pay one third more than a conventional MINI in order to benefit from the advantages of a more sustainable form of personal mobility. This implies a UK acceptable price of around £16,000. The strength of purchase intention would be increased with improvements to luggage and passenger space.

“ The early learning from this first stage of the MINI E trials has given us very positive feedback and pointers as to where we will need to improve” explained Jochen Goller, Director of MINI UK. “One has to remember that MINI E, despite being very thoroughly engineered for its task, is in the end a modified existing production MINI Hatch. An EV designed from the ground up will be able to address some of the criticism on packaging and driving range. That is precisely the reason we are holding these trials.”

“We are very confident that the full 12 month trial under real road conditions with real people will help us greatly in producing an exciting and extremely efficient vehicle for the urban environments of the future” Goller continued. “We are truly grateful to the 80 pioneers who are helping to shape the future of the sustainable electric car. They are people who care about the future of our planet as much as they do about the mobility of its inhabitants” he concluded.

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of The Technology Strategy Board said,

“We created the Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator competition to act as a catalyst for industry, the public sector and academia to come together to create low emission vehicles and provide solutions to powering them. Many trials have already begun and it is planned that within the next six months around 340 vehicles will be on the UK’s roads. The majority of the vehicles are electric, with a small number being plug-in petrol/electric hybrids. The information gained from this project will make an important contribution to the future plans of manufacturers and their partners, to develop low carbon vehicles for the mass market.”

The future is Megacity BMW Group’s strategy to meet the needs for a sustainable future has four strands. Today, there are exceptionally efficient internal combustion engines, both diesel and petrol-powered, which are now being joined by hybrid technology taking an initial step towards the electrification of the driveline. The next step is a fully electric vehicle which will be available for customers in 2013. The Megacity Vehicle (MCV) combines all of BMW Group’s expertise in lightweight engineering, electric drive technology and dynamic driving characteristics in one unique, ground-breaking vehicle.

BMW engineers are developing a revolutionary LifeDrive concept that comprises a completely new vehicle architecture adapted to the demands of future sustainable mobility. The entire powertrain, the electric motor, power electronics and the battery system, are all being developed in house. LifeDrive consists of two horizontally separated, independent modules. The Drive module integrates the battery, drive system and structural and crash functions into a single construction within the chassis. Its partner, the Life module, consists primarily of a high-strength and extremely lightweight passenger cell made from Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics (CFRP). Furthermore, the new vehicle architecture opens the door to totally new production processes which are both simpler and more flexible, and use less energy.

Carbon fibre bodywork not only provides immense strength but is also extremely light. Using this form of construction will reduce car weight by 250 to 350kgs which in turn will offset almost all the extra weight created by the batteries. The Megacity will be the first volume-produced automobile to employ the significant benefits afforded by carbon technology.

The MINI E field trial is informing the design and development process for Megacity which will provide a practical, efficient and sustainable answer to the demand for zero-emissions urban mobility.

Source: EV World, September 15th, 2010

Monday 30 August 2010

Panasonic, Samsung Battery Price War May Intensify.

Panasonic Corp. and Samsung SDI Co., the world’s two largest makers of rechargeable batteries, may deepen price cuts this year as overproduction worsens a glut in the industry, analysts said.

Lithium-ion battery prices may tumble 19% in 2010, the biggest drop in five years, said Hideo Takeshita, an analyst at the Institute of Information Technology Ltd. in Tokyo. Shiro Mikoshiba, an analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc., said the worsening oversupply may push prices down as much as 25%.

The price drops highlight how battery makers in Japan and South Korea, accounting for 75% of global production, may be sacrificing profit for market share as automobiles with no gas tanks are projected to help triple sales of lithium-ion cells in six years. Cheaper batteries may lead to lower costs at carmakers such as Nissan Motor Co., whose all-electric $32,780 Leaf sedan is scheduled to go on sale in November.

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Battery makers will probably go through a tough time with falling prices,” said Mitsushige Akino at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co., who oversees about $450 million in assets in Tokyo. “The business may become lucrative only for a couple of companies with dominant market share. Others may never be able to make money.”

