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September 2012

September 30, 2012

UK Carbon Trust report says fuel cell vehicles could take more than 30% of mid-sized car market by 2050

Ranges of automotive fuel cell system costs at mass manufactured volume using technology from three UK companies supported by the Carbon Trust. Source: Carbon Trust. Click to enlarge.

A new report released by the UK’s Carbon Trust concludes that with a continued focus on technology innovation to drive ongoing cost reductions, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) could take over 30% of the mid-sized car market by 2050.

The report is specifically focused on the potential for technology from select UK companies to enable a disruptive step-change in fuel cell cost reduction to accelerate consumer uptake, leading to approximately double the number of fuel cell cars on the road globally by 2030 versus current expectations. Some of the technologies could be applied in FCEVs as early as 2020, according to the report.

Independent analysis commissioned by the Carbon Trust predicts current polymer fuel cell technology will cost $49/kW in automotive applications when manufactured at mass scale (i.e. 500,000 units per year). However, in order to be competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles, automotive fuel cells must reach approximately $36/kW. Cost savings can be achieved by reducing material costs (notably platinum use), increasing power density, reducing system complexity and improving durability.

(The comparison with internal combustion engine cars is based on a total cost of ownership analysis that assumes a product lifetime of 15 years, no taxes or subsidies on the fuels used and a peak power output of 85 kW.)

The new report finds that reducing the cost to lower than $36/kW would lead to a significant market expansion with 200 million more fuel cell vehicles being deployed by 2050 taking the total to some 690 million fuel cell vehicles. This would increase the value of the global fuel cell vehicle market by $30 billion to $261 billion per year by 2050 with the market in the UK worth some $4 billion per year. It would also reduce global carbon emissions from vehicles by an additional 260 million tonnes per year by 2050—equivalent to the current annual emissions of Taiwan.

Our new analysis shows that the future is bright but innovation is essential to unlock the market potential by driving down the costs of new polymer fuel cells. The UK, through its leading companies, is in pole position to benefit from an expanded global market for fuel cell vehicles.

—James Wilde, Director of Innovation and Policy at the Carbon Trust

To support the realization of the requisite cost breakthroughs, the Carbon Trust set up the $10-million Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge (PFCC) to find and accelerate the development of technologies that could meet the $36/kW target. This initiative is now in its second phase, in which three groups developing fuel cell systems that could achieve this step-change in cost are moving from feasibility testing towards commercial development with partners:

The PFCC is now in its second phase where organizations with potential breakthrough technologies that could achieve this step-change in cost are moving from feasibility testing towards commercial development with industry partners. The Carbon Trust is currently supporting the following companies and organizations:

  • Itmpower
    ow ITM Power’s fuel cell technology reduces cost compared to current technology. Click to enlarge.

    ITM Power has developed a membrane with the potential to roughly double the power density of a cell. ITM Power’s membrane technology is also made from less costly hydrocarbons which can be easily mass produced.

    Under laboratory conditions, ITM Power’s membrane has already achieved 2.1W/cm2.

    ITM Power is a leading provider of electrolyzers (devices for generating hydrogen from water and electricity) and originally developed their membrane technology for that purpose.

  • Acal
    How ACAL Energy’s fuel cell design reduces cost compared to current technology. The increase in thermal management costs is due to ACAL’s catholyte regenerator. Click to enlarge.

    ACAL Energy has developed a liquid cathode with the potential to directly reduce platinum use by at least two-thirds and eliminates the need for some standard components of a fuel cell.

    On the cathode side, a specially designed liquid polymer solution absorbs the electrons and protons coming across the membrane. This catholyte continuously flows from the stack to an external regeneration vessel (the lungs). Here, the catholyte comes into contact with air and the electron, proton and oxygen from the air react to form water, which exits the regenerator as vapor. The regenerated catholyte then flows back to the fuel cell to absorb more electrons and protons.

  • Imperial-ucl
    How the Imperial/UCL fuel cell design reduces cost compared to current technology. Click to enlarge.

    Imperial College and University College London have developed a novel stackable cell architecture that uses low cost materials and manufacturing techniques with breakthrough potential in terms of cost reduction.

