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Cobasys Providing NiMH Battery Systems for Verizon Hybrid Van Retrofits

23 May 2007

33670
The Cobasys NiMHax 336-70 Battery System.

Cobasys is supplying its patented Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) NiMHax battery systems to Enova for integration into 13 GMC 2500 service vans being retrofitted with hybrid drives for Verizon. (Earlier post.)

The service van program will make Verizon the first major US company to retrofit vans with hybrid power technology for use in its fleet.

The Verizon vans will be equipped with Enova’s 120kW Post-Transmission Parallel Hybrid Drive System supported with the Cobasys liquid-cooled NiMHax 336-70 (336V, 8.5 Ah, 70kW) 2.8 kWh battery system.

The post-transmission electric drive system is integrated behind the transmission and is designed to be installed as a drop-in, fully integrated turnkey fashion into an OEM production line, or—as in this case—retrofitted.

The NiMHax battery system incorporates Cobasys’ high-power Series 1000 12V battery modules and incorporates all necessary features that enable fully integrated “plug-and-play” capabilities. System features include: integrated battery management system hardware and software, redundant safety controls, packaging, wiring, and thermal management based on newly developed liquid cooling systems for optimized performance in high power Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) application. Fully integrated control algorithms have also been implemented to help optimize the energy management functions and product durability.

Cobasys has recently been awarded a number of contracts for hybrid vehicle programs, including: Saturn Vue, Saturn Aura, Chevrolet Malibu, Lotus Engineering “EVE” and most recently, Armor Holdings military vehicle application. Cobasys is also partnering with A123Systems on the development of li-ion battery packs for plug-in hybrids for GM.

Cobasys is a joint venture between Chevron Technology Ventures LLC, a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation and Energy Conversion Devices, Inc.

May 23, 2007 in Batteries, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

How high do these companies want oil prices to go before they decide to get more than 13? Fedex has been testing theirs since 2004 and still only have 93 out of perhaps thousands of trucks?

Here you see an example of the tie-in between Big Oil and Big Auto: Chevron/Texaco has the large format NiMH market under their control and now they are heading toward controlling large format Li-Ions with their agreement with A123. They appear to be finally letting the NiMH technology onto the market with you know who....GM.

In the mean time the other auto companies are stuck with small format batteries. All this control slows down innovation and production of BEVs and HPEVs.

I am hoping that Chevron sells their part of Cobasys to someone that will allow the higher power density batteries developed by Stan Ovshinsky to be commercialized.

Lad:

If you think that the oil companies are going to let themselves die as we head over the hump of peak oil, you've got another thing coming. "Big Oil" and "Big Auto" employ hundreds of thousands of people and the UAW is hardly a right wing organization. If survival for both means that they move to BEVs, they will do so.

Cervus:
Perhaps I didn't make my point clearly enough.
If you remember Ma Bell then you have an example of how their control of the telephone, set telephone development back by decades; the same might be true if the oil companies are able to control the production of batteries.

I don't care who builds the first mass production BEVs that are fairly priced.
If its GM or FORD; just build it and lets get off oil dependencies.

chevron's going to make big money on HEV batteries. You guys need to get off the crack pipe on post oil. Fifty years from now you'll still be discussing it. Alternatives if we are lucky can handle most of the demand growth.

I am continually amazed and somewhat amused by comments such as those by Lad and rbtbob. Profit is what drives industry. Secondary motives such as "what is good for the world" are nice, and comments like "letting the NiMH technology onto the market" and "allow the higher density batteries ... to be commercialized" reflect a lack of understanding. When and where there is money to be made by selling these things and commercializing BEVs, it shall happen. To believe that big oil or big auto are deep-sixing such things is naive or simply looking for someone to blame for the fact that development of profitable products takes time.

I'd like a BEV too, and when they're affordable and practical, I will be at the head of the line down at the dealership, be it Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, Kia, Chery, or whomever.

