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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

SolidEnergy targeting rechargeable Li-metal smartphone battery in 2016, EV battery with 2x range in 2017

January 31, 2015

SolidEnergy, an MIT spin-out commercializing solid electrolyte technology enabling the use of lithium metal anodes for high energy density rechargeable batteries (earlier post), says that in 2016, it and its battery manufacturing partners will release a 2 Ah commercial battery for the smartphone and wearable market. This is to be followed in 2017 by a 20 Ah electric vehicle battery offering more than two times the driving range of current Li-ion batteries.

In 2014, the company announced a prototype 2Ah pouch cell with a volumetric energy density of more than 1200 Wh/L; subsequently the company said it had achieved 1337 Wh/L in a 2Ah pouch cell. Its Solid Polymer Ionic Liquid (SPIL) electrolyte enables the use of an ultra-thin lithium metal anode, and improves the cell-level energy density by 50% compared to graphite anodes and 30% compared to silicon-composite anodes.

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EaglePicher Licenses OneD Material’s SiNANOde silicon-nanowire anode technology

January 30, 2015

EaglePicher Technologies, LLC has entered into a License Agreement and an Engineering Services Agreement with OneD Material to set up a new EaglePicher production facility in Joplin to produce SiNANOde, a silicon-nanowire-based anode material originally developed by Nanosys (earlier post) for building high energy density lithium-ion cells and batteries. (In 2013, OneD Material acquired Nanosys’ nanowire technologies and related assets including its R&D activities.)

This new technology will be used in part with EaglePicher’s initiative to increase lithium-ion cell production and expand the product portfolio for defense and aerospace applications. (Earlier post.) The addition of SiNANOde raw material is a key component for improving the performance of lithium-ion cells and batteries for niche applications.

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Li-S battery with novel solid-state electrolyte shows capacity approaching theoretical value and high Coulombic efficiency

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Voltage profiles of charge-discharge cycles of the solid-state Li-S battery. Current density of 0.05 C). The specific capacity is given per g of sulfur. Yamada et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Samsung R&D and the University of Rome “La Sapienza” have fabricated a novel all solid-state Li-S battery that exhibits a capacity (∼ 1600 mAhg−1) approaching the theoretical value and an initial charge-discharge Coulombic efficiency approaching 99% (the average in ten cycles was 98%). An open access paper on their work is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

In addition to these and its other favorable properties (ie.e, smooth stripping-deposition of lithium), the activation energy of the charge transfer process was 44.5 kJmol−1—much smaller than that of a corresponding liquid electrolyte Li-S cell. These results, the team concluded, “are convincing in demonstrating that the solid electrolyte is very effective in physically preventing polysulfide migration.

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New Kevlar-based nanocomposite serves as dendrite-suppressing Li-ion battery separator with high ionic conductivity

January 27, 2015

Researchers at the University of Michigan, with colleagues at Ford and the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, have developed a dendrite-suppressing membrane exhibiting high modulus, ionic conductivity, flexibility, ion flux rates and thermal stability for Li-ion batteries by using a composite made from Kevlar-derived aramid nanofibres assembled in a layer-by-layer manner with poly(ethylene oxide).

In a paper published in Nature Communications, they report that the porosity of the ion-conducting membrane (ICM) is smaller than the growth area of the dendrites; the aramid nanofibers thus eliminate “weak links” where dendrites can pierce a membrane. The aramid nanofiber network also suppresses poly(ethylene oxide) crystallization detrimental for ion transport.

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Researchers exploring Li-Tellurium for high energy density batteries

Researchers at the Kumoh National Institute of Technology in Korea have developed a new, high-performance Li-Tellurium (Li-Te) secondary battery system using a Li metal anode and a Te-based cathode.

As described in an open access paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the mechanically reduced (MR) Te/C nanocomposite electrode material exhibited high energy density (initial discharge/charge: 1088/740 mAh cm−3); excellent cyclability (ca. 705 mAh cm−3 over 100 cycles); and fast rate capability (ca. 550 mAh cm−3 at 5C rate). The researchers suggested that their Te/C nanocomposite electrodes were suitable for use as either the cathode in Li-Te secondary batteries or as a high-potential anode in rechargeable Li-ion batteries.

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DOE to award $55.8M for advanced vehicle technologies; $35M for fuel cell and hydrogen

January 22, 2015

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a new Vehicle Technologie program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001201) for $55.8 million. DOE also announced up to $35 million to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, including enabling the early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light duty fuel cell electric vehicles. This new funding opportunity announcement will be available in early February.

The Vehicle Technologies funding is targeted at a wide range of research, development, and demonstration projects that aim to reduce the price and improve the efficiency of plug-in electric, alternative fuel, and conventional vehicles. Topics addressed include: advanced batteries (including manufacturing processes) and electric drive R&D; Lightweight materials; Advanced combustion engine and enabling technologies R&D; and Fuels technologies (dedicated or dual-fuel natural gas engine technologies).

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USABC to evaluate Seeo Li-poly batteries with an eye to EV applications

January 14, 2015

Seeo, a developer of advanced lithium polymer batteries, announced the award of a contract for technology assessment from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization of FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors. Under the contract, Seeo will deliver its DryLyte battery modules to USABC for testing under a nine month technology assessment program. These modules are based on Seeo’s current cell technology, which provides an energy density of 220 Wh/kg.

The contract encompasses a third-party assessment of the technical characteristics of Seeo’s high energy density batteries and validation of characteristics anticipated for electric vehicle applications. Co-funded by the US Department of Energy, the contract has a value of $298,736, including a 50% cost share by Seeo.

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U. Waterloo / BASF team reports new strategy for stabilizing high-performance Li-S cathodes; “transfer mediator”

A team from the University of Waterloo in Canada and BASF has devised a successful new strategy to stabilize cathode in Li-S batteries, thereby significantly improving performance and cycle life. In a study exploring the mechanism published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers, led by Prof. Linda Nazar at the University of Waterloo, showed a capacity of 1,300  mAh g−1 at C/20 with only a modest drop in capacity at a 20x higher current density (a C rate) to 950 mAh g-1.

At C/5, the initial discharge capacity was 1,120 mAh g-1, with 1,030 mAh g-1 sustained after more than 200 cycles—representing excellent capacity retention of 0.04% per cycle. At higher current densities (1C), the composite cathode still delivered reversible capacity of 800 mAh g-1 after 200 cycles.

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Chevrolet unveils Bolt EV Concept; 200+ electric miles for ~$30,000

January 12, 2015

At the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Chevrolet introduced the Bolt EV concept crossover—a vision for an affordable, long-range all-electric vehicle designed to offer more than 200 miles of range starting around $30,000. The Bolt EV concept is designed to offer long-range performance in all 50 states and many global markets.

Drivers will be able to select operating modes designed around preferred driving styles such as daily commuting and spirited weekend cruising. The modes adjust accelerator pedal mapping, vehicle ride height and suspension tuning. The Bolt EV concept is also designed to support DC fast charging.

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BNL/Stony Brook study provides insight into optimized electrode architectures

Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University have combined in situ EDXRD with ex situ XRD and XAS measurements to visualize the formation of the conductive silver matrix within an Ag2VP2O8 electrode used in a specialized medical battery. From this, they were able to elucidate a rate-dependent discharge mechanism: that by using lower current densities early in the discharge of a multifunctional bimetallic cathode–containing cell, it is possible preferentially to form metallic silver that is more evenly distributed, resulting in the opportunity for more complete cathode use and higher functional capacity. The work (Kirshenbaum et al.) appears in the journal Science.

Although silver compounds may be too expensive for applications other than medical ones, observed Nancy J. Dudney and Juchuan Li from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in a Perspective in the same issue of Science, the study is “an exciting step toward understanding how optimized battery electrode architectures can maximize the energy per unit volume and weight.

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Fuji Pigment unveils rechargeable Aluminum-air battery; targeting initial commercialization this spring

January 09, 2015

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A schematic diagram of the ALFA cell, showing the placement of the ceramic material. Mori 2015. Click to enlarge.

Fuji Pigment Co. Ltd. has developed a new type of aluminum-air battery which can be recharged by refilling with salt or fresh water and which uses a modified structure to ensure longer battery lifetime. The company said it is constantly improving the battery performance and plans to commercialize the technology in the market by spring 2015. The technology, developed by Dr. Ryohei Mori, has been described in several papers over the past few few years, the most recent being an open access paper in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

Metal-air batteries use a catalytic air cathode in combination with an electrolyte and metal anode such as lithium, aluminum, magnesium or zinc. With very high theoretical energy densities, metal air technology is considered a promising technology candidate for “beyond Li-ion” next-generation batteries enabling future long-range battery-electric vehicles—assuming the development obstacles can be overcome.

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Johnson Controls partners with Toshiba on new Li Titanate start-stop battery with SCiB cells

January 08, 2015

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Johnson Controls’ 12-V Lithium Titanate battery will power advanced start-stop vehicles. Click to enlarge.

At the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, Johnson Controls will unveil a new 12V Lithium Titanate battery developed in collaboration with Toshiba for advanced start-stop applications. Toshiba is supplying its SCiB cells (earlier post) to Johnson Controls for the application.

The SCiB Lithium Titanate chemistry is effective at quickly recharging, works well in a wide range of temperatures and can be easily integrated into a vehicle’s 12-volt electrical system. Further, SCiB cells feature long life of more than 10,000 charge-discharge cycles. Toshiba, with SCiB, is the established market leader for Lithium Titanate systems.

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ARPA-E issues $125M open solicitation for energy R&D; transportation and stationary applications

January 07, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a $125-million open Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). OPEN 2015 (DOE-FOA-0001261) will support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies in all areas of energy research and development, for both transportation and stationary applications.

OPEN 2015 is the third open funding solicitation issued by the agency. Open solicitations ensure that ARPA-E does not miss opportunities to support potentially transformational projects outside the scope of existing ARPA-E programs. The projects selected under OPEN 2015 will pursue novel approaches to energy innovation and support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications.