Winning the Battle

South Korean battery makers including Samsung and LG Chem Ltd. may better cope with lower prices than Japanese rivals because they purchase materials more cheaply from China and have faster production, Takeshita said. The won’s weakness against the yen also makes Korean products more competitive, he said.

We anticipate the harsh price competition with South Korean makers will continue,” said Akira Kadota, a spokesman at Osaka-based Panasonic. “We are reviewing our production process to strengthen our cost competitiveness so that we can win the battle.”

Panasonic, which vaulted atop the rechargeable-battery industry with its purchase of Sanyo Electric Co., rose 1.6 percent to 1,060 yen as of the 11 a.m. break in Tokyo trading, narrowing its loss this year to 20 percent. Samsung SDI, the battery-making unit of South Korea’s largest industrial group, fell as much as 4.1 percent.

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Samsung SDI was downgraded to “reduce” from “hold” at BNP Paribas Securities (Asia). Analyst Peter Yu cited excessive hype about batteries for electric vehicles as part of the reason, according to his report today. The stock has gained 19 percent this year.

$30 Billion Industry

Samsung SDI, based in Yongin, South Korea, will likely overtake Panasonic’s Sanyo as the world’s top producer of lithium-ion batteries this year, according to estimates at the Institute of Information Technology. Samsung SDI spokesman Seo Hae Soo declined to comment on the outlook for prices.

LG Chem, the third-largest maker of rechargeable batteries, expects price drops to persist, spokesman Terry Lee said. Falling prices of the product won’t have a serious impact on the company’s profit because LG Chem is buying lithium at competitive prices, he said.

At stake is leadership in an industry that Panasonic estimates will grow to 2.5 trillion yen ($30 billion) by 2015 from 926 billion yen last year. Shipments of lithium-ion batteries are estimated to rise 31% in 2010, after a 2% drop last year, according to the Institute of Information Technology.

Electric Vehicles

While lithium-ion cells are mainly used to power laptop computers and mobile phones, electric vehicles may fuel most of the growth. Sales of batteries in electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars will increase to 1.7 trillion yen in 2020 from almost zero in 2009, according to March estimates at Daiwa Securities Group Inc.

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Panasonic, which has pledged to invest 300 billion (U$3.5 billion) yen in energy-related products over three years, started production of lithium-ion cells at a factory in Osaka in April, aiming to double its annual production to 600 million units. The company aims to triple sales of lithium-ion cells by March 2016, Naoto Noguchi, president of Panasonic’s battery unit, said in an interview this month.

Sony Corp. is spending 40 billion yen (U$470 million) to boost its monthly production capacity this year 80% from 2008. The company built a battery plant north of Tokyo in March and is adding facilities in Singapore and China.

Sony anticipates a difficult environment for the battery business because of competition and price declines, said Tomio Takizawa, a spokesman at the Tokyo-based electronics maker.

Samsung Group, whose units include SDI and top television- maker Samsung Electronics Co., said in May it plans to invest 5.4 trillion won (U$4.5 billion) in batteries for electric vehicles by 2020.

It’s a battle between the South Korean and Japanese makers,” Takeshita said. “They’re playing a game of endurance that’s eroding profitability.”

Source: BusinessWeek, by Mariko Yasu and Maki Shiraki, August 25th, 2010

Oconomowoc rolling out nation's largest fleet of plug-in hybrid school buses.

Some Wisconsin students will be getting to school in alternative transportation this year. They'll be riding in hybrid school buses.

Oconomowoc Transport has 11 plug-in, electric hybrid school buses in their fleet. They use diesel fuel to get started.

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Then at around 25 miles an hour, the engines switch over to electric power. That power is captured by solar panels and used to charge the buses' batteries.

The plug-in electric upgrade is paid for by a grant from the Wisconsin Clean Transportation Program, an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project.

"We're increasing the fuel economy by 50%, we're reducing emissions by 30 to 40 % on, on the vehicle, actually travelling down the road, and then it's travelling down the road with electric power that was generated with solar," said Sandy Syburg, President of Oconomowoc Transport.

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Oconomowoc Transport also put up money for the initial cost of the buses. But company officials say the savings to the school district and taxpayers is roughly 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel. At today's price, that's about $25,000 in savings. Oconomowoc Transport says the new hybrid buses meet all state and federal government safety standards.

