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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.]

ABB and Volvo Buses partnering on fast-charging system for hybrid and electric buses

July 22, 2014

ABB and Volvo Buses are partnering to co-develop and to commercialize electric and hybrid buses with open standards-based direct current (DC) fast charging systems. The cooperation will create a city-wide standardized charging system for electric and electric hybrid buses that can charge buses quickly through an automatic roof-top connection system at bus stops or through cabled charging systems overnight.

This approach, based on internationally accepted standards (EN61851-23), enables maximum re-use of existing e-mobility technologies, thereby ensuring a rapid deployment of urban e-mobility. The first joint project will be the implementation of Volvo Electric Hybrids and ABB’s automatic e-bus chargers in the Luxembourg public transport system, where as many as 12 Volvo Electric Hybrid buses operated by Sales-Lentz will be running on existing lines by 2015.

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USABC awards $7.7M contract to Envia Systems for advanced EV battery development; layered-layered cathode, Si-based anode

July 21, 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 $7.7-million advanced battery technology development contract for electric vehicle applications to Envia Systems. The competitively bid contract award is co-funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and includes a 50% Envia Systems cost-share.

The 36-month, lithium-ion layered-layered cathode/silicon-based anode program will focus on the development of high-energy cathode and anode material appropriate for vehicle applications and the development and scale up of pouch cells that exhibit performance metrics that exceed the minimum USABC targets for electric vehicles.

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CALEB and CalBattery to combine their Li-ion battery materials in new line-up; 2nd gen to use SiGr anode, targeting EVs

CALEB Technology and California Lithium Battery (CalBattery)—both based in California—signed an MOU to establish a joint venture to produce a new line of safe, high performance lithium ion batteries for consumer electronic devices, power tools, and electric vehicles (EVs). The new line of advanced LIBs will initially be made in the Los Angeles area starting in 2016.

The JV will combine the best LIB materials developed by both Calbattery and CALEB over the past 5 years. The first Calbattery/CALEB LIB will utilize novel high-voltage lithium cobalt oxide cathode, high voltage dual-phase electrolyte, and conventional anode materials that can be used for power tools, laptops, and cell phones.

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Driving the VW e-Golf; strategy, assembly in Wolfsburg, Braunschweig battery plant

The e-Golf. Click to enlarge.

The e-Golf (“Das e-Auto” earlier post), the Volkswagen brand’s second series production battery-electric vehicle after the e-up!, is a key model, as it is the best and most current implementation of its strategic decision to begin providing e-mobility based on large-scale production models rather than special “small niche” cars. The Golf is core to Volkswagen; the company has sold more than 30 million units worldwide since the first introduction in 1974. The e-Golf is based on current 7th generation Golf, itself based on the strategic MQB toolkit.

Put another way, Volkswagen’s goal, based on its strategic approach, is for the e-Golf to deliver the performance and handling of a Golf which happens to have a battery-electric powertrain. Based on a second, and slightly longer, chance to drive the new e-Golf unsupervised, we think Volkswagen has succeeded splendidly in this goal; we find the e-Golf to be a nimble and quiet electric delight.

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New process for nanocomposite silicon-based powders for high-capacity Li-ion anodes

July 15, 2014

Capacity change with number of cycles for PS-PVD powders with different C/Si ratios. The battery was charged at a constant current of 0.1 mA for the first three cycles and at 0.5 mA for the rest of the cycles. Homma et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed an approach which potentially has industrially compatible high throughputs to produce nano-sized composite silicon-based powders as a strong candidate for the anode of next-generation high density lithium ion batteries. The powders are fundamentally an aggregate of primary ∼20 nm particles, which are composed of a crystalline Si core and SiOx shell structure.

In an open access paper published in the journal Science and Technology of Advanced Materials, they report that half-cell batteries made with their nanocomposite Si/SiOx powders exhibited improved initial efficiency and maintenance of capacity as high as 1000 mAh g−1 after 100 cycles.

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BMW Group and Samsung SDI expand partnership on electric drive batteries; i3, i8 and additional hybrid models

The BMW Group and Samsung SDI have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to expand their supply relationship for battery cells for electro-mobility. Samsung SDI will supply the BMW Group with battery cells for the BMW i3, BMW i8 and additional hybrid models over the coming years.

The most important elements of the agreement are the increase in quantities delivered over the medium-term in response to growing demand for electro-mobility, and further technological development of battery cells.

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High capacity, long-life porous nano-silicon Li-ion anode material from beach sand

July 09, 2014

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have synthesized a porous nano-silicon material from beach sand (SiO2) via a highly scalable heat scavenger-assisted magnesiothermic—i.e., using a combination of heat and magnesium—reduction. The addition of NaCl as a heat scavenger for the highly exothermic magnesium reduction process promotes the formation of an interconnected 3D network of nano-silicon with a thickness of 8-10 nm.

Coated with carbon, the nano-silicon electrodes achieve high electrochemical performance with a capacity of 1024 mAhg−1 at 2 Ag−1 after 1,000 cycles. A paper on their work is published in the Nature open access journal Scientific Reports.

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PNNL silicon sponge delivers high capacity with long cycle life as Li-ion anode material

The porous, sponge-like nanomaterial made of silicon. Source: PNNL. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), with colleagues at UC San Diego, have developed a “mesoporous silicon sponge” material that, when applied as an anode in a lithium-ion battery, can deliver capacity of up to ~750 mAh g−1 based on the total electrode weight with more than 80% capacity retention over 1,000 cycles.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, they also report that the first cycle irreversible capacity loss of the pre-lithiated electrode is less than 5%. Bulk electrodes with an area-specific-capacity of ~1.5 mAh cm−2 and ~92% capacity retention over 300 cycles were also demonstrated.