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Li-ion sulfur polymer battery shows high energy density as well as safety

A team from the University of Rome Sapienza has developed a rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery based on the combination of a high capacity sulfur-carbon cathode, nanostructured LixSn-C anode and polysulfide-added PEO-based gel membrane. The cell shows very good electrochemical performances in terms of stability and delivered capacity; this electrolyte configuration allows the achievement of a stable capacity ranging from 500 to 1500 mAh gS-1, depending on the cycling rate.

Further, the use of a polymer electrolyte and the replacement of lithium metal with a Li-Sn-C nanostructured alloy for the anode should provide high safety content, they noted in their open access paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports.

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BMW i ChargeForward Program to demo contribution of intelligent EV charging to grid efficiency

January 05, 2015

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, BMW announced the BMW i ChargeForward Program—a pilot study to be undertaken by the BMW Group Technology Office, together with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). Working with a select group of BMW i3 drivers, BMW i ChargeForward will demonstrate how intelligent management of electric vehicle charging can contribute to improved electric power grid efficiency while reducing total cost of electric vehicle ownership.

BMW i ChargeForward is designed to explore how to better match the impact of electric vehicles with other dynamic energy supply and demand sources. The study has two parts, a managed charge pilot program involving BMW i3 owners and a battery second life energy storage system. In the managed charge pilot program, select BMW i3 owners will allow PG&E to request a delay in the charging of their vehicles by up to an hour, when grid loads are at their peak. The program also includes a “second life” for used MINI E batteries, by repurposing these batteries into a stationary solar-powered electric storage system located at the BMW Technology Office in Mountain View, California.

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Sulfur nanodots on nickel foam as high-performance Li-S cathode materials; carbon- and binder-free

January 03, 2015

A team at Nankai University in China has devised high-performance Li-sulfur battery cathode materials consisting of sulfur nanodots (2 nm average) directly electrodeposited on flexible nickel foam; the cathode materials incorporate no carbon or binder.

An optimized cathode with 0.45 mg/cm2 S on the Ni foam exhibited high initial discharge capacity (1458 mAh/g at 0.1 C); high rate capability (521 mAh/g at 10 C); and long cycling stability (895 mAh/g after 300 cycles at 0.5 C and 528 mAh/g after 1400 cycles at 5 C). In their paper, published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the researchers suggested that their fast, facile, one-step cathode preparation method with the resulting excellent electrochemical performance can lead to technological advances for sulfur cathode materials in Li–S batteries.

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Review paper: Graphene and related materials (GRMs) may play major role in energy applications

January 02, 2015

The large specific surface area (SSA)—i.e., the surface-to-mass ratio—of graphene, combined with its high electrical conductivity, high mechanical strength, ease of functionalization, and potential for mass production, makes it an extremely attractive platform for energy applications, such as a transparent conductive electrode for solar cells or as flexible high-capacity electrode in lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors, notes a team of researchers from Europe, the US and Korea, in a paper reviewing the role of graphene and related systems for energy conversion and storage published in the journal Science. The combination of chemical functionalization and curvature control also opens new opportunities for hydrogen storage.

In addition to graphene, they note, other two-dimensional crystals such as the transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) display insulating, semiconducting (with band gaps in the visible region of the spectrum), and metallic behavior and can enable novel device architectures also in combination with graphene. As with graphene, these materials can be integrated on flexible surfaces and can be mass-produced. Yet another class of 2D crystals is the MXenes (e.g., earlier post)—layered, hexagonal carbides and nitrides that can accommodate various ions and molecules between their layers by intercalation. MXene sheets are promising for energy applications, such as lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, and hydrogen storage.

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SINANO team demonstrates sulfur’s theoretical capacity in Li-S cells using ultra-small nanoparticles at low discharging rate

January 01, 2015

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Theoretical discharging behavior and high cycle stability of 5 nm NPs. (a) Discharge/charge profile of 5 nm S NPs at 0.1 C. (b) XRD patterns of discharge products of 20 and 5 nm S NPs discharged to 1.0 V. (c) XPS spectra of discharge products of 5 nm S NPs at DoD of 72 and 100%. (d) Cycling performance of 5 nm SNPs at 0.5 C and 1 C. Credit: ACS, Chen et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at the Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics (SINANO) has demonstrated that the electrochemical performance of sulfur nanoparticles (NPs) in the cathode of a Lithium-sulfur battery is critically dependent on the sulfur particle size. Further, they demonstrated that sulfur’s theoretical discharging behavior can be experimentally realized with ultra-small sulfur nanoparticles.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they report that 5 nm S NPs display sulfur’s theoretical discharging/charging capacity of 1672 mAh g–1 at a 0.1 C rate and a discharge capacity of 1089 mAh g–1 even at 4 C. Specific capacity remained at 1017 and 965 mAh g−1 after 500 cycles at 0.5 C and 1 C, respectively.

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Yale team introduces new Li-O2 cell architecture with mesoporous catalytic membrane; improved cycling stability

December 31, 2014

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Schematic illustration of a Li-O2 cell employing a mesoporous catalytic polymer membrane. Credit: ACS, RYu et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at Yale University has introduced a new Li-O2 cell architecture that uses a mesoporous catalytic polymer-based membrane between the oxygen electrode and the separator to achieve high reversibility and efficiency, rather than placing the catalyst particles on the oxygen electrode itself.

A modified Li-O2 battery with a catalytic membrane showed a stable cyclability for 60 cycles with a capacity of 1000 mAh/g and a reduced degree of polarization (∼0.3 V) compared to cells without a catalytic membrane. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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High-capacity GQD-coated VO2 nanoarray electrodes for high-performance Li- and Na-ion batteries

December 29, 2014

Researchers from Nanyang Technical University (NTU) in Singapore have shown high-capacity, high-rate, and durable lithium- and sodium-ion battery (LIB and NIB) performance using single-crystalline long-range-ordered bilayered VO2 nanoarray electrodes. The VO2 nanoarrays are supported on graphene foam (GF) and coated with a thin (∼2 nm) layer of graphene quantum dots (GQDs) to enhance the electrochemical performance both in LIBs and NIBs.

In lithiation (for LIBs), the electrode delivers a capacity more than 420 mAh/g and a capacity retention of 94% after 1500 cycles at 18 A/g. During sodiation (for NIBs), it can also exhibit a high capacity of 306 mAh/g and superior rate tolerance and good capacity retention (88% after 1500 cycles at 18 A/g) with a power density of 42 kW/kg at an energy density more than 100 Wh/kg.

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ORNL teams embeds crown ethers in graphene for increased performance; potential for separations, sensors, batteries, biotech & more

December 28, 2014

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This sheet of graphene contains an array of crown ethers that can strongly bind select guest ions or molecules. Image credit: ORNL. Click to enlarge.

A team led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has discovered a way to increase significantly the selectivity and binding strength of crown ethers by embedding them within a rigid framework of graphene. The results, published in Nature Communications, may enable broader use of crown ethers in diverse applications. Their strong, specific electrostatic binding may advance sensors, chemical separations, nuclear-waste cleanup, extraction of metals from ores, purification and recycling of rare-earth elements, water purification, biotechnology, energy production in durable lithium-ion batteries, catalysis, medicine and data storage.

Ethers are simple organic molecules in which an oxygen atom bridges two carbon atoms. When linked together in crown-shaped large molecular rings, they have the ability selectively to incorporate various atoms or molecules within the cavity formed by the ring. The size and shape of the cavity formed within a crown ether molecule confers selectivity for complementary ions and small molecules that fit it, like a lock and key. Crown ethers come in different sizes, so they can accommodate ions of different diameters.

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Study finds flooded lead-acid battery performance & cycle life increased by adding dCNT to PAM and NAM; benefit for start-stop

December 26, 2014

Researchers with Molecular Rebar Design report that the addition of discrete carbon nanotubes (dCNT), which they call Molecular Rebar, to both the positive and negative electrodes (Positive Active Material, PAM and Negative Active Material, NAM) in conventional flooded lead-acid batteries results in: little change to reserve capacity; improved cold cranking, increased charge acceptance, and enhanced overall system efficiency. The company had earlier reported on the impact of dCNT addition primarly to the negative electrode. (Earlier post.)

Life cycle tests show >60% increases when dCNT are incorporated into the negative electrode and up to 500% when incorporated into both electrodes, with water loss per cycle reduced >20% (High-Rate Partial State of Charge, HRPSoC and SBA S010 idling start-stop testing). A paper describing the study and the results is published in an open access paper in the Journal of Power Sources.

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U Maryland team devises new method to stabilize high-capacity Si anodes for Li-ion batteries: interfacial oxygen

December 20, 2014

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Interfacial oxygen between the silicon and carbon improves electrode performance. Credit: ACS, Son et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have improved the cycle life of silicon/carbon matrix-composite electrodes by 300%, even at mass loadings, solely by the chemical tailoring of the interface between the silicon and the carbon with atomic oxygen.

The interface-tailored electrodes simultaneously attained high areal capacity (3.86 mAh/cm2); high specific capacity (922 mAh/g based on the mass of the entire electrode); and excellent cyclability (80% retention of capacity after 160 cycles)—among the highest reported. Even at a high rate of 1C, the areal capacity approaches 1.61 mAh/cm2 at the 500th cycle. In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team sugests that interfacial bonding—“a new dimension that has yet to be explored,”—can play an unexpectedly important role in addressing the multifaceted challenge of Si anodes.

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U Texas Austin team finds P2S5 electrolyte additive enables use of Li2S bulk particles for high-capacity cathodes in lithium-sulfur batteries; ~800 mAh/g

December 19, 2014

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, led by Prof. Arumugam Manthiram, have found that using phosphorus pentasulfide (P2S5) as an electrolyte additive enables the direct use of commercially available bulk Li2S particles as high-capacity cathode materials for rechargeable Li−S batteries, without intricate synthesis or application of a high charging cut-off voltage that deteriorates the electrolyte stability and safety.

The ability to use commercially available bulk particles could significantly decrease the manufacturing cost of Li−S batteries with a LiS cathode. In a paper published in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, the team suggested that this strategy is both of significance for the safe and effective use of Li2S as a cathode material and as a promising step toward the low-cost fabrication of metallic-lithium-free Li−S batteries.