Technology and business have changed alot since Ma Bell ruled the roost. Unfortunately, not always for the better. I'd really like to have a heavy duty land line phone that I didn't have to replace every 6 to 12 months because the chinzy, optimized, "environmentally-friendly" pieces of crap from Best Buy won't hang together!

Cervus and Richard, thanks for keeping this blog in touch with reality.

Roy, I am no patent lawyer but isn't there some law that if a patent isn't used (ie large format NiMH for BEVs) by the company that owns the patent it become void after some time period? I think the issue is that intellectual property patents are set up not so that technology can be supressed but to ensure investment in new technology is encouraged. Now I've also heard from some sources that at least one other company is producing large format NiMH batteries for BEVs but I am hazy on the details. Also some people say NiMH simply isn't good enough anyway but then I also hear from Toyota RAV EV owners that their cars are doing fine after many years of driving.This whole issue neads clarifying.....

isn't there some law that if a patent isn't used (ie large format NiMH for BEVs) by the company that owns the patent it become void after some time period?

Sure, it's called the patent expiration date. It's the same date that applies if the patent is used.

"To believe that big oil or big auto are deep-sixing such things is naive or simply looking for someone to blame..."

Senator Charles Grasley from Iowa made a speech on the Senate floor yesterday that says he can show evidence that the large oil companies have kept independent gasoline stations from carrying E85.

Maybe it is naive to think large oil companies would interfere with the "free market", but this statement is now part of the Congressional record.

Roy--

It would be nice if markets were not subject to manipulation for the benefit of vested interests.

SJC - I would never stand up and say companies never do anything shady, or never put pressure on suppliers and distributors of their products. But, I think I'd also be a little circumspect about citing a politician as source of proof for anything, especially if he represents a corn producing state and he's pushing E85.

Marcus - I am not a patent lawyer either, but I believe patents have variable expiration dates, depending on the payment of certain fees to the USPTO by the patent assignee, per a known schedule. Patents are mainly intended to allow the inventor/assignee to reap the economic rewards of an improved gizmo and to encourage their development, but are also used to put up fences around technology areas. Toyota is a masterful user of this technique. I've never heard of any such "if you don't use it, I can steal it" rule on patents.

Chevron DOES profit from the holding of the patent. Not by using it, but by preventing its use, thereby keeping their cash cow alive as long as possible.

I would not have a problem with this technique of patent holding if it did not have severe implications for national security. If an Arab oil embargo caused so much disruptions in the 70's when we imported 30% of our oil, what will it be like now that we import 60% of our oil?

A patent granted but never used, can be adjudged not to be a valid patent under the patent law.

It does take a law suit to establish this; but legal arguments are what pays lawyers their compensation.

Marcus:

What you are refer to is quite popular article in patent licensing agreement, but not applicable to patent per se.

Patent is agreement between inventor and government, where inventor should publish detailed description of his invention, and government grants to inventor exclusive rights to patent use. Full text of US patents are available for free in electronic form from:

http://www.uspto.gov/patft/index.html

Patented invention become free to use for everybody when patent expires, in US it is 20 years after filing date (with yearly maintenance fee payable to US PTO). Patents should be acquired in each country individually to be valid on their territory.

Stories about some evil companies buying and burying patents, or prohibiting their use are pure fantasy, thought quite popular among illiterate conspiracy junkies. Any owner of useful patent will do everything to widespread patented technology and get as much money as possible, before patent expires. However, price for patented technology is invariably higher before patent expires (drugs are prime example).

P.S. Copyright for books, songs, paintings, and alike are maintained for much longer, usually for 50 years after death of the author.

Wow we have a few UFO believers here, guess saying it in congress means automatic credibility. LOL

Why wouldn't Ethonal producers need to build their own service stations for E85?

Chevron has invested several hundred million dollars to develop the technology and build a manufacturing plant. That investment, plus sales for Saturn VUE, etc. are enough to avoid any claims of patent-burying, at least where the courts are concerned. Of course EV fans see it differently.....