Source: Fox11OnLine, August 26th, 2010

Toyota eyes 25% m.p.g. rise.

Toyota, the world's biggest carmaker, said it plans to improve average fuel efficiency by 25% by 2015 compared with that of 2005 to meet stricter government regulations in major markets.

To help meet that goal, Toyota aims to "ensure wider market acceptance" of electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars, which it plans to introduce in 2012, the Toyota City, Japan-based company said in a statement Wednesday.

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Carmakers including Nissan, Honda and General Motors also are readying vehicles that run entirely or in part on electricity as governments push for vehicles that will reduce gasoline use and trim carbon-dioxide emissions.

In addition to models developed internally, Toyota is developing a battery-powered version of the RAV4 sport-utility vehicle with Tesla, in which the Japanese carmaker bought a $50-million stake in May.

Toyota aims to sell "several tens of thousands" of plug-in hybrids a year globally, while sales of the electric car will be far fewer, Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada said in December.

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Toyota's plug-in, which can be recharged at household electrical outlets, initially runs solely on electricity generated by a lithium-ion battery. After about 14.5 miles of driving, a gasoline engine kicks in to run with the battery on a hybrid system. The overall fuel economy is about 134 m.p.g., according to the company. The carmaker started leasing the cars to governments and businesses in December. It hasn't released details on its electric car.

__Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn aims to have capacity to build 500,000 electric cars a year by 2012. He estimates demand for battery-only vehicles will reach 10% of the global car market by 2020.__ Toyota today reiterated its goal of selling 1 million hybrid cars annually and an accumulated 5 million units by the first half of this decade. Between 1997 and June this year, Toyota sold a total of 2.61 million hybrid cars globally, spokesman Paul Nolasco said by phone Wednesday.

Source: Freep, by Makiko Kitamura

Recovery Act Fuels New Clean Energy Dawn.

One of the most frequently reported on things here at EarthTechling is federal dollars from the Recovery Act earmarked for various clean energy programs. A new report issued yesterday by the White House and presented by Vice President Joe Biden highlights this in more detail, going into exactly how this Act’s $100 billion investment in innovation is “not only transforming the economy and creating new jobs, but helping accelerate significant advances in science and technology that cut costs for consumers, save lives and help keep America competitive in the 21st century economy.”

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The “The Recovery Act: Transforming the American Economy through Innovation” report, which can be viewed as a 50 page PDF, highlights a number of significant achievements which have been realized at a time of economic downturn through infusion from federal funds. These highlights, in regards to eco-focused actions, include being on track to cut the cost of solar power in half by 2015; cut the cost of electric vehicle batteries by 70% by 2015; and double renewable energy generation capacity and renewable energy manufacturing capacity by 2012.

In terms of specifics of the previously mentioned items, examples include lowering the cost of power from rooftop solar panels from $0.21 per kWh in 2009 to $0.10 per kWh in 2015, which is equivalent to typical household electricity rates; reducing costs of batteries for the typical all-electric vehicle from $33,000 to $10,000, and the cost of typical plug-in hybrid batteries from $13,000 to $4,000; and doubling renewable energy capacity from the 28.8 GW of solar, wind, and geothermal generation that has been installed as of 2008, to 57.6 GW by the end of 2011. This latter item is of particular note, as it is said to be enough capacity to power 16.7 million homes.

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From the beginning, we have been a nation of discovery and innovation – and today we continue in that tradition as Recovery Act investments pave the way for game-changing breakthroughs in transportation, energy and medical research,” said Vice President Biden in a statement. “We’re planting the seeds of innovation, but private companies and the nation’s top researchers are helping them grow, launching entire new industries, transforming our economy and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process.

Source: EarthTechling, by Nino Marchetti, August 25th, 2010

Friday 27 August 2010

Intertek Continues Investment Into Battery/Energy Storage Testing.

Intertek, a global leader in testing, inspection and certification, announces that it has made significant investments in new battery/energy storage test equipment throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. Recently the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) indicated a move toward "next generation" batteries which allow longer and faster run times, reduce dependence on other sources of energy, lessen the environmental impact of modern technologies, and lead to smaller and lighter electronics. Next generation batteries are predicted to impact nearly every industry, including solar energy, electric vehicles, wind energy, medical, IT and aerospace. Intertek is now poised to assist manufacturers to ensure battery safety, reliability and conformance to regulatory standards.