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New high-voltage electrolyte additive supports high energy density and stability in LMNC Li-ion battery; 2x energy density over LiCoO2

December 18, 2014

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Discharge capacity and cycle numbers for LMNC cathode with and without DFDEC in the electrolyte. Pham et al. Click to enlarge.

A team led by researchers at Chungnam National University (S. Korea) has developed a novel high-voltage electrolyte additive, di-(2,2,2 trifluoroethyl)carbonate (DFDEC), for use with the promising lithium-rich layered composite oxide high-energy cathode material xLi2MnO3·(1-x)LiMO2 (M = Mn, Ni, Co).

In a study reported in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, the team, led by Professor Seung-Wan Song, operated a 0.6Li2MnO3·0.4LiNi0.45Co0.25Mn0.3O2 (Li1.2Mn0.525Ni0.175Co0.1O2, LMNC) cathode at 2.5–4.8 V with 5 wt% of the fluorinated linear carbonate DFDEC as an additive. The cathode with DFDEC-enhanced electrolyte outperformed that in electrolyte only, delivering a high capacity of 250 mAhg−1 with an excellent charge-discharge cycling stability at the rate of 0.2C. A full cell based on the LMNC cathode and graphite anode successfully demonstrated doubled energy density (∼278 Wh kg−1) compared to ∼136 Wh kg−1 of a commercialized cell of graphite/LiCoO2 as well as an excellent cycling stability.

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European automotive and automotive battery industries call for extension of the exemption of lead-based batteries from the EU ELV Directive

The EU must continue to allow the use of lead-based batteries in vehicles as they are essential for the needs of future generations of European cars, according to the automotive and automotive battery industries in Europe. Lead battery and car manufacturers have requested that the current exemption for lead-based batteries within the ELV Directive’s wider ban on lead in light-duty vehicles is maintained for at least another eight years.

The comments are part of the formal submission made by the industry group to EU regulators who concluded the public consultation phase of the review of the End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive this week. Following the consultation the Commission is expected to release its opinion in the first half of 2015.

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Scania to test wirelessly charged plug-in hybrid city bus for the first time in Sweden

December 17, 2014

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Starting June 2016 a prototype for a new Scania plug-in hybrid bus (based on Scania Citywide Low Entry) will go into daily operation in Södertälje. Click to enlarge.

Scania is undertaking intensive research into various types of electrification technologies that could replace or complement combustion engines. Inductive charging is among the options the company is exploring and would enable vehicles wirelessly to recharge their batteries via electrified roads.

Now, for the first time in Sweden, Scania and the Stockholm based Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) plan to test the wireless charging technology in real-life conditions. Starting June 2016, a prototype for a new Scania plug-in hybrid bus (based on Scania Citywide Low Entry) will go into daily operation in Södertälje as part of a research project into sustainable vehicle technology.

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Graphene sheet-sulfur/carbon composite cathode for higher performance Li-sulfur batteries

December 16, 2014

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Cycling performance of the GS-S/CZIF8-D composite and the unwrapped S/CZIF8-D composite. Chen et al. Click to enlarge.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Vasant Kumar at the University of Cambridge and Professor Renjie Chen at the Beijing Institute of Technology has devised a three-dimensional hierarchical sandwich-type graphene sheet-sulfur/carbon (GS-S/CZIF8-D) composite to address performance-related issues in Lithium-sulfur batteries such as low efficiency and capacity degradation.

The thin graphene sheet, wrapped around the sulfur/zeolitic imidazolate framework-8 derived carbon (S/CZIF8-D) composite, has excellent electrical conductivity and mechanical flexibility. This facilitates rapid electron transport and accommodates the changes in volume of the sulfur electrode. Compared with an unwrapped S/CZIF8-D sample, Li-S batteries with the GS-S/CZIF8-D composite cathode showed enhanced capacity, improved electrochemical stability up to 120 cycles, and relatively high Coulombic efficiency. An open access paper on the work is published in the journal APL Materials.

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Electrochemical Society & Toyota announce ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship for projects in green energy technology

ECS, in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North American (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), has launched the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship and is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

The purpose of the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship is to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels. Electrochemical research has already informed the development and improvement of innovative batteries, electrocatalysts, photovoltaics and fuel cells. Through this fellowship, ECS and TRINA hope to see more innovative and unconventional technologies borne from electrochemical research.

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U Alberta team develops hybrid sodium-ion capacitor; intermediate in energy & power between ultracaps and batteries

December 15, 2014

A team led by researchers from the University of Alberta (Canada) Scientists has developed a hybrid sodium-ion capacitor (NIC) using active materials in both the anode and the cathode derived entirely from peanut shells—a green and highly economical waste globally generated at more than 6 million tons per year. The hybrid NIC stores charge both electrostatically and electrochemically, and sits between ultracapacitors and batteries in terms of power (ultracaps) and energy (batteries) storage capability.

According to their paper, published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the electrodes deliver among the most promising sodiation capacity–rate capability–cycling retention combinations reported in the literature. The resultant NIC also offers an advanced cyclically stable combination of energy and power, not only in respect to previously developed sodium-ion capacitors, but also as compared to Li-ion capacitors (LICs).

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Ioxus introduces high-temperature ultracapacitors with Titan technology; targeting automotive and transport

December 12, 2014

Ioxus, a manufacturer of premium performance ultracapacitor technology for use in transportation, industrial and energy applications, has introduced high-temperature 1250 Farad (F) cells with Titan high-temperature technology. Titan follows Ioxus’ earlier release of the results of an extensive durability test of its flagship hybrid bus product, the 48V / 165F module. (Earlier post.)

Ioxus’ Titan technology meets a key automotive industry requirement: a system with a wider operating range that meets both cold and high temperature standards. Ioxus’ newest line of cells, designed with novel chemistry solutions for this market, function properly at temperature ranges of -40 to 85 °C, and deliver 2.7 volts at these temperatures.

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Report: VW invests in novel energy storage company QuantumScape and its solid-state “All Electron Battery”

December 09, 2014

Bloomberg recently reported that the Volkswagen Group has made an investment in QuantumScape, a Silicon Valley stealth startup commercializing a novel solid-state energy storage technology—the “All-Electron Battery” (AEB), originally developed at Stanford and supported by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) ARPA-E BEEST program (earlier post), as noted by Katie Fehrenbacher at GigaOM.

Volkswagen executives have been hinting for awhile now about taking a different approach to high-energy-density electrical storage for long-range electric vehicles than the more “conventional” next-generation Li-ion or Li-metal battery pathways. Volkswagen at this point is steadfastly returning official “No comments” to questions here in the US and in Germany about the veracity of the Bloomberg report. However, if the Group has indeed taken a position in QuantumScape with the intention of supporting the development of the AEB for vehicle applications, that would certainly qualify as “a different approach.” In the AEB, energy storage is via the movement of electrons in bulk rather than ions (as in Li-ion batteries) and uses electron/hole redox instead of capacitive polarization of a double-layer (e.g., conventional capacitors).

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Penn State researchers develop thermally regenerative ammonia battery (TRAB) for efficient waste heat recovery

December 08, 2014

Researchers at Penn State University have demonstrated the efficient conversion of low-grade thermal energy into electrical power using a thermally regenerative ammonia-based battery (TRAB). A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The battery uses copper-based redox couples [Cu(NH3)42+/Cu and Cu(II)/Cu]. Ammonia addition to the anolyte (the electrolyte surrounding the anode) of a single TRAB cell produced a maximum power density of 115 ± 1 W m−2 (based on projected area of a single copper mesh electrode), with an energy density of 453 Wh m−3 (normalized to the total electrolyte volume, under maximum power production conditions).

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Li-S battery company OXIS Energy receives 2014 European Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation

Consultancy Frost &Sullivan has selected UK-based lithium-sulfur battery developer OXIS Energy to receive the 2014 European Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation. OXIS Energy has developed a lithium-sulfur battery technology that resolves some of the issues in the batteries currently used in military, automotive, and solar energy storage applications. The battery technology currently offers energy density greater than 300Wh/kg, is lightweight and offers enhanced safety chemistry that prevents fires and retains functionality, even after accidents. (Earlier post.)

The significant weight reduction makes the technology promising for soldiers or electric vehicles. For specific military applications, OXIS Energy is confident of achieving a significant weight reduction in excess of 50% in the near future.

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Study elucidates mechanism of alucone MLD coating that extends cycle life of high capacity Si anodes for Li-ion batteries

December 02, 2014

A team of researchers has elucidated the mechanism through which the surface modification of silicon nanoparticles on a high capacity silicon electrode via molecular layer deposition (MLD) of “alucone” enhances the Coulombic efficiency and preserves the capacity of silicon anodes for high-capacity Li-ion batteries. The study also clarified the role of the native oxide on silicon nanoparticles during cyclic lithiation and delithiation.

More broadly, the research team suggested in a paper published in the journal ACS Nano, the work also demonstrates that the effect of the subtle chemical modification of the silicon surface during the coating process may be of equal importance to the coating layer itself.

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PNNL team reports growth of dendrite-free lithium films with self-aligned and compact nanorod structure

Suppressing lithium (Li) dendrite growth is one of the most critical challenges for the development of Li-metal batteries—i.e., high-energy density batteries using a Li-metal anode such as Li-sulfur or Li-air. (Earlier post.) Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) report for the first time the growth of dendrite-free lithium films with a self-aligned and highly compacted nanorod structure. Their paper appears in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

Lithium metal is a very promising anode material for high-capacity rechargeable batteries due to its theoretical high capacity of 3,860 mAh g−1 (~10x that of the 372 mAh g−1 of graphite anodes in Li-ion batteries), but it fails to meet cycle life and safety requirements due to electrolyte decomposition and dendrite formation on the surfaces of the lithium metal anodes during cycling. Thus, numerous efforts have been and are being made to develop a safe, extended cycling lithium-metal electrode and/or supporting electrolyte (e.g., earlier post, earlier post, earlier post, earlier post.)

