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Süd-Chemie to Invest C$35M to Boost Lithium Iron Phosphate Production for Li-Ion Batteries

Süd-Chemie, a global chemical company, will invest C$35 million (US$30 million) in 2007 and 2008 in one of its Canadian affiliates to increase lithium iron phosphate production capacity for use in new generations of lithium-ion batteries to 1,500 metric tons per year.

Phostech Lithium Inc., Boucherville/Canada, an affiliate of Süd-Chemie, is already investing C$6 million to expand its production capacity from 300 metric tons per year of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) to 900 metric tons per year.

In 2007 and 2008, the additional C$35 million in investment will increase capacity to 1,500 metric tons per year.

In the 1990s, researchers at the University of Texas proposed using lithium iron phosphate as cathode material in lithium-iron batteries. Lithium iron phosphate was non-toxic and cheaper than conventional cobalt cathodes. Unfortunately, it turned out to have low conductivity.

In 2002, Yet-Ming Chiang and his colleagues at MIT showed that doping lithium iron phosphate with positive ions of another metal could drastically boost the material’s conductivity. Chiang is a co-founder of A123Systems, which licensed the technology from MIT for further development and commercialization.

The University of Texas licensed its original lithium-iron phosphate technology to Hydro-Québec, which developed it from 1997 to 2001. Phostech Lithium has been granted an exclusive license from University of Texas and Hydro-Québec for the production and sale of LiFePO4 for lithium-ion batteries.

Favored markets are power tools, electric bicycles and scooters as well as electric and hybrid cars. For example, electric bicycles and wheelchairs with lithium-ion batteries sold in South East Asia, Europe and in the US contain Phostech Lithium’s product.

Süd-Chemie AG, an independent company active in the field of Specialty Chemistry, is the major shareholder since 2005 of Phostech Lithium, founded in 2001 by a group of Québec scientists. Société Générale de Financement (SGF) is the third shareholder.

(A hat-tip to youplau!)

Resources:

Comments

Stan Peterson

There is a cynicism extant that can be seen amongst frequent posters. Here is another concrete example of money being committed to build the factories that can build the components for the coming flood of hybrid and PHEV autos.

Industry is gearing up. Its easy to see if you but open your eyes...

Andrey

And Texas U and Hydro-Quebec filed law suit against A123 for patent infringement.

Lad

Seems only the lawyers can bring anything to production and that's not batteries...it's controversy for money!

I read where A123 has a joint agreement with an oil company. That can't be good and will only serve to slow down production and give Big Oil control over the L-ION battery business; they already have control of the NiMH battery by controlling the basic patent. Control the battery business and you control the electric auto business.

earl

Control the battery business and you can hedge your exposure to disruptive technology by being invested in the current {oil} and the future{battery}.BP is invested in wind turbine technology and they are not storing the tech in a salt mine somewhere.They are making money on the turbines.One thing about big{oil,tobacco,pharma,etc.}is that they will follow the surest path to the dollars.If we continue to show interest in phev,bev, then big somebody is going to look to cash in on that interest.As for lawsuits,microsoft is continually sued and the desktop pc still circled the globe in a flash.Once the bumps are worked out this tech will spread like the pc,cell phone,vcr,dvd etc.The legal jockeying may simply show that everyone involved thinks that this is going to be worth hundreds of billions and they want a piece.If they are correct then we all benefit.

Henrik

Wonderful news. This indeed appears to be serious business. Below I try to calculate some very very rough estimates of how many powertools, E-bikes, etc. this production capacity equals.
I understand that production of nanotech coated LiFePO4 could be about 2400 tons pro anno by ultimo 2008 (900+1500). I assume that this material make up 25% of the total weight of an a123 M1 cell (this is a wild guess, speak out if you know better, I am an economist not a chemist). So the material could produce 9600 metric tons of a123 M1 cells. A 70g cell at about 3V 2,3Ah means that it takes about 10kg to make a 1kWh battery. In other words, 9600 metric tons of M1 cells represent a giant 960.000 kWh battery. That is enough to produce:
27,500 BEVs (like phoenix SUT using 35kWh) or
120,000 PHEVs (using 8kWh for 15 miles all electric range) or
565,000 HEVs (using 1,7kwh like the Prius) or
3,200,000 E-bikes (using 0,3kWh) or
140,000,000 powertools (using 0,07kWh like the Dewalt 36V battery)