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Researchers use bacterial biogeneous iron oxide particles as anode material for Li-ion batteries

July 07, 2014

Left. High-magnification SEM images of L- BIOX. Right. Discharge−charge curves at 33.3 mA/g (0.05 C) between 0.5 and 3.0 V. Insets show the cycle-life performance. Credit: ACS, Hashimoto et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in Japan report in a paper in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces that amorphous Fe3+-based oxide nanoparticles produced by Leptothrix ochracea, an aquatic bacteria living worldwide, show a potential as an Fe3+/Fe0 conversion anode material for lithium-ion batteries. The presence of minor components of silicon (Si) and phosphorous (P), in the original nanoparticles leads to a specific electrode architecture with Fe-based electrochemical centers embedded in a Si, P-based amorphous matrix.

They reported relatively high capacity and good cyclability were found for L-BIOX (L. ochracea’s biogeneous iron oxide), which was used as produced, by simple washing and drying steps. After an “unreasonably high capacity” for the first discharge of ~1500 mAh/g (which they attributed to an extrinsic phenomenon resulting from the formation of the solid−electrolyte interface), the material settled down to reduced yet still high reversible capacity of ~ 900 mAh/g for the second and subsequent cycles.

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USC team develops novel organic redox flow battery for large-scale energy storage

June 27, 2014

Schematic of ORBAT. Click to enlarge.

Scientists at USC have developed a novel water-based Organic Redox Flow Battery (ORBAT) for lower cost, long lasting large-scale energy storage. An open access paper on their work is published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

ORBAT employs two different water-soluble organic redox couples on the positive and negative side of a flow battery. Redox couples such as quinones are particularly attractive for this application, the researchers said. (Quinones are oxidized derivatives of aromatic compounds.) No precious metal catalyst is needed because of the fast proton-coupled electron transfer processes. Furthermore, in acid media, the quinones exhibit good chemical stability. These properties render quinone-based redox couples very attractive for high-efficiency metal-free rechargeable batteries, they found.

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DOE awards $100M in 2nd funding round for 32 Energy Frontier Research Centers

June 24, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $100 million in the second round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs); research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production, storage, and use.

The 32 projects receiving funding were competitively selected from more than 200 proposals. Ten of these projects are new while the rest received renewed funding based both on their achievements to date and the quality of their proposals for future research.

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6 DOE-funded applied battery research projects targeting Li-ion cells with >200 Wh/kg for PHEVs and EVs

June 19, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has six recently launched applied battery research (ABR) projects as part of its Vehicle Technologies portfolio. ABR, noted Peter Faguy, the DOE manager of the applied battery research program, during his presentation at the Annual Merit Review in Washington, DC, is the difficult regime between the discovery of materials and their application in batteries that can be commercialized.

The objective of the projects is to develop cells that provide more than 200 Wh/kg energy density, along with long cycle life and excellent abuse tolerance to enable 40-mile-range plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EVs). One common attribute of all the projects is the use of some form of silicon-based material for the anode. The projects end in 2015.

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A123 Systems acquires lithium titanate and Li-imide electrolyte technology from Leyden Energy; micro-hybrid focus

June 16, 2014

A123 Systems LLC, a developer and manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion batteries and systems, has acquired Leyden Energy’s intellectual property in battery materials covering lithium titanate (LTO) and non-flammable electrolyte (Li-imide) developments for an undisclosed amount. As a part of the deal, key technical staff of Leyden Energy have also agreed to join A123 Systems’ R&D organization.

Leyden is the recent recipient of significant development funding from United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), an organization whose members include Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors. (Earlier post.) Under that program, Leyden achieved progress on development of its technology for micro-hybrid (i.e., start-stop vehicles, SSVs) applications in the automotive market. In particular, the inherent LTO properties of long cycle life and exceptional power capability were extended to operate over a substantially wider temperature range.

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Team TAISAN and Power Japan Plus form partnership to develop electric go-kart powered by Ryden Dual Carbon Battery

Racing group Team TAISAN and materials engineer Power Japan Plus—a company that is commercializing a dual carbon battery technology (earlier post)—have formed a partnership to develop an electric racing vehicle, which will be the first to use the Ryden dual carbon battery.

Under this partnership, Power Japan Plus will provide Ryden cells and Team TAISAN will leverage its international racing experience to optimize the battery and develop a battery pack and management circuit. A go-kart powered by the Ryden dual carbon battery will begin test driving August of this year.

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Elastic wire-shaped lithium-ion batteries with high electrochemical performance

June 13, 2014

Structure of the flexible wire-shaped lithium-ion battery. The aligned MWCNT/LTO and MWCNT/LMO composite yarns are paired as the anode and cathode, respectively. Ren et al. Click to enlarge.

A team led by Huisheng Peng from Fudan University in Shanghai has developed a stretchable wire-shaped lithium-ion battery produced from two aligned multi-walled carbon nanotube/lithium oxide composite yarns as the anode and cathode without extra current collectors and binders. As the researchers report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they were able to weave their batteries into light, flexible, elastic, and safe textile batteries with a high energy density.

The two composite yarns can be well paired to obtain a safe battery with energy densities of 27 Wh kg−1 or 17.7 mWh cm−3 and power densities of 880 W kg−1 or 0.56 W cm−3, which are an order of magnitude higher than the densities reported for lithium thin-film batteries. These wire-shaped batteries are flexible and light, and 97% of their capacity was maintained after 1,000 bending cycles.

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Toyota working on all-solid-state batteries as mid-term advanced battery solution; prototype cell with 400 Wh/L

June 12, 2014

Ragone plot showing various types of secondary batteries. An internal combustion engine and Toyota’s targeted “Sakichi battery” are added for reference. Toyota reports that it has developed prototype cells of all-solid-state batteries and Li-air batteries with energy densities of 400 Wh/L and 1000 Wh/L, respectively. Source: Iba and Yada 2014. Click to enlarge.

Toyota Motor, like many automakers and suppliers, is pursuing the development of Li-air batteries as a very high energy density technology that would enable battery-powered vehicles with a much greater range. In an invited presentation at the 17th International Meeting on Lithium Batteries (IMLB 2014) in Como, Italy, Dr. Hideki Iba from Toyota’s Battery Research Division and Dr. Chihiro Yada from Toyota Motor Europe’s Advanced Technology group noted that Li-air batteries—assuming the attendant issues are resolved—may not be commercialized until FY 2030.