    By adapting printed circuit boards (PCBs), the researchers are developing anew way of building a fuel cell that is also significantly cheaper. The PCB industry is well established and has developed ultra-efficient manufacturing techniques. The new design could make use of this existing cost-effective production capability while also benefitting from PCB’s low material costs and ease of assembly into larger structures.

    The ‘Flexi-Planar’ design uses a layered arrangement of laminated printed circuit boards, bonded on top of each other, to create a stack with internal fuel, water and air channels. These channels, cut into the circuit boards, provide an efficient way of distributing the fuel cell reactants (oxygen from air and a fuel such as hydrogen). Once the fuel and oxygen have reacted these grooves then take away the resulting water that is produced from the reaction. PCBs are chemically resistant making them an excellent material for containing the reaction. They are also easy to assemble, and can be made using low-cost, high capacity manufacturing techniques.

The Carbon Trust is also working with Ilika in Phase 2. Ilika uses a unique, patented process up to ten times quicker and more efficient than traditional materials discovery processes and has applied this technique to the discovery and optimization of novel alloy catalysts for fuel cells. Once Ilika has identified novel compositions which have a high activity and low-cost, it partners with synthesis partners to scale-up this material for larger scale testing. Through this methodology Ilika has developed a palladium ternary alloy catalyst material which enables a 70% cost reduction for an equivalent power output versus the current precious metal standard.

Ilika’s catalyst could be a ‘drop-in’ technology— i.e., combined with existing FCEV stack designs and supply chain, without any architectural changes.

Ilika is now aiming to scale-up its catalyst technology and undertake pre- commercialization trials with automotive companies in 2012-2013.

Details of work to be carried out in the Carbon Trust PFCC Phase 2 are:

  • ITM Power will conduct performance and durability testing of membranes in a full‐scale (250 cm2) automotive cell and engage with automotive partner(s).

  • Acal Energy will develop a 10 kW (1/8th scale) automotive stack capable of achieving car makers’ current targets for cost, size, weight and durability and demonstrate the ability to handle cold start requirements. The company will target Joint Development Agreements with car makers by the end of 2014.

  • Imperial College and University College London will create an investable Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and demonstrate a 1 kW stack in 9 months.

  • Ilika will select a partner to manufacture larger quantities of the alloy; send material to car companies for testing; and confirm the stability of the material at higher voltages.


September 30, 2012 in Forecasts, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Sinopec establishes coal-to-chemical unit

Menafn. China Petroleum Corp. (Sinopec Group) formally established a coal-to-chemical unit in Beijing on September 28. Sinopec Great Wall Energy Chemical Co., Ltd. will take charge of the investment and operation of coal-to-chemical business of the parent company, construction of the coal-to-chemical projects, as well as professional management of the coal-to-chemical business.

The group planned to build six coal-to-chemical bases across the country from 2011 to 2015, with the bases spreading in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Guizhou Province, Anhui Province, Henan Province and Ningxia Autonomous Region, each. And so far, it has made a substantial progress in five of them.

...The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top Chinese price planner, released several bans on blind expansion of coal-to-chemical projects in the past five years. However, judging from the current situation, it is moving the bans. An analyst with Guosen Securities pointed out that in order to fight against an economic slowdown and help the domestic economy shift, there is a need for the nation to launch some large-sized projects.

September 30, 2012 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 29, 2012

Russia’s Rosneft to invest $16B to develop Carabobo 2 extra-heavy crude in Venezuela; first oil from Junin

Russian oil and gas major Rosneft, 75% owned by the government, will invest $16 billion in a planned joint venture project with Venezuela’s state oil and gas company PDVSA to develop the Carabobo 2 block in the southern Orinoco extra-heavy crude belt in Venezuela, according to Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin. Rosneft will hold a 40% stake in the joint venture. Daily crude oil production is expected to be approximately 450,000 barrels per day, according to Rosneft.

The Carabobo-2 project comprises the Carabobo-2 North and Carabobo-4 West blocks in the Orinoco belt. Oil-in-place at the blocks is approximately 6.5 billion tonnes.