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Specifically addressing the rapidly evolving automotive battery market (hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and electric vehicles), Intertek’s Detroit, Michigan laboratory recently purchased 5 moderate and large format battery cycling systems. In addition to over 500 small format battery test stations, the new systems offer the ability to test up 30 mid-size and large format battery packs, for military, electric vehicle, and backup power/UPS applications.

With rapid advancements in battery and power source technologies, Intertek is responding to the needs of the market by investing in state-of-the-art test equipment around the world,” said Tim Hubbard, Director of Operations. “Combined with our energy storage advisory services, existing simulated durability and environmental test capabilities, Intertek is the only global, full-service provider that enables manufacturers to rapidly develop and launch safer, more reliable products that are dependant on power sources.”

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Along with the 2009 acquisition of Sagentia Catella AB, a world-renowned laboratory and consultancy for the battery/energy storage industry, this expansion fortifies Intertek’s position as the premier global service provider for battery and energy storage manufacturers.

Source: BusinessWire, August 26th, 2010

Ford, Seattle team up to prep for electric cars.

Seattle's been prepping for the arrival of electric cars for some time, and their makers have been watching. Nissan picked the city as a testing ground for its plug-in Leaf. Federal grants have been earmarked for charging stations across the city.

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Now, as Ford plans to launch its first mass market electric models, it has singled out a few markets where it might find the most early adopters. Seattle's near the top of the list; Ford and the city will announce a partnership Thursday to help prepare for the rollout.

"Seattle is going to be leading the way," said Ford vehicle electrification manager Mike Tinskey. "We saw a lot of hybrids in the Seattle area. We felt that was the right proxy as we go further and further into electrification," he said.

The partnership between Ford and the City of Seattle, including municipally-owned Seattle City Light, involves working with the state and local governments around permitting, electric vehicle tax incentives, and future legislation or regulations.

"I am pleased Seattle is working to support the environmental benefits of electric vehicles," Mayor Mike McGinn said in a press release ahead of Thursday's announcement. "We are working with Ford to better understand the needs these vehicles will have so we can provide local owners with excellent service to support electric cars when they enter the market."

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According to Tinskey, another reason Seattle was chosen is because much of the region's power is water-generated, so driving an electric car around Puget Sound means an even greater environmental benefit than in much of the country.

Ford is also partnering with Microsoft to design software drivers to monitor their electric car. "How much electricity do you use to power your home and how much to power your electric vehicle, it will tell you," Tinskey said.

Over the next two years, Ford will introduce the Transit Connect Electric small commercial van, the Ford Focus electric passenger car, and a plug-in hybrid.

Source: MYNorthwest, by Alex Silverman, August 26th, 2010

Thursday 26 August 2010

A brief presentation of the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf.

Hereby a short presentation of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, showing the advantages and differences of PHEVs and EVs.

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http://npr.vo.llnwd.net/kip0/_pxn=0+_pxK=17273/anon.npr-mp3/npr/atc/2010/08/20100812_atc_02.mp3?dl=1

This short presentation also emphasizes the fact that the charging infrastructure is extremely important.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

GM Ventures invests in commercial hybrid maker.

General Motors' venture capital company has made its first investment in a commercial hybrid vehicle maker, the companies said Tuesday.

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The initial funding amount was not disclosed.

Bright Automotive, based in Indiana, received the funding from General Motors Ventures LLC, which was formed in June to invest in companies that develop auto-related technologies.

The companies said in a release that the funding will help ramp up production in the third quarter of Bright Automotive's IDEA, a plug-in hybrid commercial van that is not yet available for sale.

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding in July to form a "strategic partnership."

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General Motors Ventures and Bright said they intend to complete formal agreements later this year that will give General Motors Ventures a minority stake in Bright Automotive. In turn, Bright would have access to GM technologies for the IDEA.

General Motors Ventures was funded with an initial investment of $100 million.

Source: BusinessWeek, August 3rd, 2010

Leaf beats Volt in race for state rebate cash.