Concurrent with its work on Li-air, Toyota is also pursuing the development of all-solid-state batteries, and has already developed prototype cells with an energy density of 400 Wh/L. These, the Toyota researchers noted (again, assuming development challenges are overcome), could be commercialized by FY 2020 and see subsequent substantial improvement by FY 2025. (Earlier post.)

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New DuraBlue ultracaps from Maxwell increase shock and vibration tolerance, energy and power capacity

June 11, 2014

Maxwell_2.85 w DuraBlue cell
DuraBlue cell. Click to enlarge.

Maxwell Technologies, Inc. has introduced its new DuraBlue Shock and Vibration Technology with the latest addition to its K2 series of ultracapacitor cells. The new 2.85-volt, 3400-farad DuraBlue ultracapacitor cell increases the range of available specific power by 17% and stored energy by 23% in the industry-standard 60 mm cylindrical “K2” form factor. The new cells offer up to 1,000,000 duty cycles, with up to 18 kW/kg of specific power and up to 4.00 Wh of stored energy. The cells offer threaded terminals or laser-weldable posts.

The DuraBlue cell also increases vibrational resistance by approximately 300% and shock immunity by 400% when compared to ultracapacitor-based competitive offerings. This enhanced shock and vibration tolerance is particularly important in the transportation market—especially mass transit—and in developing markets in which the road infrastructure might not be quite as smooth as in more developed ones, noted Chad McDonald, director of product marketing.

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MIT team reveals inner workings of LiFePO4 cathodes in Li-on batteries; direct observation of predicted SSZ

June 09, 2014

New observations by researchers at MIT have revealed the inner workings of a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) cathode—a material widely used in lithium-ion batteries. The new findings, published in a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, explain the unexpectedly high power and long cycle life of such batteries, the researchers say.

The MIT researchers found that inside this electrode during charging, a solid-solution zone (SSZ) forms at the boundary between lithium-rich and lithium-depleted areas—the region where charging activity is concentrated, as lithium ions are pulled out of the electrode. Professor Ju Li, one of the authors, noted that the SSZ “has been theoretically predicted to exist, but we see it directly for the first time” in transmission electron microscope (TEM) videos taken during charging.

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Sulfur/carbon nanotube composite for high performance Li-Sulfur cathode material

June 07, 2014

Left. Rate performance of the S-SACNT cathode. Inset is a photograph of the binder-free nano S-SACNT composite. Right. Cartoon of the S-SACNT composite. Credit: ACS, Sun et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Tsinghua University have developed another approach to high-capacity cathode materials for Lithium-sulfur batteries: a binder-free nano sulfur/carbon nanotube composite featuring clusters of sulfur nanocrystals anchored across a super-aligned carbon nanotube (SACNT) matrix.

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team from the Department of Physics and Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center report that the nano S-SACNT composite cathode delivered an initial discharge capacity of 1,071 mAh g–1, a peak capacity of 1,088 mAh g–1, and capacity retention of 85% after 100 cycles with high Coulombic efficiency (100%) at 1 C. At high current rates the nano S-SACNT composite displays capacities of 1,006 mAh g–1 at 2 C, 960 mAh g–1 at 5 C, and 879 mAh g–1 at 10 C.

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Carbon nanotube additive increases charge acceptance and performance of lead-acid batteries

June 06, 2014

Carbon nanotube engineering company Molecular Rebar Design has developed Molecular Rebar Lead Negative, a new additive for lead acid batteries comprising discrete carbon nanotubes (dCNT) which uniformly disperse within battery pastes during mixing.

In an open access paper published in the Journal of Power Sources, a Molecular Rebar team reports that NS40ZL 12V automotive lead-acid batteries containing dCNT showed enhanced charge acceptance of more than 200%, reserve capacity, and cold-cranking performance; decreased risk of polarization; and no detrimental changes to paste properties, when compared to dCNT-free controls. The study focused on the dCNT as Negative Active Material (NAM) additives only, but early-stage research is underway to test their functionality as a Positive Active Material (PAM) additive as well.

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ANSYS Fluent now includes Li-ion battery models; ANSYS, GM, NREL, ESim CAEBAT project

June 05, 2014

ANSYS Fluent software—a leading, fully featured fluid dynamics solution for modeling flow and other related physical phenomena—now includes as standard Li-ion battery models, due to the efforts of ANSYS, GM, the Energy Department’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and ESim.

Over the last two and half years, the team worked on a DOE-funded project, Computer-Aided Engineering for Electric Drive Vehicle Batteries (CAEBAT) (earlier post), to combine new and existing battery models into engineering simulation software to shorten design cycles and optimize batteries for increased performance, safety and lifespan.

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Swedish researchers explore use of carbon fiber as active electrode in structural battery for electric vehicles

De gör batterier av kolfiber_kolfiber
Woven carbon fiber can act as an electrode for lithium ion batteries. (Photo: Peter Larsson) Click to enlarge.

Researchers in Sweden are exploring the use of carbon fiber as an active electrode in a multifunctional structural Li-ion battery in an electric car; i.e., electrical storage is incorporated into the body of the car. Carbon fiber material is a good candidate for structural electrodes since it has high specific tensile stiffness and ultimate tensile strength (UTS) as well as high lithium (Li)-intercalation capability.

Mats Johansson at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology says the work is about improving the mechanical properties of batteries so that it not only stores energy but is part of the design. For example, he suggests, the hood of the car could be part of the battery. The concept of such a multifunctional structural vehicle battery has attracted a great deal of other research interest, including:

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Ford and Samsung outline R&D efforts for next-generation non-hybrid battery technology; dual-battery systems and lightweight Li-ion

June 04, 2014

In an event in San Francisco, Ford Motor Company and Samsung SDI, an affiliate of Samsung Group, outlined several collaborative research efforts on next-generation battery technology for non-hybrid vehicles. For the near term, they have been working on a dual-battery combining a lithium-ion battery with a 12-volt lead-acid battery that could enable regenerative braking technology in non-hybrid vehicles for greater fuel savings. Ford suggested the dual battery system might go into production soon.