The Orinoco Belt contains heavy and extra-heavy oil with a range of gravities from 4 to 16 degrees API (a measure of density) as well as large deposits of natural bitumen (i.e., oil sands). The US Geological Survey (USGS) characterizes extra-heavy oil as having an API gravity of less than 10°. Natural bitumen shares the attributes of heavy oil but can be yet more dense and viscous. According to the Government of Alberta, Canada, Athabasca bitumen has an API gravity number of less than 10°. (Earlier post.)

The parties also initialled a memorandum of understanding and signed agreements under which Rosneft is to pay a bonus of $1.1 billion, as well as an agreement on the provision of a $1.5 billion 5-year loan. The bonus will be paid in two parts. The first part will be paid within ten days of the creation of the joint venture, with the balance to be paid once Rosneft takes its final decision on the project. The loan will be provided in tranches of no greater than $300 million a year at LIBOR + 5.5%.

The agreement on the creation of a joint venture includes a development plan and the charter. Before the JV can begin operations, a ruling from the National Assembly of Venezuela must be obtained, as well as a resolution from the Oil and Mining Industry Ministry and a corresponding decree from the President of Venezuela.

The Orinoco oil belt in Venezuela. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

Rosneft is one of several Russian oil companies that earlier formed the National Oil Consortium (NOC) to develop the Junin bloc 6 of the Orinoco belt in Venezuela. The NOC comprises Gazprom Neft, Rosneft, TNK-BP, Surgutneftegas and LUKoil. In March 2010, NOC and PDVSA registered a joint venture, PetroMiranda, to develop the Junin-6 block, in which PDVSA holds a 60% stake. Surgutneftegas plans to sell its stake in the NOC project to Rosneft, making Rosneft the managing company of Junin 6.

Oil-in-place at Junin-6 amounts to 8.5 billion tonnes. Crude is currently produced at Junin-6 at three wells. The joint venture plans to increase production to 20,000 barrels a day by the end of the year and subsequently to 50,000 barrels a day by mid-2013. Oil production is expected to peak at 450,000 barrels a day.

To achieve this, more than 3,000 new wells will be constructed, as well as new infrastructure. Once the investment decision is taken, construction work will begin on a special processing facility (upgrader) with a capacity of 200,000 barrels a day to bring extracted heavy oil up to commercial quality. Agreements were also reached on the construction of a thermal generating set that will run on waste produced during oil production and provide electricity for the project.

September 29, 2012 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Edinburgh Napier spin-out uses ABE fermentation process to convert whisky byproducts to bio-butanol

Celtic Renewables Ltd, a spin-out company from from the Biofuel Research Centre (BfRC) at Edinburgh Napier University, has signed a memorandum of understanding with malt whisky producer Tullibardine for the use of its whisky by-products for feedstock for the production of bio-butanol.

Celtic Renewables’ process. Click to enlarge.

Celtic Renewables Ltd uses an enhanced ABE (acetone-butanol-ethanol) fermentation process with the two main by-products of the whisky production—“pot ale” (the copper-containing liquid from the stills) and “draff” (the used barley grains)—to produce bio-butanol, acetone and ethanol, as well as high-grade animal feed.

The foundational research at the BfRC concentrated specifically on organic residues or by-products which have little or no value, but have sufficient quantity of unused sugars, which can be fermented to produce biofuel. The Celtic Renewables microbes can convert both the complex sugars, such as xylose and arabinose, and simple glucose into biofuels.

Celtic Renewables mixes the draff and pot ale, then ferments them to produce a broth. During fermentation a number of gases— particularly hydrogen— is produced. The broth is then distilled to produce butanol, acetone and ethanol, and the remainder is separated into solid material, which can be dried to produce a high-grade animal feed; and an effluent.

The whisky industry annually produces 1,600 million liters of pot ale and 500,000 tonnes of draff which could be converted into biofuel. While Celtic Renewables’ original proof-of-concept research, conducted at Edinburgh Napier, was at a small lab-scale of three liters of pot ale, the envisioned industrial scale second phase testing will systematically scale up to 10,000 liters.

Tullibardine has the capacity to provide 6,500 tonnes of draff and two million liters (528,000 gallons US) of pot ale— by-products which are currently spread on agricultural fields, turned into animal feed or discharged into the sea under license, at a cost of about £250,000 (US$404,000) per year.

