The lithium-ion battery news keeps on coming. So far weâ€™ve told you about GMâ€™s plan to build a battery factory (which will use cells made by Korean LG Chemicals), A123â€™s plan to build a battery factory of their own in Michigan (and, although GM is using LG batteries for the Volt, they plan on collaborating with A123), Teslaâ€™s plan to build batteries for the Smart Car and, on top of all that, the coalition of battery researchers gathering together at Argonne National Lab.
To make things even more exciting, there seems to be some reciprocal business going on between the US and Scandinavia (not the same exact countries, but still). First youâ€™ve got Boston-Power, a battery company headquartered in Massachusetts, which just received $55 million in Series D financing from a Swedish investment firm. Unlike the battery players mentioned above, Boston-Power is making batteries for laptops rather than vehicles, and has already built a battery that is available in certain HP laptops.
On the flip side, Norwegian electric car company Think had announced that they didnâ€™t have enough capital to get their new, small, electric Think City ready for market as early as originally predicted. That delay might be shortened a bit by $5.7 of interim financing that they just received from Ener1, a US battery manufacturer that will be supplying the battery for the Think City.
The attention on batteries is not likely to go away any time soon. Itâ€™s the single most important factor when it comes to electric vehicles, and whichever manufacturers end up on top will enjoy very rich rewards indeed.
Via CNET Green Tech (2)
A little while ago, there was a big competition going on between two lithium-ion battery manufacturers – A123 and LG Chemicals – to win the contract to build batteries for the Chevy Volt. I have to admit, I was rooting for A123. Maybe it’s because I would have rather seen GM invest in a domestic company rather than a foreign one. Maybe it’s because the founders came from MIT – I mean, what geek can resist that?
But I understood that GM needed to make a business decision, and if they felt that buying batteries from A123 would make an inferior Volt, I grudgingly accept. But apparently the main reason that Bob Lutz and GM chose LG over A123 was… that they wanted flat batteries, not cylindrical batteries. A123 makes cylindrical batteries.
Now, I’m clearly not privy to the engineering plans of the Chevy Volt, but… really? Let’s review what “flat” means in this context. For reference, the lithium-ion battery in your laptop contains cylindrical batteries; if you opened it up, you would see a bunch of batteries that look like your standard AA. That’s what A123 is making. The flat batteries that GM apparently wants are different – the battery part actually has a flat shape to it (as pictured above).
Such flat batteries are important when it comes to, say, building an ultra-thin laptop where every fraction of an inch counts. But would it make that much difference in a car? If you are design engineer out there, and you think it would make a difference, feel free to let me know. All I’m saying is that if A123’s devices delivered the same or better quality performance, and they are an American company, I would have gone with them.
Of course, it’s also important to consider the fact that A123, while a big startup, is still a startup. That may have been reason enough for GM to feel hesitant about making this deal. But A123 is a really big startup, and they are already going through the necessary steps to make their company public. They have hundreds of millions in VC money and employ 1700+ people. So it’s not as if GM would have been investing in one guy with an idea – A123 is serious stuff.
Although they missed the boat on the Volt, A123 seems unfazed; they are pretty determined to make electric car batteries one way or another. They just announced plans to open up a huge battery manufacturing plant in Michigan - the first of its kind in the US – but are asking for government loans (on the order of $1 billion or so) to help pay for it. It would be great if they got it, but if I were the government I’m not sure why I’d put so much R&D money in their one basket when a whole bunch of battery scientists just got together at Argonne National Lab to form a battery research coalition… Maybe they can work together.
Via Earth2Tech, Greentech Media
You really should recycle your batteries. But let's be honest, at one point or another, we've all thrown them away, contributing to the toxic pollution of our ground water. And while I'm not going to throw EcoGeek's full weight behind any battery that isn't rechargeable, it is nice to see Fuji's new take on the battery.
The EnviroMax batteries contain no mercury, cadmium or PVC and they are encased in plastic instead of steel. In fact, Fuji claims that the batteries (while 100% recycleable) are safe for landfills. We're still waiting to see if they're awarded RoHS certification, but I imagine they will be.
But, once again, I encourage you all to use rechargeable batteries, and to dispose of them correctly at the end of their useful lives.
The recent snow and ice storms in the northeast left hundreds of thousands of residents without power. In Harvard, Massachusetts, however, one Prius owner found a way to keep the lights and electricity going by using his hybrid as a backup generator.
John Sweeney ran his fridge, freezer, wood stove fan and even his television and lights using his Prius for three days while the power was out in his town. By using an inverter to convert the car's DC power supply into household AC, Sweeney was able to generate 120 volts
The New York Times wrote about this a year ago. The battery in the Prius is able to provide an uninterrupted power supply as long as the engine turns on and off periodically to recharge it. Any car battery can be used this way, but only hybrids start automatically when they need to recharge their battery. As long as the Prius has enough fuel, it can produce three kilowatts of continuous power. That's enough to maintain the basic household electrical needs.
After three days, Mr. Sweeney's Prius used up a mere five gallons of gas to power the electricity in the Sweeney household - a bargain and a real smart grid solution.
Via The New York Times and WBZTV