Ford and Samsung SDI said they are also are researching a longer-term (e.g., about 10 years) ultra-lightweight lithium-ion battery that could one day supplant lead-acid batteries. The research advances lithium-ion battery technology currently available on Ford’s electrified vehicles.

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New binder/solvent system from Argonne, FMC facilitates use of stabilized Li metal powder in Li-ion electrodes; lower cost, higher energy density

June 01, 2014

As part of a four-year DOE-funded project, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, working with FMC Corporation, have developed a novel polymer binder and solvent system facilitating the use of FMC’s unique Stabilized Lithium Metal Powder (SLMP) as a performance-enhancing additive in Li-ion battery electrodes.

SLMP-based materials can enable commercialization of batteries with simplified formation process, lower irreversible capacity losses (leading to higher energy densities) and allow for a wider range of cathode materials—e.g., non-lithium-providing materials—to be utilized for transportation applications. Argonne has patents pending on the polymer binder and solvent technologies, as well as a new activation method.

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Industry study finds lead-acid to remain most wide-spread automotive energy storage for foreseeable future; new chemistries continue to grow

May 28, 2014

Overview of the three vehicle classes identified in the study, and their corresponding battery technologies. Click to enlarge.

There would be a significant impact on the overall performance and cost of vehicles, plus an effect on targets for fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions, if established battery applications were to be replaced with alternative technologies, according to a new study published by associations representing the European, Japanese and Korean automotive industry (ACEA, JAMA and KAMA); EUROBAT (the Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers) and the International Lead Association (ILA).

The study, which provides a joint industry analysis of how different types of batteries are used in different automotive applications, concludes that lead-based batteries will by necessity remain the most wide-spread energy storage system in automotive applications for the foreseeable future.

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Researchers present lower temperature version of ultra-high capacity molten air battery

May 27, 2014

Last year, researchers at George Washington University led by Dr. Stuart Licht introduced the principles of a new class rechargeable molten air batteries that offer amongst the highest intrinsic electric energy storage capabilities. (Earlier post.) The iron, carbon and VB2 molten air batteries they proposed offered intrinsic volumetric energy capacities of 10,000 (for Fe to Fe(III)); 19,000 (C to CO32-) and 27,000 Wh liter-1 (VB2 to B2O3 + V2O5), compared to 6,200 Wh liter-1 for a lithium-air battery.

Now, in a new paper in the RSC’s Journal of Materials Chemistry A, Baochen Cui and Licht report on a lower-temperature iron molten air battery that they suggest would be more compatible with electric vehicle applications.

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MIT/Stanford team develops battery technology for the conversion of low-grade waste heat to power; TREC

May 22, 2014

Researchers at MIT and Stanford University have developed new battery technology for the conversion of low-temperature waste heat into electricity in cases where temperature differences are less than 100 degrees Celsius. Their approach is based on a phenomenon called the thermogalvanic effect—the dependence of electrode potential on temperature—and is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications by postdoc Yuan Yang and professor Gang Chen at MIT, postdoc Seok Woo Lee and professor Yi Cui at Stanford, and three others.

The MIT and Stanford team devised an electrochemical system using a copper hexacyanoferrate cathode and a Cu/Cu2+ anode to convert heat into electricity. The thermally regenerative electrochemical cycle (TREC) entails a four-step process: (1) heating up the cell with waste heat; (2) charging at high temperature; (3) cooling down the cell; (4) discharging at low temperature.

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NEI Corporation developing Li-ion batteries with water-based electrolyte; targeting energy densities of 250 Wh/kg and 750 Wh/l

May 21, 2014

NEI Corporation, a nanotech materials company (earlier post), is developing a lithium-ion battery in which the electrolytes are dissolved in water instead of an organic solvent. Such an aqueous-based lithium-ion battery has the potential to eliminate the risks associated with conventional lithium-ion batteries, in which the organic solvents are highly flammable. In addition, there are toxicity and other environmental concerns associated with the non-aqueous electrolyte solvents. Aqueous-based lithium-ion batteries also have the potential to reduce cost.

However, while the concept of a lithium-ion cell using a water-based electrolyte has been known and studied, a major limitation is the narrow electrochemical stability window for water, which restricts the cell voltage. The electrochemical stability window for water is within the range of 0 to 1.25V; electrolysis of water occurs outside this voltage range.

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New ruthenium oxide/graphene and CNT foam material improves supercapacitor performance

May 20, 2014

Microstructure of RGM electrode. (a) Schematic illustration of the preparation process of RGM nanostructure foam. SEM images of (b–c) as-grown GM foam (d) Lightly loaded RGM, and (e) heavily loaded RGM. Source: UCR. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a novel nanometer scale ruthenium oxide (RuO2) anchored graphene and CNT foam architecture (RGM) for high-performance supercapacitor electrodes.

In an open access paper in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the team reports that supercapacitors based on RGM show superior gravimetric and per-area capacitive performance (specific capacitance: 502.78 F g−1, areal capacitance: 1.11 F cm−2) which leads to a high energy density (for supercapacitors) of 39.28 Wh kg−1 and power density of 128.01 kW kg−1. The electrochemical stability, excellent capacitive performance, and the ease of preparation suggest this RGM system is promising for future energy storage applications, the researchers suggest.

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New hybrid carbon/sulfur cathode material enables high-energy, high-power Li-sulfur battery; “matching the level of engine-driven systems”

May 16, 2014

Researchers at Tsinghua University have combined two types of carbon materials to create a new composite sulfur cathode material for a high-energy and high-power lithium-sulfur battery. In a paper in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, they report the composite cathode (a hierarchical all-carbon nanostructure hybridized with small cyclo-S8 clusters) has a high specific capacity of 1121 mAh g−1 at 0.5 C; a favorable high-rate capability of 809 mAh g−1 at 10 C; a very low capacity decay of 0.12% per cycle; and cycling stability of 877 mAh g−1 after 150 cycles at 1 C.