The pilot demonstration project, a first for Scotland, is being funded with the help of a £155,000 grant from Zero Waste Scotland. The project has the support of ministers who believe it can contribute to the Scottish Government’s target of reducing carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 as well as contributing to the EU mandated biofuel target of 10% by 2020.

Because distilleries currently produce around three times more pot ale than draff, Celtic Renewables is also considering other sustainable sources of sugar-rich raw materials, such as the by-products from breweries or paper waste, to help it convert the excess into biofuel, according to Mark Simmers, CEO of Celtic Renewables.

September 29, 2012 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

NREL study finds 2nd-generation diesel hybrid delivery vans show significant gains in fuel economy over conventional vans

Laboratory and in-use fuel economy results Source: NREL. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report on an 18-month evaluation of in-service second-generation diesel-electric hybrid delivery vans and found significant fuel economy benefits of the hybrids compared to similar conventional vans.

The NREL team collected and analyzed in-service fuel economy, maintenance, and other vehicle performance data on 11 hybrid (P100H) and 11 conventional diesel (P100D) step vans operated by the United Parcel Service (UPS) in Minneapolis. The two study groups were on different duty cycles and required a route switch to provide a valid comparison, which UPS accommodated. The hybrid group accumulated 33% fewer miles than the conventional group during the complete 18-month study. The team also performed dynamometer testing at the Renewable Fuels and Lubricants (ReFUEL) Research Laboratory in Denver.

The NREL team evaluated fuel economy during equal 5-month periods from different years. During the second period, the route assignments originally assigned to the conventional and hybrid van groups were swapped so that the conventional vehicles were assigned to the original hybrid van routes and vice versa.

During the on-road portion of our study, the hybrid vans demonstrated a 13 to 20 percent higher fuel economy than the conventional vans. During dynamometer testing, three standard drive cycles were chosen to represent the range of delivery routes. The hybrids showed a 13 to 36 percent improvement in fuel economy and up to a 45 percent improvement in ton-miles-per-gallon. This wide range in fuel economy is largely dependent on drive cycle.

—NREL Project Engineer Michael Lammert

The team found that the fuel economy of the hybrid group on the original conventional route assignments over 5 months was 10.4 mpg, 13% greater than the 9.2 mpg of the conventional group on those routes a year earlier.

They also found that the fuel economy of the hybrid group on the original hybrid route assignments over 5 months was 9.4 mpg, 20% greater than the 7.9 mpg of the conventional group on those routes a year later.

The difference in hybrid advantage in fuel economy is as expected. The hybrids demonstrated a greater advantage on the initial hybrid route assignments, which were more “urban” (low speed, high stops-per-mile routes) and lower advantage on initial conventional route assignments with a longer highway leg and less dense delivery zones.

—“Eighteen-Month Final Evaluation of UPS Second Generation Diesel Hybrid-Electric Delivery Vans”

The reliability of the hybrids was slightly lower, 92.5% compared to 99.7%, in part due to troubleshooting and recalibration issues related to prototype components, Lammert said. The differences in per-mile maintenance and operating costs were not statistically significant.

Primary hybrid components arranged in the undercarriage of a UPS delivery van. Source: NREL. Click to enlarge.

The hybrids studied represented a second-generation,an evolution from UPS’ original 50 Eaton hybrids that NREL documented in earlier studies. The new hybrids have more advanced control algorithms and an integrated “engine off at idle” feature that automatically stops and restarts the engine at stoplights and other short stops when certain conditions are met.

The revised Eaton hybrid system consists of a Fuller medium-duty automated manual 6-speed transmission; a synchronous brushless, permanent magnet motor delivering continuous power of 26 kW and peak power of 44 kW; a 340 VDC Li-ion battery pack with 1.8 kWh capacity; and power electronics.

NREL has been working in partnership with UPS for five years to track and evaluate the performance of its hybrid vehicles. The first study, performed in 2008, focused on first-generation hybrid vans operated by UPS in Phoenix. (Earlier post.) In 2010, UPS deployed 200 second-generation hybrid vans to eight US cities, including the 11 under study in Minneapolis.


September 29, 2012 in Fleets, Fuel Efficiency, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Visteon heat pump system for hybrid and electric vehicles

Visteon Corporation has developed a heat pump system that effectively utilizes ambient air and ancillary heat to improve cabin conditioning for hybrid and electric vehicles. By drawing less power from the lithium-ion battery, vehicles equipped with the heat pump system can operate longer on a single charge.

