Quallion LLC, a developer of customized lithium-ion batteries, modules and packs for medical, military, aerospace, and vehicle applications, remains on track to develop an advanced lithium-ion anti-idling HVAC system for heavy-duty trucks, Dr. Hisashi Tsukamoto, the company’s co-founder, CEO and CTO, recently told Green Car Congress.
In May, Quallion had applied for a grant under the Recovery Act–Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative to support its efforts to build a new $220M lithium ion battery manufacturing facility in Southern California. (Earlier post.) DOE did not select Quallion for an award.
We did not win [a DOE award] but we are talking with the California Energy Commission, seeing how we can move forward from this result. Our strategy does not change. We are still building the factory, we are still targeting the anti-idling HVAC system. We are also supplying packs for small electric vehicles for evaluation by US, European and Japanese companies.
Quallion is in an interesting position, relative to the development of the market for advanced automotive batteries. The company began as a rechargeable medical battery (secondary) battery company and then expanded to primary battery applications for aerospace, military and vehicle systems. It is also a profitable company, Dr. Tsukamoto notes.
Safety and long-life are important attributes for the markets Quallion services. The implanted batteries have been certified for a 25-year life in a human body, and simulations have shown a 76-year span. One of its 75 Ah aerospace cell has a specification of 60,000 cycles over ten years.
We can build highly reliable, advanced, long-life batteries for automobiles. Every battery we develop has a customized chemistry for the environment within which the battery will be used. For vehicle batteries we employ a number of proprietary technologies that address challenges associated with vibration, size, weight, safety, installation, and temperature variations. As the market for lithium-ion vehicle batteries continues to grow we anticipate that Quallion will continue to refine its proprietary battery and produce customized batteries that meet specific performance needs for vehicle manufacturers.
Furthermore, said Dr. Tsukamoto, “It has never made sense for Quallion to pursue the same business strategy as A123, Saft, EnerDel, Altairnano in the vehicle marketplace. These companies all recently received a significant amount of federal funding from the DoE to build batteries for the vehicle industry. Quallion’s approach has always been different and we have proven that this strategy works through our continued success and profitability.” Accordingly, Quallion’s initial strategy for entering the automotive market is not focused on drivetrain applications, but on the anti-idling HVAC applications for Class 8 trucks.
The company is purchasing commodity cells from Asian suppliers and integrating them into modules and packs using its proprietary Matrix and HAM (heat absorbing material) technologies.
Our strategy starts with the material, then moves to the cell, the module, the pack. I started this automotive project from the application side to understand their need, then will go back to the fundamentals, which is materials. We are now using existing cells and assembling them in our patented way.
Quallion’s scaleable Matrix technology simultaneously links mass numbers of small cells in parallel and series, an approach that eliminates the need for control electronics without any compromises in reliability and redundancy. The Matrix configuration can maintain current control even if “bad cells” are in the battery, a condition that would cause significant problems in most conventional batteries.
The low-cost modular system approach allows prequalified cells to be repackaged to suit new specifications without substantial time, cost, or headache. Since small cells dissipate heat faster than larger cells, Quallion’s Matrix Battery reduces also temperature-related safety risks.
Further protection against thermal events comes from the construction of the modules and the use of HAM. Quallion leaves a space between cells in the module to allow room for its special heat absorption material (HAM). Should a cell experience a thermal event, HAM melts, absorbing the heat, while the Matrix technology keeps the battery module operational. Quallion uses the Matrix and HAM technologies in its aerospace and defense applications as well, and is also applying it, along with the consumer cells, in the prototype packs for EVs.
Testing of the anti-idling HVAC device will begin in June, Dr. Tsukamoto said. Although reluctant to discuss specifics of the system at this point, he said that it uses a high-voltage (288V) electrical compressor, enabling the battery pack to be much lighter. The system, which will be priced around $8,000 (and which will see its cost recovered in two years from fuel savings), will provide up to 10 hours of engine-off HVAC and can be recharged either from a plug or on the road via the engine in about 2 hours, he said.