As sulfur loading in the cathode increases from 50 wt% to 77 wt%, high capacities of 970, 914, and 613 mAh g−1 are available at current densities of 0.5, 1, and 5 C, respectively. Based on the total mass of packaged devices, gravimetric energy density of the cell consisting of the composite cathode and a lithium-metal anode (GSH@APC-S//Li) is expected to be 400 Wh kg−1 at a power density of 10 kW kg−1—“matching the level of engine-driven systems,” according to the team.

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UC Riverside opening Sustainable Integrated Grid Initiative; integration of solar energy, battery storage and electric and hybrid vehicles

May 15, 2014

Schematic of the “New Grid Testbed” components, including renewable energy generation, energy storage, smart distribution and electric transportation Click to enlarge.

The University of California, Riverside is opening its Sustainable Integrated Grid Initiative to research the integration of: intermittent renewable energy, such as photovoltaic solar panels; energy storage, such as batteries; and all types of electric and hybrid electric vehicles. It is the largest renewable energy project of its kind in California.

The first two years of operation is supported by a $2-million contract from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, awarded in January 2012. Construction of the initial testbed platform was also supported by an additional $10 million in contributions from UC Riverside and private partners. The testbed, which is located at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), includes:

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Gamma Technologies and Sendyne introducing comprehensive hybrid and EV simulation with integrated battery model

May 14, 2014

Gamma Technologies, in cooperation with Sendyne Corp., is introducing an advanced technology platform for comprehensive electric and hybrid vehicle simulation that combines Gamma’s GT-Suite vehicle simulator with Sendyne’s CellMod CPM and RTSim real-time solver. This new platform provides total electric and hybrid vehicle multi-physics simulation including engine, vehicle, electric machines, cooling, and aftertreatment systems, along with a Compact Physical Model (CPM)-based virtual battery pack.

Total vehicle simulation can reduce time to market, improve performance and cut costs by aiding in the optimization of the power delivery system. In order to ensure high accuracy of complete hybrid powertrain simulations, it is important that models capture the temperature-sensitive behavior of the involved components and the flow of energy between subsystems.

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GM’s Brownstown Battery Assembly expands; building new battery system for 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV

General Motors Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant worker Tina Oaks attaches wiring harnesses on a Spark EV battery pack. Click to enlarge.

General Motors will bring all its electric vehicle battery pack building capabilities in-house with production of battery systems for the 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV at its expanded battery assembly plant in Brownstown, Mich.

A newly designed battery system features an overall storage capacity of 19 kWh and uses 192 lithium ion cells. The cells are produced at LG Chem’s plant in Holland, Mich. The battery system weight of 474 lbs (215 kg)—86 pounds (39 kg) lighter than the system in the 2014 Spark EV. The Spark EV battery is built on a dedicated production line at Brownstown, which also manufactures complete battery packs for the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera and Cadillac ELR.

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Japanese start-up seeks to commercialize dual-carbon battery technology; anion intercalation

Capacity vs. cycle number. Source: Power Japan Plus. Click to enlarge.

Start-up Power Japan Plus announced plans to commercialize a dual-carbon battery technology, which it calls the Ryden dual carbon battery. Power Japan Plus says that its battery currently offers energy density comparable to a lithium-ion battery, but with a much more rapid rate of charge and the ability for full discharge over a much longer functional lifetime with improved safety and cradle-to-cradle sustainability.

Dual-carbon (also called dual-graphite) batteries were first introduced by McCullough and his colleagues at Dow Chemical in a 1989 patent, and were subsequently studied by Carlin et al. (1994) and Seel and Dahn (2000), along with many others. The basic concept of the cell is that lithium ions from the electrolyte are inserted/deposited into/on the anode (negative electrode), while the corresponding electrolyte anions are intercalated into the cathode (positive electrode). Both electrodes are carbon (e.g., graphite). During discharge, both anions and lithium ions are released back into the electrolyte. As Rothermel et al. noted in their 2013 review of challenges and opportunities for the technology, the electrolyte in such a system thus not only acts as charge carrier, but also as the active material.

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Smith Electric Vehicles secures new strategic investor and battery supplier; production to resume in Kansas City in mid-2014

May 13, 2014

Smith Electric Vehicles (SEV) has secured a $42-million commitment from Li-ion battery developer and manufacturer Sinopoly Battery Limited for a conditional subscription of Series AA convertible promissory notes, Series E preferred stock and common stock of post-listing of SEV in the amounts of US$2 million, US$10 million and US$30 million, respectively.

The $42-million investment will position Sinopoly as a strategic shareholder in Smith Electric. Under the agreement, Sinopoly will become Smith Electric’s exclusive supplier for batteries in vehicle applications that are compatible with Smith Electric’s platforms and customer requirements. Sinopoly will also become a preferred supplier for certain electric vehicle components that can be manufactured in its Hangzhou facility. The first $2 million in funding closed Monday, and the remainder will be invested in two tranches pending milestones to be achieved by both companies in the coming months.

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Lux: Panasonic has 39% share of plug-in vehicle batteries, thanks to its deal with Tesla

May 07, 2014

Panasonic jumps to top of the plug-in vehicle battery leaderboard, overtaking NEC and LG Chem. Source: Lux Research. Click to enlarge.

Batteries for hybrids and plug-in vehicles are growing fast, more than tripling over the past three years to reach 1.4 GWh per quarter, according to the Automotive Battery Tracker from Lux Research. Panasonic has emerged as the leader thanks to its partnership with Tesla, capturing 39% of the plug-in vehicle battery market, overtaking NEC (27% market share) and LG Chem (9%) in 2013.

Lux Research analysts used historical and current vehicle sales, detailed battery specifications for each car, and supplier relationships to create the Automotive Battery Tracker.