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Daimler investing ~€100M in Deutsche ACCUmotive to expand lithium-ion battery system production; stationary storage

December 01, 2014

Daimler AG is expanding its production capacities for lithium-ion battery systems with investments of around €100 million (US$125 million) in its Deutsche ACCUmotive subsidiary in coming years. Currently, a new building to be completed by mid-2015 is under construction in Kamenz, Germany. With the completion of the third construction phase Deutsche ACCUmotive will have nearly 20,000 m² of production and logistics space at its disposal—four times the area since the start of production in the year 2011.

Deutsche ACCUmotive’s product range currently includes three lithium-ion battery systems for different models. This includes the current smart fortwo electric drive and the Mercedes-Benz Models S 300 BlueTEC HYBRID, S 400 HYBRID, E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID, E 400 HYBRID and C 300 BlueTEC HYBRID. The company has delivered more than 50,000 lithium-ion battery systems to date. Earlier this month, Daimler said it would cease production of Li-ion battery cells at its LiTec subsidiary, with the intention of sourcing cells for the packs from outside the company. (Earlier post.)

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BMW reveals 3 Series Plug-in hybrid prototype with 117.5 mpg; next-gen Power eDrive: 2x current capacity, electric AWD

November 27, 2014

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BMW 3 Series Plug-in hybrid prototype. Click to enlarge.

BMW has unveiled a 3 Series plug-in hybrid prototype. Combining a four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo gasoline engine from the new Efficient Dynamics engine family with an electric motor, the BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid prototype offers performance on a par with a conventionally powered BMW 3 Series six-cylinder model, combined with a significant reduction in fuel consumption.

In addition, BMW outlined its work on Power eDrive next-generation electrification platforms—an effort to deliver “highly electrified” plug-in hybrids with higher-powered electric motors and batteries with twice the capacity of present versions. Future plug-in hybrid concepts, said BMW, will use the electric motor—the main source of power for everyday driving—to drive the rear wheels, while a second electric motor driving the front wheels will create an all-electric road-coupled all-wheel-drive system. At the same time, an internal combustion engine will also supply power to the front axle.

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IBM Research and ASELSAN to collaborate on metal-air battery technology, focusing on EVs; mm-wave ICs

November 25, 2014

IBM Research and Turkish defense industry technology company ASELSAN (Askerî Elektronik Sanayii, Military Electronic Industries) have signed collaborative development agreements concerning research and development of metal-air battery technologies and millimeter wave integrated circuits. The companies will work together on these projects, and through these efforts ASELSAN will enhance its in-house research and development activities.

In 2009, IBM and its partners launched a multi-year research initiative specifically exploring rechargeable Li-air systems (one type of metal-air battery): “The Battery 500 Project”. (Earlier post.) The “500” stands for a target range of 500 miles/800 km per charge, which translates into a battery capacity of about 125 kWh at an average use of 250 Wh/mile for a standard family car.

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Researchers develop rechargeable hybrid-seawater fuel cell; highly energy density, stable cycling

November 24, 2014

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Schematic illustration of the designed hybrid-seawater fuel cell and a schematic diagram at the charged–discharged state. Kim et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in Korea and Karlsruher Institute of Technology in Germany have developed a novel energy conversion and storage system using seawater as a cathode. As described in an open access paper in the journal NPG Asia Materials, the system is an intermediate between a battery and a fuel cell, and is accordingly referred to as a hybrid fuel cell.

The circulating seawater in the open-cathode system results in a continuous supply of sodium ions, endowing the system with superior cycling stability that allows the application of various alternative anodes to sodium metal by compensating for irreversible charge losses. Hard carbon and Sn-C nanocomposite electrodes were successfully applied as anode materials, yielding highly stable cycling performance and reversible capacities exceeding 110 mAh g−1 and 300 mAh g−1, respectively.

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ETH Zurich team shows vanadate-borate glasses as inexpensive high-capacity cathodes for Li-ion batteries

November 19, 2014

A team from ETH Zurich in Switzerland has demonstrated the use of vanadate-borate glasses (Li2O-B2O3-V2O5, referred to as V2O5-LiBO2) as high-capacity cathode materials for rechargeable Li-ion batteries for the first time. The composite electrodes with reduced graphite oxide (RGO) deliver specific energies around 1,000 Wh/kg and retain high specific capacities in the range of ~ 300 mAh/g for the first 100 cycles.

Vanadium oxide (vanadate)-based materials are attractive cathode alternatives due to the many oxidation state switches of vanadium, resulting in a high theoretical specific capacity. However, irreversible phase transformations and/or vanadium dissolution starting from the first discharge cycle result in significant capacity losses. In their open access paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the ETH Zurich team says that these problems can be circumvented if amorphous or glassy vanadium oxide phases are used.

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EALABC paper outlines approach to 48V hybrid systems with advanced lead-carbon batteries

The European Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (EALABC) is delivering a paper this week outlining the consortium’s approach to 48V hybridization at the 2nd International Conference on Advanced Automotive 48V Power Supply Systems in Düsseldorf. The EALABC focus is on the environmental and cost benefits of current and future advanced lead-carbon batteries for 48V hybrid vehicles.

The state-of-charge (SoC) of current lead-carbon batteries is typically maintained at between 30 and 50%, with the voltage and amperage meeting VDA requirements by not exceeding 54V at 150A when recovering joules of energy from vehicle deceleration (kinetic energy recovery) and exhaust gas energy recuperation (thermal energy recovery), also dropping not less than 38V at 180A when discharging energy for engine starting and torque assist. Advanced lead-carbon batteries for vehicles currently under development will be capable of operating in the 30 to 70% SoC range at 12.5kW.

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EnerG2 and BASF in strategic partnership to improve and scale-up carbon materials for supercaps and start-stop PbA batteries

November 18, 2014

EnerG2, a Seattle-based company manufacturing advanced carbon materials for next-generation energy storage devices (earlier post), and BASF have entered a strategic partnership to collaborate to improve and to scale-up the production of EnerG2’s proprietary carbon materials for use in supercapacitor electrodes and as a performance additive in start-stop lead-acid batteries.

Engineered carbons enhance storage performance by providing higher voltage and energy in supercapacitors and by significantly increasing the charging rate of lead-acid batteries at a partial-state-of-charge. EnerG2’s patented carbon technology platform enables large-scale production of carbon materials that surpass the limitations of the carbons traditionally used in energy storage.

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New lead germanate-graphene nanosheet composite as high capacity Li-ion anode material

November 17, 2014

Researchers at the University of Wollongong (Australia) have synthesized lead germanate-graphene nanosheets (PbGeO3-GNS) composites for use as anode materials for Li-ion batteries (LIBs). In the voltage window of 0.01–1.50 V, the composite anode with 20 wt.% GNS delivered a discharge capacity of 607 mAh g−1 at 100 mA g−1 after 50 cycles. Even at a high current density of 1600 mA g−1, a capacity of 406 mAh g−1 can be achieved.

In an open access paper in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the team suggests that the PbGeO3-GNS composite can thus be considered as a potential anode material for higher performing lithium-ion batteries.

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Li-S battery company OXIS Energy reports 300 Wh/kg and 25 Ah cell, predicting 33 Ah by mid-2015, 500 Wh/kg by end of 2018

November 12, 2014

UK-based Lithium-sulfur battery company OXIS Energy (earlier post) reported developing a Lithium-sulfur cell achieving in excess of 300 Wh/kg. In addition, OXIS has achieved an increase in cell capacity to 25 Ah—a twelve-fold improvement in 18 months. OXIS predicts it will achieve a cell capacity of 33Ah by mid-2015. The company says that vehicle manufacturers are already reviewing and evaluating the cell technology.

The OXIS scientific team expects to achieve a goal of an energy density in excess of 400 Wh/kg by the end of 2016 and in excess of 500Wh/kg by the end of 2018. OXIS CEO Huw Hampson-Jones says that the company is on schedule to release commercial cells for use in applications in the USA and Europe in 2015.

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Researchers propose unified mechanism for reduction of O2 at cathode in Li-air batteries; guidance for direction of future research

Researchers from the UK and France are proposing a unified mechanism for the reduction of O2 at the cathode of a Li-air (Li-O2) battery. The results of their study, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, suggest that the future direction of research for lithium–oxygen batteries should focus on the search for new, stable, high-donor-number electrolytes, because they can support higher capacities and can better sustain discharge.

The researchers, led by Dr. Peter Bruce at the University of Oxford; Dr. Jean-Marie Tarascon, Collège de France; and Dr. Kishan Dholakia at the University of St. Andrews, investigated O2 reduction across a range of solvents. They showed that O2 reduction can be described by a single unified mechanism that embraces previous models as limiting cases.

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Researchers gain fundamental insight into key reaction for Li-air batteries

November 08, 2014

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A new study from Delft University and the University of Waterloo finds a different OER mechanism for electrochemically-generated Li2O2 than for commercial Li2O2. Credit: ACS, Ganapathy et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Delft University in The Netherlands and the University of Waterloo in Canada has used operando X-ray diffraction to show that oxidation of electrochemically-generated Li2O2 in high energy density Li-air batteries occurs in two stages, but in only one step for commercial (crystalline) Li2O2. This discovery reveals a fundamental difference in the OER depending upon the nature of the peroxide.

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the authors conclude that their findings not only reveal the fundamental nature of the charge reaction in Li−air batteries but also show the impact that the nature of the lithium peroxide (size, shape, and crystallinity) has on the oxidation mechanism. Controlling this process may be the key to high performance Li−air batteries, they suggest.

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Volkswagen’s Winterkorn: “great potential” in solid-state batteries, with possible 1,000 Wh/l, or 700 km range

November 07, 2014

In his remarks made at Stanford University during the award of the third Science Award for Electrochemistry to Dr. Vanessa Wood (earlier post), Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen noted again the challenges of energy density, cost, reliability and lifespan for batteries enabling longer range electric mobility.

