Should the Petro-Automotive Complex Be Concerned About the Lithium Battery Revolution?
Lithium battery technology is currently focused on developing improvements in several areas. The quest often involves implementing advances in nanotechnology and micro-structures. For example:
* Increasing cycle life and performance (decreasing internal resistance and increasing output power) by changing the composition of the material used in the anode and cathode, along with increasing the effective surface area of the electrodes and changing materials used in the electrolyte.
* Improving capacity by improving the structure to incorporate more active materials.
* Improving the safety of lithium-ion batteries.
We should see big advances in efficiency and power in the near future. In 2006, a group of scientists at MIT announced a process which uses viruses to form nano-sized wires. These can be used to build ultra-thin lithium-ion batteries with three times the normal energy density. In 2009 a report in New Scientist claimed that MIT had succeeded in producing the first full virus-based 3-volt lithium-ion battery. Later in 2009, engineers at the University of Dayton Research Institute developed the world's first solid-state, rechargeable lithium air battery which was designed to address the fire and explosion risk of other lithium rechargeable batteries and make way for development of large-size lithium rechargeables for a number of industry applications, including hybrid and electric cars!
Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries have quickly become the most widely utilized battery chemistry in today's portable electronic devices such as laptops, cell phones, and PDAs. Due to high energy density, the lightweight, and the construction flexibility, Li-ion and Li-ion polymer batteries have replaced nickel rechargeable batteries! All top battery manufacturers have introduced next generation Li-ion cells. Lithium-ion batteries will power the hybrid and electric car revolution. And revolution is not too strong a word for it.
The Energy Independence and Security Act toughened up fuel efficiency standards to 35 mpg by 2020. Obama stiffened the standards even more in May, raising fuel economy standards to 39 mpg for cars and 27 mpg for trucks. The deadline was moved up four years to 2016. The new rules guarantee the lithium-ion battery is the only way car makers can meet the new standards. Since a vehicle battery requires 100 times more lithium carbonate than a laptop battery, there is a need to build large-scale manufacturing facilities. The Energy Department
just announced $8 billion in low-cost loans to Ford, Nissan and Tesla to build new battery factories. Metal Miner reports, "Johnson Controls and Saft of France are building a battery production facility in Michigan supported by $220 million of state aid." The government has committed $25 billion via the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to nurture the emerging Lithium Battery industry.
Meanwhile, our new Prius is using the NiMH battery, and the current state of non-lithium battery technology isn't bad! The Prius uses a Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride Battery (Ni-MH, for short) with a power output of 28 horsepower (21 Kw) and 201.6V Voltage. There is another smaller auxiliary battery (12 Volts), which powers the Prius computer. The Prius battery is designed to last the life of the car. According to Toyota, this is around 180,000 Miles. The batteries can actually be recycled. A summary of the process can be found on Toyota's website. It should be noted that the Prius traction batteries are under warranty for 8-10 years or 100,000 miles, and so will be replaced for free before then in the case of failure. However, should the battery fail outside this time-line, the estimated cost of traction battery replacement is $3,000. When rapid acceleration is needed, the battery power will "help" the gasoline engine, reducing the consumption of fuel during this period. Our 2010 Model II is getting over 50 miles per gallon and we still have under 2,000 miles on it. We just love watching the mpg indicator hover between 60 and 100 mpg when running on flat road! The bottom line is we have reduced our gas expenditure by two thirds and more importantly, our carbon footprint by two thirds!
From 2003 to 2007 as Blackberry's and iPods exploded on the scene, demand doubled for lithium carbonate, the refined form of Lithium used in batteries. Lithium's ultra-light weight and volatility make it the perfect fuel for powering small batteries. Lithium ion 18650 batteries
are lighter, smaller and pack more power than conventional batteries. So they're perfect for cell phones and laptops. And soon will be for EV's!!
The current state of electric car development is only a consumer test by the auto makers. They will drag their feet, wallowing in their ignorance, greed, and arrogance until the general public shouts 'Enough!' Global warming is a way bigger long range problem than the petro/auto industries narrow minded, short term myopic focus on stock returns and their blatant lack of concern for carbon emissions. The Federal government should be giving every buyer of hybrids and electrics a significant 'Tax Credit' until the emissions problem is under control. Consumers need to be enticed to go electric! The major car manufacturers will not give up on their brain washed public (which they created) until they have milked the 'SUV' and 'PU' (pick up) cow dry! Is OPEC the culprit? No! Its our own Petro-Automotive Industrial complex!
What's happening in the automotive industry with forward looking companies?
* Mercedes launches its S400 HYBRID sedan early in 2010. E-Class, M-Class, and GL-Class will be tailing it closely.
* Tesla Motors has delivered its American-made Roadster, an all-electric two-seater sports car and plans to debut its Model S sedan in 2011. The Tesla Roadster accelerates from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, attains speeds of up to 160 mph, and travels over 200 miles on a single charge.
* Nissan has retooled a factory in Tennessee to produce 150,000 pure electric cars, called The Leaf.
* Ford is bringing out the pure electric Transit Connect commercial fleet van in 2010 and plans to invest $550 million to retool a Michigan truck plant to manufacture a pure electric Focus in 2011.
* Chinese car makers Hafei and Coda are planning to bring a mass-produced electric car to market in California in fall 2010.
* The BMW MINI-E gives you all the fun and nimble handling of its gas cousin, but costs 40% less to operate a month. A test fleet was launched in the US this past May (2009).
* The Jeep Patriot SUV, Dodge sports car, four-door Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler minivan are supposedly pulling Chrysler into the electric car race.
* The Chevy Volt is supposedly already in production and will be available in 2010. GM's rebirth as a viable company may depend on the Volt! The Volt is powered by advanced
Lithium Ion smart batteries with associated computer controls for cooling and recharging. Should OPEC be concerned? The Volt will cruise for up to 40 miles without touching a drop of gas. The 40 mile range is no coincidence. It's the average distance 75% of Americans travel on their daily commute. After 40 miles, an on-board internal combustion engine recharges the batteries. It's expected to get 230 mpg in the city and give the Volt a 640-mile range on a single tank. The Volt will average 100 to 230 miles per gallon of gas.
What's happening on the global scene regarding the use of Lithium for the production of batteries?
* China announced plans to jack up the production of refined Lithium for use in batteries 461% by 2011.
* An Australian company recently agreed to produce 17,000 tons of this wonder substance in China's Jiangsu province.
* The Obama administration has earmarked a whopping $25 billion, an increase of 6,250 times over previous expenditures, to develop refined supplies of this super-green fuel.
If the growing Lithium Producers and Lithium Battery developers pick up the pace, we should see real progress in the EV industry very soon, not one minute too soon.