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Li-air battery research needs as seen by team from US, China and Korea

May 05, 2014

Schematic cell configurations for the four types of Li−air batteries. Credit ACS, Lu et al. Click to enlarge.

A new review of Li-air battery technology by a team from Argonne National Laboratory, Beijing Institue of Technology and Hanyang University focuses on the most critical issues that must be addressed for the successful development and commercialization of high energy density Li-air batteries. The review appears in the ACS journal Chemical Reviews.

Li-air batteries are of great interest (as evidenced by more than 300 research papers on the topic in the past 3 years). The Li−air battery potentially offers densities of up to 2−3 kWh/kg on the cell level. A fully developed Li−air battery system (i.e., with the full balance of plant required) is expected to surpass battery technology under development for deployment in the medium term (400 Wh/kg), and meet the requirements for plug-in vehicle applications. However, the reviewers noted,

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Two new germanium-free ultrafast solid Li electrolytes

April 30, 2014

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Germany report the development of two ultrafast solid Li electrolytes which are germanium-free—i.e., based exclusively on abundant elements. Both compounds—Li10SnP2S12 and Li11Si2PS12 feature extremely high Li ion diffusivities, with the Si-based material even surpassing the present record holder, the electrolyte Li10GeP2S12 (LGPS) which was first reported by Toyota researchers and their academic partners in 2011 (earlier post).

While the Li diffusivity of the Si-based electrolyte compound (Li11Si2PS12) establishes a new record for solid Li conductors, preparation is more costly. Upscaling the synthesis of the Li10SnP2S12 compound should be straightforward, the team suggested. Both germanium free compounds are promising candidates for the development of a new generation of all-solid-state batteries, they concluded.

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Argonne researchers propose new composite germanium oxide material for Li-ion anodes

April 28, 2014

Cyclic performance of the new composite GeO2/Sn-Co-C composite compared to GeO2 and Sn-Co-C anodes. Credit: ACS, Liu et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Argonne National Lab have proposed a novel composite Li-ion anode material of GeO2–Sn30Co30C40, which combines the advantageous properties of Sn–Co–C (long cycle life) and GeO2 (high capacity).

In a paper published in ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry C, they report that the composite anode shows a reversible capacity of more than 800 mAh g-1 with good capacity retention. First-cycle Coulombic efficiency is 80%, much higher than the 34.6% obtained for pure GeO2. Comparison testing with GeO2 and Sn-Co-C anodes showed that the composite electrode “indicates great progress in terms of combining capacity and lifespan.

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RPI researchers develop safe, long-cycling Li-metal rechargeable battery electrode; demonstrate Li-carbon battery

April 27, 2014

Capacity and coulombic efficiency versus cycle index of Li-PGN cathodes at a rate of ~1C. The performance of various other cathode materials (LiCoO2, LiFePO4, LiNi0.75Co0.10Mn0.15O2 and Li3V1.98Ce0.02(PO4)3/C) measured at comparable current densities has been included for comparison. Mukherjee et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a safe, extended cycling lithium-metal electrode for rechargeable Li-ion batteries by entrapping lithium metal within a porous graphene network (Li-PGN). The graphene “cage” prevents dendritic growth, enabling extended cycling of the electrode.

In a paper in the journal Nature Communications, the team reported that the plating of lithium metal within the interior of the porous graphene structure results in very high specific capacities in excess of 850 mAh g-1. Extended testing for over 1,000 charge/discharge cycles indicates excellent reversibility and coulombic efficiencies above 99%. The RPI team also demonstrated the use of the PGN material as a high-capacity anode, and demonstrated a full-cell configuration with a PGN anode and a lithium-metal/PGN cathode, thus creating a Li-carbon rechargeable battery.

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TIAX spins out Li-ion Advanced Battery Materials & Design Division to become separate company

April 24, 2014

Capacity and rate performance of CAM-7 cathode material. Click to enlarge.

Lab-based technology development company TIAX will spin out its Advanced Battery Materials & Design Division on 1 May to become a separate company—CAMX Power LLC—to be co-located with TIAX and operate as its subsidiary.

CAMX Power will focus on licensing, customer support, and further enhancing its nickel-based high-energy and high-power cathode material CAM-7 for lithium-ion batteries. It will continue the development of other cell components and expand its work on battery safety technologies. CAMX Power will also engage in targeted services, co-development and sales and marketing partnerships.

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DOE issues draft loan solicitation for up to $4B for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects; drop-in biofuels a key area

April 16, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the US that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation is intended to support technologies that will have a catalytic effect on commercial deployment of future projects, are replicable, and are market ready.

When finalized, the solicitation is expected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available to help commercialize technologies that may be unable to obtain full commercial financing.

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PNNL team develops composite sulfur/Ni-MOF composite cathode for Li-S batteries showing excellent capacity retention

April 15, 2014

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have used a novel Ni-based metal organic framework (Ni-MOF) significantly to improve the performance of Li-sulfur batteries by immobilizing polysulfides within the cathode structure through physical and chemical interactions at molecular level.

In a study reported in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the use of a sulfure/Ni-MOF composite cathode resulted in capacity retention of up to 89% after 100 cycles at 0.1 C. The research team attributed the excellent performance to the synergistic effects of the interwoven mesopores (2.8 nm) and micropores (1.4 nm) of Ni-MOF, which provide an ideal matrix to confine polysulfides, as well as the strong interactions between Lewis acidic Ni(II) center and the polysulfide base, which significantly slow down the migration of soluble polysulfides out of the pores.

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Hyundai Motor researchers report improved Li-sulfur battery performance with new sulfone-based electrolyte

April 12, 2014

Researchers from Hyundai Motor have found that the use of a new sulfone-based electrolyte greatly improved the capacity and reversible capacity retention of a Li-sulfur battery compared to the performance of ether-based electrolytes. In a paper presented at the SAE 2104 World Congress in Detroit, they reported that use of the sulfone-based electrolyte increased capacity by 52.1% to 715 mAh/g and capacity retention by 63.1% to 72.6%.