HVAC system diagram. Click to enlarge.

Combustion engines create waste heat that be used to warm the vehicle cabin. Since hybrid and electric vehicles generate considerably less heat, the climate system must produce heat for the cabin, a process that drains power from the battery.

Visteon’s heat pump system uses an electric compressor to both cool the cabin of an EV/HEV vehicle when running the refrigerant cycle in one direction and heat the cabin when running the refrigerant cycle in the reverse direction. Compared to electric heating, Visteon’s heat pump system uses less energy resulting in a longer drive range on a single battery charge.

This heat pump system consumes about 50% less power and can extend the number of miles driven on a battery charge by 30%. This electric vehicle data compares Visteon’s heat pump system to an electric heater during a New York City drive cycle at -10 °C.

September 29, 2012 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2012

Mercedes-Benz introduces production version of SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive super sports car

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive. Click to enlarge.

At the Paris Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz introduced the production of the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive (earlier post). The battery-electric supercar goes on sale in 2013. The price in Germany (incl. 19% VAT) will be €416,500 (US$535,898). (The new, conventional V8 SLS AMG Roadster going on sale next month carries a price in Germany, including VAT, of €213,010 (US$274,074).)

The AMG high-performance EV features four electric motors producing a total output of 552 kW and a maximum torque of 1000 N·m (738 lb-ft). The gullwing model is the fastest electrically-powered series production vehicle, according to Daimler: the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. Top speed (electronically limited) is 250 km/h (155 mph).

The Li-ion battery pack for the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive is the result of cooperation between Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth (UK). This is an area in which the British Formula 1 experts were able to contribute their know-how with KERS hybrid concepts.

The four compact permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors, each weighing 45 kg, achieve a maximum individual speed of 13,000 rpm and in each case drive the 4 wheels selectively via a axially-arranged transmission design. This enables the unique distribution of torque to individual wheels, which would normally only be possible with wheel hub motors— which can have the disadvantage of generating considerable unsprung masses.

The 60 kWh battery pack in the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive offers an electric load potential of 600 kW and weighs 548 kg. The liquid-cooled lithium-ion high-voltage battery features a modular design and a maximum voltage of 400 V. Advanced technology and know-how from the world of Formula 1 have been called on during both the development and production stages: the battery is the first result of the cooperation between Mercedes-AMG GmbH in Affalterbach and Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains Ltd. Headquartered in Brixworth in England, the company has been working closely with Mercedes-AMG for a number of years.

The battery pack consists of 12 modules each comprising 72 lithium-ion cells. This optimized arrangement of a total of 864 cells has benefits not only in terms of best use of the installation space, but also in terms of performance, according to the company. One feature is the intelligent parallel circuit of the individual battery modules— this helps to maximize the safety, reliability and service life of the battery. As in Formula 1, the battery is charged by means of targeted recuperation during deceleration whilst the car is being driven.

A high-performance electronic control system converts the direct current from the high-voltage battery into the three-phase alternating current which is required for the synchronous motors and regulates the energy flow for all operating conditions. Two low-temperature cooling circuits ensure that the four electric motors and the power electronics are maintained at an even operating temperature. A separate low-temperature circuit is responsible for cooling the high-voltage lithium-ion battery.

In low external temperatures, the battery is quickly brought up to optimum operating temperature with the aid of an electric heating element. In extremely high external temperatures, the cooling circuit for the battery can be additionally boosted with the aid of the air conditioning. This also helps to preserve the overall service life of the battery system.

Ideally the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive is charged with the aid of a wall box. Installed in a home garage, this technology provides a 22 kW quick-charge function. A high-voltage power cable is used to connect the vehicle to the wall box, and enables charging to take place in around three hours. Without the wall box, charging takes around 20 hours. The wall box is provided as an optional extra from Mercedes-AMG in cooperation with SPX and KEBA, two suppliers of innovative electric charging infrastructures for the automotive industry.

The SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive makes use of an eight-stage safety design. This comprises the following features:

  • all high-voltage cables are color-coded in orange to prevent confusion;

  • comprehensive contact protection for the entire high-voltage system;

  • the lithium-ion battery is liquid-cooled and accommodated in a high-strength aluminium housing within the carbon-fibre zero-intrusion cell;

  • conductive separation of the high-voltage and low-voltage networks within the vehicle and integration of an interlock switch;

  • active and passive discharging of the high-voltage system when the ignition is switched to “off”;

  • in the event of an accident, the high-voltage system is switched off within fractions of a second;

  • continuous monitoring of the high-voltage system for short circuits with potential compensation and insulation monitors; and

  • redundant monitoring function for the all-wheel drive system with torque control for individual wheels, via several control units using a variety of software.

The AMG Torque Dynamics feature is permanently active and allows for selective distribution of forces for each individual wheel. The intelligent distribution of drive torque greatly benefits driving dynamics, handling, driving safety and ride comfort. Each individual wheel can be both electrically driven and electrically braked, depending on the driving conditions, thus helping to optimise the vehicle's cornering properties; reduce the tendency to oversteer/understeer, increase the yaw damping of the basic vehicle; reduce the steering effort and steering angle required; increase traction; and minimize ESP and ASR intervention.

The AMG Torque Dynamics feature offers three different transmission modes:

  • Comfort (C): comfortable, forgiving driving characteristics
  • Sport (S): sporty, balanced driving characteristics
  • Sport plus (S+): sporty, agile driving characteristics

The body shell structure of the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive is part of the AMG Lightweight Performance design strategy. The battery is located within a carbon-fibre monocoque which forms an integral part of the gullwing model and acts as its “spine”. The monocoque housing is firmly bolted and bonded to the aluminium spaceframe body. The fibre composite materials have their roots in the world of Formula 1, among other areas. The advantages of CFRP (carbon-fibre reinforced plastic) were exploited by the Mercedes-AMG engineers in the design of the monocoque.

These include their high strength, which makes it possible to create extremely rigid structures in terms of torsion and bending, excellent crash performance and low weight. Carbon-fibre components are up to 50% lighter than comparable steel ones, yet retain the same level of stability. Compared with aluminium, the weight saving is still around 30%, while the material is considerably thinner.

The carbon-fibre battery monocoque is, in addition, conceived as a “zero intrusion cell”; it protects the battery modules inside the vehicle from deformation or damage in the event of a crash.

The purely electric drive system was factored into the equation as early as the concept phase when the super sports car was being developed. It is ideally packaged for the integration of the high-performance, zero-emission technology: for example, the four electric motors and the two transmissions can be positioned as close to the four wheels as possible and very low down in the vehicle. The same applies to the modular high-voltage battery. Advantages of this solution include the vehicle’s low center of gravity and balanced weight distribution.

The additional front-wheel drive called for a newly designed front axle: unlike the series production vehicle with AMG V8 engine, which has a double wishbone axle, the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive features an independent multi-link suspension with pushrod damper struts. This is because the vertically-arranged damper struts had to make way for the additional drive shafts. As is usual in a wide variety of racing vehicles, horizontal damper struts are now used, which are operated via separate push rods and transfer levers. With this front-axle design, which has already been tried and tested in the world of motorsport, the agility and driving dynamics of the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive attain the same high levels as the V8 variant.

Another distinguishing feature is the speed-sensitive power steering with rack-and-pinion steering gear: the power assistance is implemented electrohydraulically rather than just hydraulically.

The SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive is slowed with the aid of AMG high-performance ceramic composite brakes, which boast direct brake response, a precise actuation point and outstanding fade resistance, even in extreme operating conditions. The over-sized discs— measuring 402 x 39 mm at the front and 360 x 32 mm at the rear— are made of carbon fibre-strengthened ceramic, feature an integral design all round and are connected to an aluminium bowl in a radially floating arrangement.

The ceramic brake discs are 40% lighter in weight than the conventional, grey cast iron brake discs. The reduction in unsprung masses not only improves handling dynamics and agility, but also ride comfort and tire grip. The lower rotating masses at the front axle also ensure a more direct steering response— particularly noticeable when taking curves at high speed.