Buy Nissan's new electric car, the Leaf, in California, and you may qualify for a $5,000 rebate from the state.

Buy the Leaf's closest competitor, the Chevrolet Volt, and the state will give you nothing.

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The Leaf and the Volt represent the next wave of plug-in cars, both of them hitting the market in California later this year. Nissan and General Motors are already taking reservations.

But of the two, only the Leaf will probably qualify this year for a rebate under a California program for cars that emit little or no tailpipe pollution. And that would contribute to a significant difference in price between the two cars.

State officials say Nissan has not yet submitted the formal paperwork to have the car certified for the rebate program. But as an all-electric car powered by rechargeable batteries, the Leaf will almost certainly qualify, they said.

"Even though it may not be certified today, we know it's going to be a zero-emission vehicle," said Craig Childers, air resources engineer with the California Air Resources Board. "I drove one last week, and I don't think they were hiding a (gas) engine somewhere."

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GM plans to submit the Volt for certification by the rebate program in 2012, a company representative said. Even then, the car won't fetch as big a rebate as the Leaf.

Most likely, Volt buyers will get $3,000. The rebate program reserves the biggest incentives for vehicles that produce no tailpipe pollution at all, such as electric cars. The Volt, in contrast, is a plug-in hybrid that runs on batteries for the first 40 miles of every trip before switching on a gasoline engine to power the car's electric motor. Hence the smaller rebate.

GM's decision not to pursue the rebates until 2012 was a matter of strategy and timing.

The automaker developed the Volt on a tight schedule, said Shad Balch, environment and energy policy specialist at GM. Rather than design the car around multiple environmental standards, the company chose to focus first on meeting the requirements for a $7,500 clean-car tax credit from the federal government. Both the Leaf and the Volt qualify for the federal credit.

"We had to set a target and a date, and we had to aim everything at that target," Balch said.

He noted that the California rebate program, with only $4.1 million in funding per fiscal year, would not cover many cars. Rebates are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

In addition, meeting California's standards for the $3,000 rebate would have required some changes to the car's engineering, changes Balch said were proprietary information.

"It's not worth it for us to delay the launch for the low number of rebates that would be available," he said.

The California rebate would appear to give Nissan a slight edge over GM.

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The Leaf will have a sticker price of $32,780 (€24,854). Factor in the federal tax credit and the California rebate, and the price will drop to $20,280 (€15,376). The Volt will cost $41,000 (€31,000), or $33,500 (€25,400) with the federal tax credit.

The cars, however, have different selling points. The Leaf is cheaper but can only go about 100 miles before needing a recharge. With its backup gasoline engine, the Volt has no such limit.

"They're going to appeal to two different kinds of buyers," said John O'Dell, a senior editor at the Edmunds.-com auto information website. "It'll be a slight disadvantage (for GM) with the people who are more cost-conscious and less range-conscious."

A Nissan spokesman echoed that point, saying the Volt and the Leaf are very different cars. He added that the company is taking reservations for the car nationwide, including in states that offer no rebates for clean cars.

"The rebate's nice to have, but we've got 17,000 people across the country who have put down a reservation on the car, not all of them in California," said Nissan spokesman Tim Gallagher.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, by David R.Baker, August 4th, 2010

Bosch Invests EUR 400M Annually in EV Powertrain Development.

After the launch of its parallel full-hybrid technology, global automotive supplier Bosch announced it has also decided to invest in the development of powertrain technologies for all-electric vehicles. According to a statement released by the company, Bosch makes some 400 million euros (U$527 million) available for development work on powertrain electrification every year.

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In the future, the choice of powertrain will depend on the individual driver’s mobility requirements. The electric car will play an increasingly prominent role here,” said Dr. Rolf Bulander, president of the Gasoline Systems division of Robert Bosch GmbH.

In fact, Bosch is targeting all sorts of powertrains, since hybrid vehicles are an option for short-, medium-, and long-distance driving, while fuel-cell vehicles are especially suitable for long distances. “This is why we are not limiting our efforts to just one powertrain – we are working to develop diesel and gasoline engines further, while at the same time making a concerted effort to electrify the powertrain,” Bulander added.