Lithium-sulfur systems are of great interest as a “beyond Li-ion” solution with increased energy densities that would enable much greater electric vehicle range. The Li/S system has a high theoretical specific energy of 2600 Wh kg-1; however, rapid fading of charge capacity is a well-known issue (e.g., earlier post). The poor long-term performance has been associated with both the shuttling of polysulfides dissolved into the electrolyte, in addition to irreversible deposition of solid lithium sulfide (Li2S) and other mixtures of insoluble discharge products on the cathode.

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New mesoporous crystalline Si exhibits increased rate of H2 production; potential use in Li-ion batteries also

April 11, 2014

Scheme of Mesoporous Silicon
Schematic of mesoporous silicon Image: Donghai Wang/Penn State. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Penn State have devised a new process for the bottom-up synthesis of mesoporous crystalline silicon materials with high surface area and tunable primary particle/pore size via a self-templating pore formation process.

The nanosized crystalline primary particles and high surface areas enable an increased rate of photocatalytic hydrogen production from water and extended working life. These advantages also make the mesoporous silicon a potential candidate for other applications, such as optoelectronics, drug delivery systems and even lithium-ion batteries. A paper on their work is published in Nature Communications.

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GM investing $449M in Hamtramck and Brownstown for next-gen electrification; vehicles and batteries

April 08, 2014

In preparation for the next generation of electric vehicles and advanced battery technologies, General Motors will invest $449 million to upgrade manufacturing processes at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Brownstown Battery Assembly plants.

The investment is the largest to date at both facilities and includes $384 million at Detroit-Hamtramck for new body shop tooling, equipment, and additional plant upgrades to build the next generation Chevrolet Volt and two future products. This brings GM’s total investment at Detroit-Hamtramck to more than $1 billion over the last five years.

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DOE releases five-year strategic plan, 2014-2018; supporting “all of the above” energy strategy

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its five-year 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan is organized into 12 strategic objectives aimed at three distinct goals: Science and Energy; Nuclear Security; and Management and Performance. These objectives represent broad cross-cutting and collaborative efforts across DOE headquarters, site offices, and national laboratories.

The overarching goal for Science and Energy is: “Advance foundational science, innovate energy technologies, and inform data driven policies that enhance US economic growth and job creation, energy security, and environmental quality, with emphasis on implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan to mitigate the risks of and enhance resilience against climate change.” Under that, the plan sketches out 3 strategic goals:

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California ARB posts final modifications for ZEV rule on fast refueling/battery exchange for public comment

April 05, 2014

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has posted for public comment current final modifications for the Zero Emission Vehicle Regulation for 15 days. (Earlier post.) Statutorily, depending upon the comments received, ARB staff may either make further modifications and resubmit to Board for further consideration; failing that, the Board will adopt the new regulatory language.

These final tweaks to the ZEV rule involve the allocation of ZEV credits for different types of ZEV vehicles and the handling of the associated fast-refueling accreditation, which includes the possible use of battery-swapping.

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BASF and Toda Kogyo enter negotiations to form a joint venture for Li-ion cathode active materials in Japan

April 03, 2014

BASF and Toda Kogyo Corp., one of the industry leaders in the development and manufacture of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries, are entering exclusive negotiations to form a joint venture for cathode active materials (CAM) based in Japan. The proposed joint venture will focus on the production, marketing and sales of a broad range of cathode materials including NCA (Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide); LMO (Lithium Manganese Oxide); and NCM (Nickel Cobalt Manganese) in Japan.

These materials are used in lithium-ion batteries for the automotive, consumer electronics and stationary storage markets. Toda Kogyo and BASF would combine their respective CAM businesses, intellectual property and production assets in Japan to offer the broadest cathode materials product portfolio in the industry. BASF would have a majority ownership stake in the proposed joint venture.

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Bulk antimony sulfide electrodes for Li-ion batteries show high capacity, cycle stability; small particle size not necessary

April 02, 2014

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) report in an open access paper in Scientific Reports that bulk antimony sulfide (Sb2S3) with a size of 10–20 μm used as a Li-ion electrode material exhibits a high capacity and stable cycling of 800 mAh g−1. Despite the large particle size, bulk antimony sulfide also showed excellent rate performance with a capacity of 580 mAh g−1 at a rate of 2000 mA g−1—the highest ever recorded for materials with 10–20 μm size.

The mechanical and chemical stabilities of the electrodes were ensured by an optimal electrode-electrolyte system design, with a polyimide-based binder together with fluoroethylene carbonate in the electrolyte, the authors said.

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Torotrak-led consortium wins $4M towards manufacturability of core variable drive technologies

A consortium of British high-technology companies led by Torotrak PLC has won £2.4 million (US$4 million) in funding from the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board towards the development of an optimized manufacturing route for key components of the company’s variable drive systems.

Called S-CONTACCT, the program, with a total project value of £3.8 million (US$6.3 million), will establish new manufacturing processes for the traction drive disks and rollers at the heart of Torotrak’s portfolio of automotive CO2 and fuel consumption reduction technologies, which includes variable drive superchargers; infinitely variable toroidal transmissions; and an advanced flywheel kinetic energy recovery system (KERS).

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Daimler buys out Evonik from Li-Tec and Deutsche ACCUmotive Li-ion companies; Daimler sole owner

April 01, 2014

Daimler AG and Evonik Industries AG are restructuring their joint venture activities in the field of electric mobility. Daimler will acquire all of the shares held by Evonik in Li-Tec Battery GmbH (50.1%) and in Deutsche ACCUmotive GmbH & Co. KG (10%). This will make Daimler the sole owner of the two companies. The parties have agreed not to divulge the details of the agreement.

The two companies originally established their strategic alliance on automotive Li-ion cells in December 2008 (earlier post), with the resulting formation of the new joint venture (Deutsche ACCUmotive GmbH & Co. KG) and with Daimler’s acquisition of 49.9% of what was Evonik’s subsidiary Li-Tec. From the beginning, both partners sought the involvement of a third shareholder in Li-Tec with expertise in electrical and electronic systems integration.