September 28, 2012 in Electric (Battery) | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Researchers discover how nickel may inhibit charge/discharge rate in Li-ion batteries

Left. Image of LMNO surface layer. Upper right. Simulated zone projection image based on LMNO crystal model with 20% Ni/Li disorder corresponding to blue rectangle. Lower right. Simulated zone projection image based on LMNO crystal model with 10% Ni/Li disorder corresponding to white rectangle. TM = transition metal. Credit: ACS, Gu et al. Click to enlarge.

A research team from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), with colleagues from FEI, Inc. and Binghamton University, has discovered a thermodynamically driven, yet kinetically controlled, surface modification in lithium-nickel-manganese-oxide (LMNO) cathode material which may inhibit the battery charge/discharge rate.

Examining battery materials on the nano-scale, they found how nickel forms a physical barrier that impedes the shuttling of lithium ions in the electrode, reducing how fast the materials charge and discharge. Published last week in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the research also suggests a way to improve the materials.

Lithium transition-metal oxides have been widely used as the cathode for Li ion batteries. They can be tailored to gain either high voltage or high capacity by adjusting the relative ratio of different transition-metal ions and preparation conditions. For example, a layered composite based on lithium nickel manganese oxide Li1.2Ni0.2Mn0.6O2 (LNMO) has demonstrated a rechargeable capacity of >250 mAh/g, which is much larger than that of the conventional LiCoO2 cathode (<140 mAh/g). This category of material is featured by a layered composite structure in which the channels within the structure can act as a low-barrier path for Li ions to move during the charge/discharge processes.

Here we report our surprising discovery of a selective surface lattice plane segregation of nickel (Ni) ions for the case of LNMO as a representative case for the transition-metal oxide-based cathode and the possible implications of such a surface segregation on the Li ion transport behavior in this category of cathode material. What we have observed is a phenomenon that is far beyond general expectation and will broadly impact the research effort for enhancing the rate performance of Li ion batteries and stability of cathode in the electrolyte.

—Gu et al.

The researchers, led by PNNL’s Chongmin Wang, created high-resolution 3D images of electrode materials made from lithium-nickel-manganese oxide layered nanoparticles, mapping the individual elements. These maps showed that nickel formed clumps at certain spots in the nanoparticles. A higher magnification view showed the nickel blocking the channels through which lithium ions normally travel when batteries are charged and discharged.

We were surprised to see the nickel selectively segregate like it did. When the moving lithium ions hit the segregated nickel-rich layer, they essentially encounter a barrier that appears to slow them down. The block forms in the manufacturing process, and we’d like to find a way to prevent it.

—Chongmin Wang

In lithium-manganese oxide electrodes, the manganese and oxygen atoms form rows like a field of cornstalks. In the channels between the stalks, lithium ions zip towards the electrodes on either end, the direction depending on whether the battery is being used or being charged.

Researchers have known for a long time that adding nickel improves energy capacity and voltage, but haven’t understood why the capacity falls after repeated usage.

The researchers used electron microscopy at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at PNNL and the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to view how the different atoms are arranged in the electrode materials produced by Argonne National Laboratory researchers. The electrodes were based on nanoparticles made with lithium, nickel, and manganese oxides.

First, the team took high-resolution images that clearly showed rows of atoms separated by channels filled with lithium ions. On the surface, they saw the accumulation of nickel at the ends of the rows, essentially blocking lithium from moving in and out.

To find out how the surface layer is distributed on and within the whole nanoparticle, the team used a technique called three-dimensional composition mapping. Using a nanoparticle about 200 nanometers in size, they took 50 images of the individual elements as they tilted the nanoparticle at various angles. The team reconstructed a three-dimensional map from the individual elemental maps, revealing spots of nickel on a background of lithium-manganese oxide.

The three-dimensional distribution of manganese, oxygen and lithium atoms along the surface and within the particle was relatively even. The nickel, however, parked itself in small areas on the surface. Internally, the nickel clumped on the edges of smaller regions called grains.

This data visualization shows how manganese (blue) and nickel (green) are distributed in a nanoparticle about 200 nanometers tall. Nickel’s uneven distribution affects the energy capacity of the battery electrode made from these nanoparticles in lithium-ion batteries.