In that context, he said that he sees “great potential” in solid-state batteries, which possibly could boost EV range to as much as 700 km (435 miles), representing a volumetric energy density of about 1,000 Wh/l. Current Li-ion batteries, with about 260 Wh/l are enabling a range of some 190 km (118 miles), he said. He then added that, with a higher nickel content, more will be feasible, although falling well short of the potential of solid-state systems. However, even “Increasing the specific energy of lithium-ion cells to as much as 380 Wh/l will reduce driving range drawbacks.”

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DOD awards EaglePicher $22M under DPA Title III to expand Li-ion production capabilities; 250 Wh/kg

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded EaglePicher $22 million in funding under the Defense Production Act Title III Program (DPA Title III) for Phase II of the Lithium-Ion Battery for Military Applications (LIMA) project. The original solicitation for the LIMA project was in 2011.

The program goal assures the affordable production of critical items deemed essential for national defense, alleviating concerns regarding market volatility and uncertainty within the current international market for Li-Ion. As a leading specialty battery manufacturer with a legacy of supplying US military power needs, EaglePicher is poised to assist the defense industrial base by providing a timely, reliable supply of Li-Ion materials and products.

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USABC awards $2.68M to Maxwell for stop-start ultracap-battery hybrid system; RFPI for high-performance Li-ion electrolytes

November 05, 2014

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization operated by Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors, has awarded a $2.68-million advanced battery technology development contract for the development of a high-performance, hybrid energy storage system for automotive stop-start applications to Maxwell Technologies Inc. of San Diego, Calif.

The 19-month program will focus on the technological and economic feasibility of adopting a 12-volt hybrid energy storage system consisting of lithium-ion batteries and Maxwell ultracapacitors to an automotive stop-start application meeting USABC specifications. The program goals will include development of an improved capacitor.

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Rice University researchers create dual-purpose edge-oriented MoS2 film for energy storage, hydrogen catalysis

November 03, 2014

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A new material developed at Rice University based on molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) exposes as much of the edge as possible, making it efficient as both a catalyst for hydrogen production and for energy storage. Courtesy of the Tour Group. Click to enlarge.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s two-dimensional form into a edge-oriented nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage as part of a supercapacitor device.

The versatile chemical compound, classified as a dichalcogenide, is inert along its flat sides; however, previous studies determined the material’s edges are highly efficient catalysts for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), a process used in fuel cells to pull hydrogen from water. Tour and his colleagues found a cost-effective way to create flexible films of the material that maximize the amount of exposed edge and have potential for a variety of energy-oriented applications. A paper on the research appears in the journal Advanced Materials.

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Toyota working with Brookhaven National Lab on investigation of cathodes for Mg-ion batteries

As noted in a 2012 paper, Toyota researchers are interested in the potential of rechargeable magnesium-ion (Mg-ion) batteries as a possible post-Li-ion solution. (Earlier post.) To probe molecular structures and track the rapid chemical reactions in these promising batteries, Ruigang Zhang, a Toyota Motor Corporation scientist specializing in energy storage technology and his colleagues are working with the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Magnesium is divalent—i.e., it can thereby displace double the charge per ion ( Mg2+ rather than Li+). As those ions move back and forth from electrodes during each charge/discharge cycle, the nanometer structure of the battery material degrades and transforms. The degradation rates and patterns—whether uniform or asymmetrical—must be probed in a variety of conditions to understand the underlying mechanisms. Once pinpointed, scientists can then design new atomic architectures or customized compounds that overcome these obstacles to extend battery lifetimes and optimize performance.

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BMW researchers and colleagues in project ABILE develop optimized ionic-liquid-based electrolyte for efficient Li-air batteries

October 31, 2014

A multinational team including researchers from the BMW Group have optimized an ionic liquid electrolyte for Li-air batteries, which resulted in a stable electrode-electrolyte interface and a highly reversible charge-discharge cycling behavior in a test Li-air coin cell. The charge process (oxygen oxidation reaction) is characterized by a very low overvoltage, enhancing the energy efficiency to 82% (i.e, delivering 82% of the energy used to charge it compared with 60 to 70% for most existing Li-air batteries)—thus addressing one of the most critical issues preventing the practical application of lithium-oxygen batteries, the team noted in their paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters. In addition, the cell showed a charge capacity of 4,000 mAh/g and lasted at least 30 cycles without any deterioration in performance.

The study was financially supported by BMW within the project ABILE (Air Batteries with Ionic Liquid Electrolytes). BMW, together with the scientific teams of La Sapienza - University of Rome, University of Münster and Hanyang University in Seoul, initiated ABILE, which focuses on investigating the use of ionic liquids and alternative anodes as potential components for Li-air and Li-O2 batteries.

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BASF and Toda Kogyo forming a joint venture for Li-ion cathode active materials in Japan

October 30, 2014

BASF and Toda Kogyo have agreed to form a joint venture for Li-ion cathode active materials (CAM) in Japan. Under the terms of the agreement, BASF will acquire a 66% ownership stake in the new venture, with Toda Kogyo Corp. holding a 34% ownership stake. BASF and Toda Kogyo Corp. will combine their respective CAM businesses, intellectual property and production assets in Japan in the joint venture, which will operate under the trade name BASF TODA Battery Materials, LLC. (Earlier post.)

BASF Toda Battery Materials will focus on R&D, production, marketing and sales of a broad range of cathode materials including Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (NCA), Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO) and Nickel Cobalt Manganese (NCM) in Japan. These materials are used in lithium-ion batteries for the automotive, consumer electronics and stationary storage markets.

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First look at all-new Voltec propulsion system for 2G Volt; “the only thing in common is a shipping cap”

October 29, 2014

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Cutaway of the new power electronics unit, which is much smaller than in gen 1, and which is now integrated into the drive unit housing. The power electronics and the motors use separate cooling: water for the PE and ol for the motor unit. Click to enlarge.

The second-generation Volt, which makes its world debut in about 10 weeks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, features a clean-sheet, all-new Voltec propulsion system—new battery, new electric drive unit, new power electronics and new range-extending engine. At an introductory media briefing on the new powertrain held at the Warren Transmission Plant in Michigan, where the new drive unit will be built, Larry Nitz, GM Executive Director, Transmission and Electrification, noted that the only common part between the gen 1 and gen 2 drive units was a little yellow plastic intra-plant shipping cap for the manual selector.

The battery cells, with a tweaked NMC/LMO chemistry from LG, increase storage capacity by 20% volumetrically when compared to the original cell. The drive unit features a large number of changes: new roles for the two motors, two clutches instead of three, and a smaller power electronics unit integrated into the housing among them. (No more big orange high-voltage cables underneath the hood.) The new direct-injected 1.5 liter engine with cooled EGR features a high compression ratio and is optimized to function in its range extender role.

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Graphene 3D Lab showing prototype 3D printed battery; potential for structural batteries

October 27, 2014

Graphene 3D Lab Inc., which develops, manufactures, and markets proprietary graphene-based nanocomposite materials for various types of 3D printing, including fused filament fabrication, has developed a 3D printable graphene battery. CEO Daniel Stolyarov, presented the prototype 3D printable graphene battery at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in Santa Clara, CA last week.

Graphene 3D Labs combines graphene nanoplatelets with thermoplastics used in FFF (fused filament fabrication) 3D printing, ultimately resulting in a functionalized 3D printing filament offering electrical conductivity. Currently, the process requires the separate printing of individual components—i.e., cathode, anode, electrolyte. However, a true multi-material 3D printer would enable the printing of the entire battery in one single print, the company notes.

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Maxwell and Corning ally to advance ultracapacitor technology

October 24, 2014

Maxwell Technologies Incorporated and Corning Incorporated have entered a joint development agreement with the goal of advancing the state of capacitive energy storage technology by addressing the challenges frequently cited by ultracapacitor customers, including energy density, lifetime, operating environment, form factor and cost.

The partners suggest that Maxwell’s expertise in ultracapacitor cell design, manufacturing processes and market-leading capacitive energy storage product designs combined with Corning’s expertise in high-performance materials, analytical capabilities and technology innovations should enable the two parties, working in collaboration, to achieve superior product value for customers and end users.

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New KIT process could triple manufacturing speed of electrode foils for Li-ion batteries

October 23, 2014

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Intermittent coating with precise edges: The process developed by KIT allows for the coating of electrode foils at new record speed. (Photo: M. Schmitt/KIT) Click to enlarge.

Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a new manufacturing process for the batch-wise coating of Li-ion battery electrode foils that they say can boost the conventional processing rate by about a factor of three to 100 meters per minute. The team headed by Professor Wilhelm Schabel and Dr. Philip Scharfer of the Thin Film Technology (TFT) group of the KIT Institute of Thermal Process Engineering developed a flexible slot die process that enables production of any pattern with high precision and at high speeds.

So far, a rate of about 25-35 meters per minute has been the industrial state-of-the-art. In its just-released “Roadmap for Battery Production”, the German Engineering Association (VDMA) is targeting reaching a coating speed of 70-100 meters per minute by 2030. (In a recent techno-economic analysis of Li-ion battery manufacturing, a CMU/MIT team used 10 meters per minute as the assumed coating processing rate. Earlier post.)

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CMU/MIT study finds large-scale battery manufacturing will do little to reduce unit costs past a 200-300 MWh annual production level

October 22, 2014

A new techno-economic analysis by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and MIT has found that economies of scale for manufacturing current Li-ion batteries for light-duty EV applications (in this case, prismatic pouch NMC333-G batteries and packs) are reached quickly at around 200-300 MWh annual production. Increased volume beyond that does little to reduce unit costs, except potentially indirectly through factors such as experience, learning, and innovation, they determined.

That’s comparable to the amount of batteries produced for the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt last year,” said CMU’s Dr. Jeremy Michalek, the corresponding author of a paper on the research published in the Journal of Power Sources. “Past this point, higher volume alone won’t do much to cut cost. Battery cost is the single largest economic barrier for mainstream adoption of electric vehicles, and large factories alone aren’t likely to solve the battery cost problem.