Full-hybrid versions of the Porsche Cayenne S and Volkswagen Touareg were launched this year, the first vehicles worldwide to feature Bosch’s innovative parallel-hybrid technology.

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In addition, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Bosch have formed an engineering alliance to develop diesel hybrids with electric four-wheel drive, which will go into series production in 2011. For these vehicles, Bosch is developing and manufacturing the power electronics and electric motors.

Bosch is working together with other companies in three government-funded projects that cover the major areas of electromobility development: ‘eperformance’ deals with the electric vehicles themselves, ‘MeRegio-Mobil’ deals with the integration of the electric vehicle into a future (battery charging) infrastructure, and ‘BeMobility’ deals with testing new mobility services.

Source: AutoEvolution, by Alina Dumitrache, August 4th, 2010

DuPont raises stakes in car battery battle.

DuPont Co. plans to expand production of a material used in electric-car batteries to challenge market leaders Polypore International Inc. of the U.S., as well as Asahi Kasei Corp. and TonenGeneral Sekiyu K.K. of Japan.

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DuPont is building a factory to make separators for lithium-ion batteries in Chesterfield County, Va. The plant will be able to supply 20% of current demand for hybrid and electric vehicles when it opens early next year, the Wilmington, Del.-based company said today in a statement.

Energain separators, made from spun nanofibres, boost power 15% to 30% and increase battery life as much as 20% compared with competing materials, DuPont said. The global high-performance lithium-ion battery market will be worth $7 billion US by 2015, DuPont said.

Source: The Calgary Herald, August 4th, 2010

Panasonic Aims to Triple Rechargeable Battery Sales by 2016.

Panasonic Corp., the world’s biggest maker of rechargeable batteries, aims to triple sales of lithium-ion units by March 2016 to meet rising demand from carmakers, an executive said in an interview.

The company is in talks with about 20 automakers in the U.S., Europe, China, India and other nations to supply batteries, Naoto Noguchi, president of Panasonic’s battery unit, said in Osaka yesterday. Demand for electric cars will help Panasonic raise sales of lithium-ion units to 1 trillion yen (U$12 billion / €8.8 billion) in the year ending March 2016, from about 324 billion (U$3.7 billion / €2.8 billion) yen in the last fiscal year, he said.

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Panasonic last week announced plans to take full control of two units for more than $9 billion to expend its renewable energy business. The battery-maker is accelerating development of new products and increasing marketing staff to face a rising challenge from South Korean rivals including Samsung Group, Noguchi said.

We’ll speed up management decisions,” Noguchi said. “In batteries we are still ahead of South Korean makers, but they are chasing us fast.”

The company estimates the global lithium-ion battery market will increase to 2.5 trillion yen (U$29 billion : €22 billion) from 926 billion yen (U$10.7 billion / €8 billion) in the year ended March 31, as companies such as Toyota Motor Corp. start to sell more cars powered by electricity.

Panasonic has offered to buy out Sanyo Electric Co. and Panasonic Electric Works Co., units which it owns 50% and 51% respectively, for about 818 billion yen (U$9.5 billion / €7.2 billion).

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The offer for Sanyo and Electric Works will build on President Fumio Ohtsubo’s plans to expand businesses such as renewable energy as the company faces mounting competition from Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Corp. in televisions.

Panasonic plans to merge the three companies’ brands, though Sanyo’s name may continue to be used in some regions. The three companies will combine, trim their operations, and start business as a new entity in January 2012, Panasonic said.

The company aims to win at least 40% of the global lithium-ion battery market in the year ending March 2016, up from a combined share with Sanyo of an estimated 35% last fiscal year, Noguchi said.

Toyota and Tesla Motors Inc. last month agreed to start developing an electric version of the RAV4 compact sport-utility vehicle to go on sale in 2012.

Tesla and Panasonic agreed to develop next-generation battery cells for electric vehicles, the carmaker said on Jan. 7. Tesla also said it will use Panasonic’s nickel-based lithium- ion batteries for its cars.

Carmakers are under pressure in the U.S. and other markets to develop models that consume little or no petroleum and produce fewer emissions linked to global warming.

Toyota also plans to start selling two-passenger electric cars by 2012.

Source: BusinessWeek, by Mariko Yasu and Maki Shiraki, August 3rd, 2010

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