No one would ever accuse those EV fans of having an ounce of business accumen.
Cobasys will eventually sell millions of batteries as GM kicks the hybrids in gear.

Trademarks, when not used for a period of 3 years are no longer valid (use may be advertisements, sales, or pursuing legal action against trademark infringement).

Since when does A123 own all patents on large format Li-Ion batteries. Seems to me that Delphi & Ener1 (EnerDel) have more patents on large format Li-ion batteries than A123 could hope for.

The fact is that Chevron (through Cobasys) effectively controls the patent for large format NiMH batteries (aka the E95 battery used in the Rav4 EV). There are other manufacturers that have developed competing large format NiMH batteries, but none that have been tested and deployed like the E95.

Here's what drives the conspiracy theorists: Chevron (via Cobasys) WILL NOT SELL E95 BATTERIES OR ALLOW ANYONE ELSE TO MANUFACTURE THEM FOR SALE. PERIOD. If you have an old Rav4 EV and need new batteries... you are out of luck. Panasonic (who manufactured those E95's for the Rav4 EV) was successfully sued by Chevron/Cobasys and forced to stop manufacturing them. Even worse, they were not given the option to pay royalties or to license the technology (a very normal business practice). They were forced to completely stop production. That killed the Rav4 EV.

Side note: Old Rav4 EV's, even with ones well over 100,000 miles are still going strong on those old (now irreplaceabe!) batteries, getting 100+ miles per charge.

Anyway the question is, why would a battery company not sell its own product? Well, obvuously the answer has to be that not selling it will make them more money. It's not a "conspiracy", it's simple economics. Chevron makes billions selling oil products, and they found an easy way to quash a (potential) competitor.

Now, Panasonic is allowed to make the NiMH batteries that go in the Prius hybrid (and pay royalties to Cobasys), however those are small batteries not suitable for use in a full electric, or plug in electric car. EVs and PEVs would requre the forbidden E95 batteries.

There's probably a pretty good class action case for stripping away Chevron's E95 patents, but who has the $billions and time to fight them?

And now A123 and Cobasys/Chevron are teaming up to develop Lithium batteries for auto use. It's no wonder the conspiracy people are screaming!

A123 doesn't dominate patents on Li-Ion technology in general, but on nanophosphate lithium ion battery technology, which has a higher power density, ten times the life cycle, and absurdly fast recharge rates.
ECD & Chevron's Cobasys joint venture is interested only in their application in vehicular applciations: http://www.cobasys.com/news/20070103.shtml

ECD also dominates the patent landscape in other types of batteries, as well as promising hydrogen fuel cell technologies. Their hydrogen and fuel cell ventures were previously shared with Chevron, like Cobasys, but ECD regained full ownership.

It is commonly claimed that Cobasys refuses to manufacture or license large-format NiMH batteries. I'm not sure that they even can license the rights; it seems that ECD licenses NiMH technology to its half-owned subsidiary Cobasys, so Chevron (Cobasys' other parent) has nothing to do with such licensing. And Cobasys manufactures 900 pound NiMH batteries for use on buses and military vehicles, so I don't know what more is needed for BEVs and PHEVs. NiMH simply seem impractical from a cost/performance perspective (deep cycling kills their life cycle), and I'd guess they don't want to sell them in quantities of one or two because of the associated hassles and safety concerns.

When GM had a controlling interest over the patents, that was a different era, a differently structured corporate entity, and that's when NiMH batteries *were* sold for BEVs, to Ford, Diamler Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and others. GM sold their interests to Texaco (soon to become ChevronTexaco) in 2001, as California's Zero Emission Vehicle Program which mandated BEV production was arguably defanged.

Though take my opinion with a grain of salt, just like I take yours with lots of grains. I don't know much about the GM era (1994-2001), and perhaps there was an anti-licensing conspiracy at that time.

Just one comment why did GM sale the NiMH technology to Big OIL instead of a few large Battery manufactures. An when you answer that you will know the truth.

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