A nice start, though still far from saving the world entirely from its dependence on fossil fuels. To do that we would need to produce about 100,000,000 PHEVs a year. That would necessitate that battery production increased 833 times from its ultimo 2008 level (in combination with greatly increased biofuel production). That sounds very doable to me in about two decades if the involved costs can be managed. From the selling price of the Dewalt pack ($169) we can estimate that 1kWh of the A123 battery cost about $2400. This is competitive for powertools and e-bikes but it needs to drop to about $1200 to be competitive for use in HEVs (the current NiMh cost about $1200 /kWh but they are heavier and more space demanding than lithium). A123 have said that they can compete with the price of NiMh for use in HEV. At this time A123 should have enough volume production of their batteries to know that they can sell it for $1200/kWh and still be profitable. For the battery price to be competitive for a mass market for PHEVs I believe that the price must hit about $600 /kWh or lower so that a 8 kWh pack would cost about $5000 per vehicle. If PHEVs are produced as seriel PHEVs with the ICE set up as an efficient genset you can save money on the transmission and the ICE because electric drive-trains do not need as complex gearbox/transmission (no torque issue) and because you can use a smaller ICE versus a normal non-electric car. However, the PHEV will need an electric engine and some power electronics and that cost extra versus the non-electric car. That stuff is expensive right now but it can be brought down in price a lot from mass production also because electric engines have far fewer parts to assemble than ICEs. No doubt that PHEVs will cost more than non-electric cars. In mass production (millions per year and with a battery price at $600kWh probable doable in a few years) I think that PHEVs will cost about $5000 to $8000 more to produce than comparable non-electric cars. That should still be competitive because PHEVs will be more durable, save about 75% of the annual fuel bill, and the no-noise characteristic of the PHEVs will be attractive. Furthermore, as discussed elsewhere on greencarcongress the utilities could greatly benefit from the V2G capabilities of PHEVs and some suggest that utilities may even pay people for providing such V2G services.
So it is indeed wonderful news that the production of nanotech coated LiFePO4 is increasing at this speed. Recall that production was practically zero when Dewalt introduced these cells in its powertools back in November, 2005. What an achievement.

Andrey

Earl:

I strongly suspect that technique of hedging you refer to could be understood by conspiracy theories neofits.

Henrik

Ups, I meant 14,000,000 powertool packs not 140,000,000

Stan Peterson

Thsi is but one tiny player in but a tiney segment of the business.. But the point I was making is that it is symptomatic that the electrification of the auto is gaining momentum, coming forward as a building certainty. Its far from simply releaasing a "concept car" or as the "Hillaries" are wont to do to "confiscate the oil profits" and invest it to make a "start", on doing something.

I'm sure it will be to build a few totally impossible to produce, concept cars, and waste the rest on pet social programs. Once again risking real progress by killing the golden gooses.

Instead of declaring victory and going home, the CARBite beuraucrats in California want to get into the global warming business, to justify their keeping and expanding their jobs and empires.

wintermane

Its hard to say what ercentage weight of a lith oin battery is the lithium material as lithium itself is rather light BUT id suspect its at least a third of the weight.

As for power tools they are likely to switch over to knew super capacitor based sortage as it offers faster recharge lower cost and more then needed power output and power capacity. Its also alot lightera and never wears out..

Shaun Williams

Henrik,

See the 14th comment here;
http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/01/30/beyond-peak-oil-are-we-facing-peak-lithium/

Suggests about 0.4kg/kWh.
So 1,500,000kg is about 3,750,000kWh of storage.

Given that 20kWh is a handy sized EV or PHEV battery pack, that's 187,500 V's worth.

Henrik

Shaun thankyou for the link it is informative. However, you misunderstand the meaning of Wayne Brown (post 13). To quote him
"76.92 / .188 = 409.15g of Lithium Carbonate in 1kWh of this Saft Li-ion battery."
The point is this number is valid for lithium carbonate and the 1500 metric tons produced at the planned second plant is referring to lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4). In addition it is coated lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) and we don't know the weight added by this coating so we can still not do the implied math on LiFePO4. Furthermore, this is not a saft battery (the chemistry and kWh is different in the a123 battery) and the combined production of plant 1 and plant 2 will be 2400 metrix tons ultimo 2008. You are also wrong about 20kWh for a PHEV it is prohibitively expensive for mass sales of PHEVs unless the price of a123 cells drops to about $300 /kWh.

Harvey D.

Earl: I also agree that major players will and should play a major role in on-board storage units production.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Big Oil (+ others) switching from fossil fuel (and other business) to alternative fuel + cleaner energies + batteries production etc.

A few dozen major players could create the level of competition required to accellerate transition to mass produced affordable PHEVs and BEVs.

doggydogworld

Henrik, I like your approach but offer these comments:

1. Phostech does not sell to A123Systems. Phostech is in with the U-Texas/U-Montreal/Hydro Quebec crowd that is a rival to MIT-based A123, and is suing A123.

2. Phostech claims about 2 kg of LiFePO4 cathode per kWh, so your 2.5 kg/kWh guess was pretty close.

3. I agree scaling up 833 times is no big deal over time. These factories are cheap.

4. New DeWalt packs cost about $100 on EBay ($1300/kWh). A123 price to DeWalt is probably about $1000/kWh. This web site sells LiFePO batteries (not A123) for $1333/kWh:

http://www.powerstream.com/LLLF.htm

5. 8 kWh should give about 25 miles of PHEV range. GM's Volt design uses 16 kWh for 40 miles, but with a conservative 70% DoD trigger.

--ddw

Shaun Williams

Henrik,

I was very aware of the different chemistry's involved I was merely trying to get a better figure than your "this is a wild guess" .

I'm also very aware of the costs of Li battery technology, I was just pointing out that the SCALE of production (which is what this post is all about) is starting to get into interesting volumes.

I enjoyed your original comments by the way.

wintermane

One question for anyone who rememberes or can dig it up. I remember quite a while back lithium batteries were poopooed for one very fatal flaw. The amount of lithium avaliable to mine.

Does anyone know how much lithium we have avaliable to us to mine?

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