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ORNL team finds cubic garnet material a promising solid electrolyte for high-energy aqueous lithium batteries

October 21, 2014

Batteries with an aqueous catholyte and a Li-metal anode (e.g. aqueous Li-air or Li-redox-flow) are of great interest due to their exceptional energy density and high charge/discharge rate. However, long-term operation of such batteries requires that the solid electrolyte separator between the anode and aqueous solutions must be compatible with Li and stable over a wide pH range. No such compound has yet been reported.

Now, in a paper published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory report that a cubic garnet material (Li7La3Zr2O12, or LLZO) is highly stable as a Li-stable solid electrolyte in neutral and strongly basic solutions, and is “a promising candidate for the separator in aqueous lithium batteries.

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Navitas Systems receives $1.55M contract for 2nd-gen 6T Li-ion battery; double energy density, +50% power density

October 20, 2014

Alion Science and Technology Corporation has awarded Navitas Systems LLC a contract worth up to $1.55 million to develop a next-generation lithium ion “6T” battery system for use in military applications, with a focus on ground combat vehicle applications. (Earlier post.)

Currently, there are three companies funded by Alion to develop a first-generation lithium 6T Battery: Navitas Systems, Saft (earlier post), and Eagle Picher. Navitas is the first, and so far the only, company to be awarded an additional contract for the development of a second-generation Li-ion 6T battery. Navitas Systems will leverage the award to enhance the capabilities of its current Ultanium Military 6T Battery by significantly increasing the energy and power density over the current first generation lithium version.

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Lawrence Livermore graphene aerogels could improve performance of carbon-based superconductors by more than 100%

October 18, 2014

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are developing modified graphene aerogels for application in supercapacitor electrodes. LLNL’s graphene aerogel material could potentially improve on the performance of commercial carbon-based supercapacitors by more than 100%, said LLNL’s Dr. Patrick Campbell, lead author of a paper on the technology published in the RSC journal Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

In the paper, the LLNL team reports a 2.9-fold increase in electrical energy storage capacity (up to 23 Wh kg−1) of their graphene materials by modifying them with anthraquinone. These hybrid electrodes demonstrate battery-like energy density, supercapacitor-like power performance, and superb long-term stability, the researchers said.

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Nissan leads with transfer of California ZEV credits out for year ending 30 Sep 2014

October 17, 2014

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Nissan led with California ZEV credit transfers out during the last report period. Click to enlarge.

Between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2014, Nissan transferred out 663.6 ZEV (zero emission vehicle) credits from its balance account, according to the latest report by the California Air Resources Board (ARB)—just edging out Tesla with 650.195 credits. The next closest was Fiat, with 235.2 ZEV credits transferred out; followed by Ford with 38.738.

This latest credit balance report reflects ZEV regulation compliance through model year 2013, representing a total of 3.5 million vehicles including: more than 500 fuel cell vehicles; 38,000 battery electric vehicles; 29,300 neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs); 30,000 plug-in hybrids; 570,000 hybrids; and 3 million gasoline vehicles. As of September 2014, more than 100,000 ZEVs and plug-in hybrids are on California roads.

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MIT/Stanford team refines TREC battery for harvesting low-grade waste heat

In May, researchers at MIT and Stanford University reported the development of new battery technology for the conversion of low-temperature waste heat into electricity in cases where temperature differences are less than 100 ˚Celsius. The thermally regenerative electrochemical cycle (TREC) uses the dependence of electrode potential on temperature to construct a thermodynamic cycle for direct heat-to-electricity conversion. By varying the temperature, an electrochemical cell is charged at a lower voltage than discharged; thus, thermal energy is converted to electricity. (Earlier post.)

Now, in a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team reports a refinement of the earlier Prussian blue analog-based system system, which although it operated with high efficiency, used an ion-selective membrane which, in turn, raised concerns about the overall cost. The refined system is a membrane-free battery with a nickel hexacyanoferrate (NiHCF) cathode and a silver/silver chloride anode. When the battery is discharged at 15 °C and recharged at 55 °C, thermal-to-electricity conversion efficiencies of 2.6% and 3.5% are achieved with assumed heat recuperation of 50% and 70%, respectively.

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JLU study: oxidation catalyst in Li-O2 battery electrolyte doubles cycle life

October 14, 2014

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Proposed catalytic cycle for the electrochemical charging of Li-O2 cells with TEMPO. Credit: ACS, Bergner et al.Click to enlarge.

One of the major challenges with the realization of commercial Li-air batteries and their promise of ultra-high energy densities is the reduction of the high charge overpotential. The high potential gap leads to a low round-trip efficiency of the cell and causes electrochemical decomposition of other cell constituents. (Earlier post.)

In a new paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society a team from Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (JLU) in Germany reports that adding the oxidation catalyst TEMPO (2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidinyloxyl), homogeneously dissolved in the electrolyte to function as a mobile redox mediator, provides a distinct reduction of the charging potentials by 500 mV. Moreover, adding TEMPO enabled a significant enhancement of the cycling stability leading to a doubling of the cycle life (from 27 to 55).

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USABC reopens 4 RFPIs for development of advanced high-performance batteries for start/stop, 48V HEV, PHEV and EVs

October 10, 2014

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization operated by Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors, has reopened four requests for proposal information (RFPIs) for the development of advanced high-performance batteries for vehicle applications.

The RFPIs will remain active indefinitely to prompt more submissions from individual developers as well as collaborative R&D/supplier teams. Each requires a 50% minimum cost share. USABC seeks proposals the resulting technology from which will have the capability of meeting or approaching its technology targets for commercialization by 2020 for the following applications:

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Stanford’s GCEP awards $10.5M for research on renewable energy; solar cells, batteries, renewable fuels and bioenergy

October 09, 2014

The Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University has awarded $10.5 million for seven research projects designed to advance a broad range of renewable energy technologies, including solar cells, batteries, renewable fuels and bioenergy. The seven awards bring the total number of GCEP-supported research programs to 117 since the project’s launch in 2002.

The new funding will be shared by six Stanford research teams and an international group from the United States and Europe. The following Stanford faculty members received funding for advanced research on photovoltaics, battery technologies and new catalysts for sustainable fuels:

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UNIST team develops improved high power NCA cathode material for Li-ion batteries for EVs and HEVs

October 06, 2014

A team at Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), led by Dr. Jaephil Cho, has developed a new high-power NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum) Li-ion cathode material: LiNi0.81Co0.1Al0.09O2. Variations of NCA systems are currently used in some very high profile battery systems: the Tesla-Panasonic cell used in the Tesla Model S and the AESC cell used in the Nissan LEAF, for example.

The new UNIST NCA material exhibits an excellent rate capability of 155 mAh g−1 at 10 C with a cut-off voltage range between 3 and 4.5 V, corresponding to 562 Wh kg−1 at 24 °C. It additionally provides significantly improved thermal stability and electrochemical performance at the high temperature of 60 °C, with a discharge capacity of 122 mAh g−1 after 200 cycles with capacity retention of 59%. A paper on the work is published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

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OSU hybrid “solar battery” uses photo-assisted charging to improve performance of Li-air batteries; “negative overpotential”

October 03, 2014

Researchers at The Ohio State University have developed a novel strategy to improve the efficiency and performance of non-aqueous lithium-oxygen (Li-air) batteries. The team, led by Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, integrated a dye-sensitized photoelectrode into a lithium-oxygen battery along with the oxygen electrode to enable “photo-assisted charging” of the Li-air cell.

The basic concept of the integrated solar battery is to use the contribution of the photovoltage to reduce greatly the charging overpotential caused by the difficulty in efficiently electrochemically decomposing lithium peroxide (Li2O2), the discharge product formed on the oxygen electrode. Overpotential otherwise causes low round-trip efficiency as well as degradation of the oxygen electrode and electrolyte. A paper on their work appears in the journal Nature Communications.

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Hyundai showcasing new downsized turbo engines and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission; i40 48V Hybrid, i30 CNG

October 02, 2014

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New engines and transmission. Click to enlarge.

Hyundai Motor is showcasing two new turbocharged gasoline direct injected (T-GDI) engines at the Paris Motor Show 2014. Both engines—1.0-liter and 1.4-liter units which are part of a new generation of engines from the Kappa family—meet growing demand for small capacity, turbocharged engines to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emission without compromising performance.

In addition, Hyundai is premiering at the Paris show its first 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, fitted into the i30 CNG natural gas concept car, which contributes to improved fuel efficiency. Hyundai is also displaying the diesel i40 48V hybrid concept, featuring a lead-carbon battery.

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CXDI imaging reveals possible way to extend Li-ion battery lifetime, capacity

September 29, 2014

A new method developed for studying battery failures points to a potential next step in extending lithium-ion battery lifetime and capacity. Using a novel X-ray technique—coherent X-ray diffractive imaging (CXDI)—at the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory, researchers have revealed surprising dynamics in the nanomechanics of operating batteries.

Their findings suggest a way to mitigate battery failures by minimizing the generation of elastic energy. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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Li-ion maker Boston-Power launches module system for EV and ESS applications; no-weld integration (updated with graphic)

September 22, 2014

Li-ion battery maker Boston-Power Inc. (earlier post) recently launched its Ensemble Module System; a “kit” of standard components that provides OEMs and pack assemblers with a simple, cost-effective way to assemble large format battery pack solutions for electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage system (ESS) applications. Available in 155 Wh and 116 Wh increments, module designs can be created to meet a wide variety of voltage and capacity requirements.

Key to the Ensemble solution is its novel pressure-connect approach to module assembly which completely eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming cell welding. Fully tested to automotive quality standards, the result is a mechanically robust module that can be assembled and disassembled in a fraction of the time of conventional methods.

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MIT team improves liquid metal batteries for grid-scale storage; lower operating temperature, cost

Researchers at MIT have improved a proposed liquid battery system that could enable renewable energy sources to compete with conventional power plants. Professor Donald Sadoway and colleagues have already started a company, Ambri (initially Liquid Metal Battery Corporation), to produce electrical-grid-scale liquid batteries, which comprise layers of molten material which automatically separate due to their differing densities. (Earlier post.)