To explore why nickel aggregates on certain surfaces, the team calculated how easily nickel and lithium traveled through the channels. Nickel moved more easily up and down the channels than lithium. While nickel normally resides within the manganese oxide cornrows, sometimes it slips out into the channels. And when it does, this analysis showed that it flows much easier through the channels to the end of the field, where it accumulates and forms a block.

The researchers used a variety of methods to make the nanoparticles. Wang said that the longer the nanoparticles stayed at high temperature during fabrication, the more nickel segregated and the poorer the particles performed in charging and discharging tests. They plan on doing more closely controlled experiments to determine if a particular manufacturing method produces a better electrode.

This work was supported by PNNL’s Chemical Imaging Initiative.


  • Meng Gu, Ilias Belharouak, Arda Genc, Zhiguo Wang, Dapeng Wang, Khalil Amine, Fei Gao, Guangwen Zhou, Suntharampillai Thevuthasan, Donald R. Baer, Ji-Guang Zhang, Nigel D. Browning, Jun Liu, and Chongmin Wang (2012) Conflicting Roles of Ni in Controlling Cathode Performance in Li-ion Batteries, NanoLetters doi: 10.1021/nl302249v

September 28, 2012 in Batteries | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Honda updates CR-Z hybrid with more power and Li-ion battery

Honda has updated the sporty CR-Z hybrid with a range of improvements focusing on style and performance. The power of both the gasoline engine and electric motor has been increased to 137 PS (128 hp, 96 kW) without compromising fuel economy or increasing exhaust emissions.

Updated CR-Z hybrid. Click to enlarge.

The car also features a Lithium-ion battery for the first time and a Plus Sport (S+) boost system to help the driver make the best use of this sporty performance. The revised CR-Z will go on sale in January 2013.

The CR-Z’s 1.5-liter gasoline engine has been updated with changes to the variable valve timing system and Engine Control Unit (ECU). An anti-vibration knock sensor has been introduced and the material of the crankshaft has been upgraded. The peak power output has been increased from 114 PS (112 hp, 84 kW) to 121 PS (119 hp, 89 kW).

The electric motor system has also been improved. The change from a nickel-metal hybrid (Ni-MH) to a lithium-ion battery has been accompanied by an increase in power from 14 PS (10 kW) to 20 PS (15 kW).

Working in unison, the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system now delivers a combined output of 137 PS at 6600 rpm (+13 PS) and 190 N·m (140 lb-ft) of torque (N·m ). The 0-62 mph sprint time falls from 9.7 sec to 9.0 sec and top speed is 124 mph (200 km/h). The combined consumption is 5 l/100 km (47 mpg US), with 116 g/km of CO2.

To help the driver make the best use of this sporty performance, Honda has introduced a Plus Sport (S+) boost system. If the battery is more than 50% charged, the driver can activate this system using the S+ button on the steering wheel. When the accelerator is pressed the electric boost begins, delivering increased acceleration for up to ten seconds. A flashing gauge on the dashboard indicates when the system is active. S+ can be used in ECON, Normal or Sport modes.

September 28, 2012 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Applied Nanotech awarded DOE contract to develop ultra-lightweight hydrogen fuel tanks; seeking 20% weight reduction

Applied Nanotech Holdings, Inc. recently was awarded $999,990 for a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) from the US Department of Energy to develop ultra-lightweight hydrogen fuel tanks using carbon nanotube (CNT) reinforcement.

This 24-month program has the overall objective significantly to improve the mechanical properties of the carbon fiber/epoxy material used to construct hydrogen fuel tanks with CNT reinforcement. The goal is to reduce the weight of the tanks by 20% or more.

A weight reduction of this magnitude will not only significantly lower the hydrogen fuel tank costs but also increase the vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

In addition to hydrogen storage vessels, this technology can also be used in compressed natural gas tanks. The International Association of Natural Gas Vehicles reported that sales of composite pressure vessels are expected to reach $250 million by 2013, and upwards of $560 million by the end of the decade.

Applied Nanotech has developed CNT reinforced polymers for fiber composites for a wide range of applications. Yonex Corporation uses Applied Nanotech technology in its ultra lightweight badminton racquets and golf club shafts. Applied Nanotech also recently launched CNTstix, a family of ultra-strong structural epoxy adhesives.

September 28, 2012 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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