In a paper published in the journal Nature, they describe a lithium–antimony–lead liquid metal battery comprising a liquid lithium negative electrode, a molten salt electrolyte, and a liquid antimony–lead alloy positive electrode, which self-segregate by density into three distinct layers owing to the immiscibility of the contiguous salt and metal phases.

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BMW using ams data acquisition IC for battery management system in i3

September 18, 2014

BMW is using the AS8510, an integrated automotive data acquisition front-end integrated circuit (IC) from ams AG, a leading provider of high performance analog ICs and sensors, to provide extremely accurate battery voltage and current measurements in its i3 electric vehicles (EVs).

The BMW i3 model in volume production today includes an AS8510 in the battery sensor. The battery management system (BMS) monitors battery voltage and battery current of the 400V li-ion battery powering the cars’ electric motors, and ensures the functional safety of the vehicle’s battery systems.

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GM researchers develop Li-Sulfur cathode material with improved cycling stability and efficiency

September 17, 2014

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Discharge capacities and Coulombic efficiency vs cycles for the new composite at 0.6C. Capacity values were calculated based on the mass of sulfur. Credit: ACS, Zhou et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from General Motors Global Research & Development Center in Michigan has developed a new double-layered core–shell structure of polymer-coated carbon–sulfur to confine better the sulfur/polysulfides in the electrode of lithium–sulfur (Li/S) batteries and to improve the batteries’ cycling stability and Columbic efficiency.

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they report a stable capacity of 900 mAh g–1 at 0.2 C after 150 cycles and 630 mAh g–1 at 0.6 C after 600 cycles. They also demonstrated the feasibility of full cells using the sulfur cathodes coupled with silicon film anodes, which exhibited significantly improved cycling stability and efficiency.

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Freescale introduces new Li-ion battery cell controller for 48V systems

September 16, 2014

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Freescale MC 33771 controller addresses the needs of 48V Li-ion battery packs. Click to enlarge.

Some automakers such as Audi (earlier post) are turning to 48V electrical systems as a technical building block for facilitating the integration of new automotive technologies while increasing the power and efficiency of its cars. Freescale Semiconductor has now introduced a highly integrated 14-cell lithium-ion battery cell controller for industrial and automotive applications that cost-effectively addresses the requirements of 48 V Li-ion battery systems.

With fourteen cell balancing transistors, a current sensor with ±0.5% accuracy from milliamps to kiloamps, and 2 Mbps communication transceiver interface integrated into a single 64-pin QFP package, Freescale’s MC33771 battery cell controller and companion MC33664 isolated communications interface deliver robust, reliable performance for 48 V battery systems, and enable economical scalability beyond 1000 volts.

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Study finds rapid charging and draining doesn’t damage lithium-ion electrode as much as thought

September 14, 2014

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X-ray microscope snapshot of nanoparticles in a battery midway through charging. Particles range from fully charged (green) to intermediate charge (orange/yellow) to drained of charge (red) The scalebar equals 500 nm. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) Click to enlarge.

A new study has found that rapid-charging a lithium-ion battery and using it to do high-power, rapidly draining work may not be as damaging as researchers had thought, and that the benefits of slow draining and charging may have been overestimated. The study, led by researchers from Stanford University and the Stanford Institute for Materials & Energy Sciences (SIMES) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, with colleagues from Sandia National Laboratories, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology America and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is published in Nature Materials.

The results challenge the prevailing view that “supercharging” batteries is always harder on battery electrodes than charging at slower rates. The results also suggest that scientists may be able to modify electrodes or change the way batteries are charged to promote more uniform charging and discharging and extend battery life.

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Anderman report on Tesla’s battery prospects with the Gigafactory

September 12, 2014

In his new “Tesla Battery Report”, Dr. Menahem Anderman, independent battery expert, consultant and head of the Advanced Automotive Batteries conferences and publications, concludes that with the planned Gigafactory (earlier post), now targeted for Nevada, (earlier post), Tesla may succeed in accomplishing what the US Government failed to achieve—i.e., to establish a domestic Li-Ion battery industry.

However, there remain a number of questions and risk factors associated with the project for Tesla, Anderman notes, including profitability, participation of materials suppliers, and macro trends in the market such as demand, the continuation of government subsidies, competitive battery technology and the role played by ZEV credits.

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UK EPSRC awards almost $10M to two low-carbon vehicle technology projects; energy storage, engines and fuels

September 11, 2014

Two new low-carbon vehicle technology research projects will receive £6 million (US$9.7 million) funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Energy Programme. The two discrete projects—ELEVATE (ELEctrochemical Vehicle Advanced Technology) and Ultra Efficient Engines and Fuels—will involve academics from eight UK universities.

The announcement was made by UK Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark to coincide with the annual Low Carbon Vehicle Event - LCV Cenex 2014 at the Millbrook Proving Ground near Bedford.

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Proterra selects Toshiba SCiB cells for next-gen electric bus

September 10, 2014

Proterra Inc. has selected Toshiba as the battery supplier for its next-generation, all-electric bus from Proterra Inc. The new fleet will use Toshiba’s Rechargeable Batteries (SCiB), a safe rechargeable battery solution with high-rate performance and long-life capabilities that is used in a wide range of applications, from EVs to grid energy storage. (Earlier post.)

Featuring a Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO), Toshiba’s SCiB batteries have excellent thermal performance, enabling their high-rate charging capability. The lithium-titanate chemistry contained in SCiB makes the batteries highly resistant to thermal runaway and lithium metal plating, providing exceptional battery safety characteristics.

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Ohio State researchers use neutron depth profiling to track flow of Li atoms into and out of anode in real time

September 09, 2014

Using a neutron beam, chemists and engineers at The Ohio State University have been able to track the flow of lithium atoms into and out of an anode in real time as a Li-ion battery charged and discharged. The study, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, suggests that neutron depth profiling (NDP) could one day help explain why rechargeable batteries lose capacity over time, or sometimes even catch fire.

Ohio State researchers are using the technique to test new, high-capacity electrode materials, including ones containing tin, silicon, germanium and aluminum. These alternative electrodes could be capable of storing nearly three times as much energy as graphite, the material of choice in current lithium-ion batteries. They may also be less prone to overheating.

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Li-ion cell provider XALT Energy partners with Williams Advanced Engineering

September 08, 2014

Williams Advanced Engineering, the engineering services and technology business of the Williams Group, has entered a partnership agreement with XALT Energy, supplier of the lithium-ion cells for the Williams’ battery in the Formula E racing series. This new partnership will also see the two companies collaborate on future projects involving lithium-ion battery technology for a range of applications beyond motorsport.

Williams Advanced Engineering and XALT Energy have worked closely together since June 2013 after Williams was awarded the contract to produce the batteries that will power all 40 cars competing in Formula E, the world’s first fully electric racing series.

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Nevada the site for the Tesla Gigafactory pending legislative approval of incentive package estimated at up to $1.25B over 20 years

September 05, 2014

On Thursday, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Elon Musk, Chairman and CEO of Tesla Motors, confirmed what had been widely leaked the day before: that Nevada and Tesla had reached an agreement—subject to legislative review and approval—that will result in the state being the site for the Tesla Gigafactory. (Earlier post.) Five states had been in contention for the prize.

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the incentive package assembled by the governor for Tesla is “unprecedented in size and scope for the state of Nevada” and is one of the largest in the country. The overall value of the package to Tesla is estimated to be $1.25 billion over 20 years.

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Lux: Tesla likely to miss 2020 vehicle target by >50%; Gigafactory to bring only modest reduction in costs, >50% overcapacity

September 03, 2014

Lux Research forecasts that Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory—the announced new 35 GWh lithium-ion cell production facility that is the target of hot competition between five states (earlier post)—will bring about only a modest reduction in Li-ion battery costs and create significant overcapacity, given likely Tesla EV sales in 2020 of less than half of the company’s targeted 500,000.

Tesla and its partner, Panasonic, will contribute about 45% and 35%, respectively, of the initial $4 billion required to build the Gigafactory, proposed to go on-stream in 2017. Lux Research’s new report—“The Tesla-Panasonic Battery Gigafactory: Analysis of Li-ion Cost Trends, EV Price Reduction, and Capacity Utilization”—projects sales of some 240,000 Tesla cars in 2020, leading to razor-thin margins to Panasonic and 57% overcapacity.

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High-capacity, long-life Li-S cathodes using ordered meso-microporous core-shell carbon

September 02, 2014

A team at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (China) has developed an ordered meso-microporous core–shell carbon (MMCS) as a sulfur container, which combines the advantages of both mesoporous and microporous carbon for use in high-capacity, long-life cathodes for Lithium-sulfur batteries.

This strategy, they suggest in a paper in the journal ACS Nano, can inspire some other related novel materials with multilayers and hierarchical porous structures, which have great potential applications not only in energy conversion and storage but also in catalysis, adsorption, separation, drug delivery, sensors, and so on.

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Study suggests OEMs should use a modular design for PHEV and EREV vehicle battery packs to offer capacity choices to customers

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TCO in € cents/km of EREV as a function of battery size for users with different annual mileages. Redelbach et al. Click to enlarge.

Car manufacturers should develop a modular design for plug-in hybrid and extended range electric vehicles (PHEVs and EREVs), allowing them to offer a choice of storage capacity to meet individual customer requirements rather than forcing a “one size fits all” approach, according to the results of a German-market-specific TCO study by a team from the Institute of Vehicle Concepts, German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The authors of the study, published in the journal Energy Policy, stress that they are not suggesting OEMs offer each customer an individual battery size, but rather than they offer, as an example, three different battery sizes dedicated to drivers with low, average and high mileage. The development of a modular design for battery packs could help OEMs to change the size with less effort and few implications on the rest of the vehicle, they suggested. (This is analogous to the approach taken by Tesla Motors with its two—originally three—pack capacity sizes offered in the Model S.)

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ORNL team tailors the structure of carbon black from waste tires to create higher performance carbon anode material for Li-ion batteries

August 28, 2014

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have tailored the microstructural characteristics of carbon black recovered from discarded tires to produce a higher performance, low-cost carbon anode material for Li-ion batteries.

Electrochemical studies reported in their paper published in the journal RSC Advances showed that the recovered-carbon-based anode had a a reversible capacity of nearly 390 mAh/g of carbon anode after 100 cycles—exceeding the best properties of commercial graphite. Researchers attribute this to the unique microstructure of the tire-derived carbon. Anodes made with the sulfonated tire-rubber-derived carbon and a control tire-rubber-derived carbon exhibited an initial coulombic efficiency of 71% and 45%, respectively.

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Rice University team develops new nanocomposite material for Li-sulfur battery cathode with high cycling stability

August 26, 2014

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Schematic illustration of the synthesis of SPGs. Credit: ACS, Li et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Rice University led by Dr. James Tour have developed a hierarchical nanocomposite material of graphene nanoribbons combined with polyaniline and sulfur (Sulfur-PANI-GNRs, SPG) using an inexpensive, simple method. The composite shows good rate performance and excellent cycling stability for use as a cathode material in Lithium-sulfur batteries.

As reported in an an open access paper in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, the stable reversible specific discharge capacity was 567 mAh/g at the 26th with only a 9% decay in the following 374 cycles, at the rate of 0.4 C.

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More work reported on approaches to stabilizing lithium metal anodes for high energy rechargeable batteries

August 25, 2014

Metallic lithium, with a high theoretical capacity of ~3,860 mAh g-1, is one of the most promising materials for anodes in next-generation high energy rechargeable battery systems for long-range electric vehicles. (Earlier post.) Indeed, in a paper in ACS’ Chemical Reviews, Arumugam Manthiram et al. from the University of Texas suggest that “it is reasonable to comment that the success of Li−S batteries requires a reliable lithium metal anode.

A reliable and stable lithium metal anode is extremely challenging, however; low cycle efficiency and lithium dendrite formation during charge/discharge processes consistently hinder its practical application in addition to raising safety issues. Accordingly, widespread effort is focused on devising solutions to the problem, tackling either the anode material itself, or the electrolyte, or both. The widely reported advance by Stanford researchers (earlier post) is but one of a number of such efforts underway (e.g., earlier post, earlier post, earlier post.)

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DOE awards $17M for vehicle technologies; batteries, PEEM, engines, materials, fuel

August 21, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $17.6 million in 14 cooperative agreements with small businesses and institutions of higher education to develop and to deploy efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that will help reduce petroleum use in the United States. The awards made under an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000988) issued in January. (Earlier post.)

The newly selected projects are in five areas: energy storage; power electronics and electric motors (PEEM); advanced combustion engines; materials technologies, and fuels and lubricant technologies. Awardees are:

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MIT team proposes process to recycle lead-acid batteries to fabricate solar cells

August 18, 2014

Researchers at MIT have devised an environmentally-responsible process to recycle materials from discarded automotive lead-acid batteries to fabricate efficient organolead halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs)—a promising new large-scale and cost-competitive photovoltaic technology. The process simultaneously avoids the disposal of toxic battery materials and provide alternative, readily-available lead sources for PSCs.

The system is described in a paper in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science, co-authored by professors Angela M. Belcher and Paula T. Hammond, graduate student Po-Yen Chen, and three others.

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ORNL researcher suggests that most consumers better off with <100-mile EV range until battery costs drop to $100/kWh

Until battery cost is cut down to $100/kWh, the majority of US consumers for battery electric vehicles (BEV) will be better off by choosing an electric vehicle with a range below 100 miles, according to a new study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researcher Zhenhong Lin.

The research, published in Transportation Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), suggests reconsideration of the R&D goal that battery electric vehicles should have a driving range similar to that of conventional vehicles. It also implies that the focus of policy and R&D should be on continued reduction of battery costs to make short-range BEVs more price-competitive.

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U. Alberta team developing new high power and energy lithium-carbon battery system using induced fluorination; dual storage mechanism

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Ragone plot, comparing Li-CNT-F batteries with other batteries in terms of weight of cathode materials. The highest energy density for Li-CNT-F batteries, 4,113 Wh kgcarbon−1 is presented as a red star. Cui et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Alberta are developing, and, via their spin-out AdvEn Solutions working to commercialize, a new high power- and -energy density battery system: lithium-carbon-fluorine (Li-C-F). Their system is based on a lithium-carbon battery configuration, but with a different approach.

In a paper in Nature’s open access journal Scientific Reports, the team reported that a rechargeable Li-C-F battery (in this case, a Li-CNT-F battery given their use of carbon nanotubes) demonstrated a maximum discharging capacity of 2174 mAh gcarbon−1 and a specific energy of 4113 Wh kgcarbon−1 with good cycling performance.

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DOE to award more than $55M to 31 projects for plug-in and efficient vehicle technologies; Delphi receives $10M to further GDCI

August 14, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding more than $55 million to 31 new projects to accelerate research and development of vehicle technologies that will improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs under a program-wide funding opportunity announced in January. (DE-FOA-0000991, earlier post.) These new projects are aimed at meeting the goals and objectives of the President’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge (19 projects), as well as improvements in other vehicle technologies such as powertrains, fuel, tires and auxiliary systems (12 projects).

The largest single award ($10 million) goes to Delphi Automotive Systems to further the development of its Gasoline Direct-Injection Compression Ignition (GDCI) low-temperature combustion technology (earlier post) that provides high thermal efficiency with low NOx and PM emissions. The largest number of awards (9) in a single area of interest goes to developing beyond Li-ion battery technologies.

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Cornell researchers stabilize lithium metal anodes using halide salt in liquid electrolyte

A team at Cornell University led by Dr. Lynden Archer has used simple liquid electrolytes reinforced with halogenated salt blends to stabilize lithium metal anodes in a rechargeable battery. The cells exhibit stable long-term cycling at room temperature over hundreds of cycles of charge and discharge and thousands of operating hours.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Materials, they report that the addition of the salts to the electrolyte spontaneously creates nanostructured surface coatings on the lithium anode thats hinder the development of detrimental dendritic structures that grow within the battery cell. The discovery offers a potential pathway for the use of lithium metal anodes, which are enablers for cost-effective, higher-energy density systems such as Li-sulfur. (Earlier post, earlier post.)

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NASA selects proposals for advanced energy storage systems for future space missions: silicon-anode Li-ion and Li-S

August 08, 2014

NASA has selected four proposals for advanced Li-ion and Li-sulfur energy storage technologies that may be used to power the agency’s future space missions.

Development of these new energy storage devices will help enable NASA’s future robotic and human-exploration missions and aligns with conclusions presented in the National Research Council’s “NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities,” which calls for improved energy generation and storage “with reliable power systems that can survive the wide range of environments unique to NASA missions.” NASA believes these awards will lead to such energy breakthroughs.

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EV-Lite project closes with new EV battery design; lower weight, lower cost

August 07, 2014

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Click to enlarge.

Cenex, the UK-based not-for-profit consultancy focused on low carbon vehicles and associated energy infrastructure, announced the successful completion of the two-year project Sustainable Lightweight Low Cost Battery Systems for Extended Life Cycles (EV-Lite). (Earlier post.) The project was co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. The project consortium comprises the Manufacturing Technology Centre; Unipart Manufacturing; Electrovaya; RDVS; CRR; Bluebird Innovation Group; Loughborough University; and Cenex.

The project realized a 41% reduction in weight and a 63% reduction in cost of the non-cell components. This translates to a saving of 45 kg (99 lbs) at the battery pack level. The ultimate aim of the project is to enable volume manufacturing for electric vehicle battery packs in the UK through innovative design and, in doing so, help bring electrical vehicles to the mass market.

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Supercapacitors of nanocrystalline MOFs outperform activated carbon and graphene

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The construct for nMOF Supercapacitors. Credit: ACS, Choi et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at UC Berkeley led by Dr. Omar Yaghi and at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology led by Dr. Jeung Ku Kang have shown that metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) made as nanocrystals (nMOFs) can be doped with graphene and successfully incorporated into devices to function as supercapacitors.

In a paper in the journal ACS Nano, the team reported that, among a series of 23 different nMOFs they synthesized, a zirconium MOF (nMOF-867) exhibited exceptionally high capacitance. It has stack and areal capacitance of 0.64 and 5.09 mF cm–2—26 times that of the lowest performing member of the series and about 6 times that of the supercapacitors made from the benchmark commercial activated carbon materials. Performance was preserved over at least 10,000 charge/discharge cycles.

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BNL team uses hard x-ray microscopy to provide insight into why fast charging inhibits LiFePO4 performance

August 05, 2014

With a new approach using hard x-ray microscopy to track the electrochemical reactions in a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) material under operating conditions (in operando), scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have provided new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material’s performance. Hard X-ray microscopy offers nanoscale resolution and deep penetration of the material, and takes advantage of elemental and chemical sensitivities.

The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. The results, published in Nature Communications, could provide guidance to inform battery makers’ efforts to optimize materials for faster-charging batteries with higher capacity.

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Stanford team reports 3D electrode structure addressing major limiting characteristics of sulfur cathodes for Li-S batteries

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Rate performance of the composite cathode at different C rates ranging from 0.05C to 1C. Credit: ACS, Liang et al.Click to enlarge.

A team at Stanford University led by Prof. Yi Cui recently reported in a paper in the journal ACS Nano the development of a three-dimensional (3D) electrode structure for Li-sulfur batteries that simultaneously achieves both sulfur physical encapsulation and polysulfides binding. The composite electrode is based on hydrogen-reduced TiO2 with an inverse opal structure that is highly conductive and robust toward electrochemical cycling.

With such a TiO2-encapsulated sulfur structure, the sulfur cathode can deliver a high specific capacity of 1100 mAh/g in the beginning, with a reversible capacity of 890 mAh/g after 200 cycles of charge/discharge at a C/5 rate. Coulombic efficiency was also maintained at around 99.5% during cycling. The researchers suggested that their results showed that the inverse opal structure of hydrogen-reduced TiO2 represents an effective strategy in improving the performance of lithium sulfur batteries.

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