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USC Viterbi team integrating silicon anode and sulfur-based cathode for Lithium-sulfur battery with low fabrication cost

USC Viterbi School of Engineering professor Chongwu Zhou and his research team have developed a silicon nanoparticle anode and a sulfur-based cathode with low fabrication cost and high electrode performance for rechargeable lithium-sulfur batteries.

The effort builds on their earlier work in developing nanostructured silicon materials for use as high performance lithium-ion battery anodes (earlier post), with a focus on developing a cost-effective method for producing Si nanoparticles, which they accomplish via ball-milling of metallurgical Si and inexpensive stain-etching. In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they report nanoporous Si anodes with a reversible capacity of 2,900 mAh/g attained at a charging rate of 400 mA/g (0.1 C), with 10 cycles measured and a capacity above 1100 mAh/g at 2000 mA/g (0.5 C) with extended 600 cycles measured.

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DOE awards $17M to FY 2014 SBIR Phase II projects; includes Si/graphene anodes, motor windings, exhaust treatments

March 31, 2014

The US DOE recently awarded $17 million to 17 FY 2014 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II projects to further develop Phase I projects and to produce a prototype or equivalent within two years. The selected 17 awards represent the best of nearly 1,000 ideas submitted for the FY 2012/13 Broad Based Topic Solicitation, DOE said.

The selected projects include 6 vehicle-related technologies and 2 hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, as well as new hydropower, heat pump, solar and manufacturing technologies. Vehicle technologies span a range from new Si/graphene Li-ion anode materials and composites for motor windings to diesel aftertreatment and advanced lubricants. Selected vehicle and hydrogen technology projects are:

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MIT Energy Initiative announces 2014 seed grant awards

March 30, 2014

The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) announced its latest round of seed grants to support early-stage innovative energy projects. A total of more than $1.6 million was awarded to 11 projects, each lasting up to two years. With this latest round, the MITEI Seed Fund Program has supported 129 early-stage research proposals, with total funding of about $15.8 million.

This year’s winners address a wide range of topics including new methods of designing and using catalysts; assessment of natural gas technologies; novel design concepts for batteries, energy harvesters, and capacitors; integrated photovoltaic–electrochemical devices to reduce CO2 for fuel production; and investigations into public opinion on various state energy policies.

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Researchers synthesize Li2S spheres with size control for high-performance Li/S battery cathodes

March 27, 2014

Electrochemical performance of 1 μm Li2S@C spheres at different C-rates. (a) Cycling performances and Coulombic efficiency. (b) Rate capability of the 1 μm Li2S@C cathodes. (c) Voltage profiles of the 1 μm Li2S@C spheres. Credit: ACS, Nan et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Tsinghua University have synthesized lithium sulfide (Li2S) spheres that, with protective and conductive carbon shells, show promising specific capacities and cycling performance as a lithium/sulfur cell cathode material, with a high initial discharge capacity of 972 mAh g–1 Li2S (1,394 mAh g–1 S) at the 0.2C rate.

When no carbon black was added to the electrode mixture, a very high Li2S content (88 wt % Li2S) electrode composed of 98 wt % 1 μm Li2S@C spheres and 2 wt % binder showed rather stable cycling performance, and little morphology change after 400 cycles at the 0.5C rate. A paper on their work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Li-ion maker A123 Systems sells Energy Solutions business to NEC for ~$100M; focus on micro-hybrids and transportation

March 24, 2014

A123 Systems LLC, a developer and manufacturer of advanced Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate batteries and systems, is selling its grid storage business and other assets related to energy storage for telecom and IT data storage applications to NEC Corporation for approximately $100 million.

A123, which is retaining its all of its existing cell manufacturing and sales, research and development, and automotive operations, is increasingly focused on the transportation market with a particular emphasis on micro-hybrids (earlier post). NEC will incorporate the former A123 Energy Solutions Business into a new “NEC Energy Solutions” company, which will begin operation in June 2014.

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Nitrogen‐doped coral-like carbon fiber arrays shown to be highly efficient air electrodes for high-performance Li-air batteries

a) SEM image of a VA-NCCF array grown on a piece of Si wafer. (b) TEM image of an individual VA-NCCF. (c) The sketch of Li2O2 grown on a coral-like carbon fiber. Credit: ACS, Shui et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University and Kent State University have developed highly efficient oxygen electrodes for nonaqueous Li-O2 batteries by using vertically aligned nitrogen-doped coral-like carbon fiber (VA-NCCF) arrays supported with a stainless steel cloth as the current collector.

In a paper in the journal ACS Nano, they reported obtaining a narrow voltage gap (0.3 V) between the charge and discharge plateaus and an unusually high energy efficiency of 90%. Electrolyte decomposition—a problem with Li-air batteries—was minimized due to the low overpotential, and the battery could run for more than 150 cycles with a good reversibility under considerably high specific capacities (up to 1,000 mAh g-1) per cycle.

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Brown U, GM researchers calculate optimum design geometries for Si/C core-shell materials for Li-ion anodes

March 23, 2014

Conditions of fracture and debonding. The shaded regions demonstrate the safe regimes of operation as a function of top shell thickness and bottom core size with state of charge. Credit: ACS, Stournara et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Brown University and General Motors Global Research and Development has calculated optimum design geometries that will avert fracture and debonding in silicon/carbon heterostructures—such as the hollow core-shell nanostructure proposed by Prof. Yi Cui (e.g., earlier post) and others—used as high-capacity anodes in advanced Li-ion batteries.

In their work, reported in a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they combined properties calculated from ab initio simulations of lithiated a-Si/a-C interface structures with linear elastic fracture mechanics to construct a continuum level diagram which outlines the safe regimes of operation in terms of the core and shell thickness and the state of charge. Among their findings, they determined that high states of charge are achieved and failure is prevented if the thickness of the core is less than 200 nm and the thickness of the shell is approximately 5 nm.

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Johnson Controls and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft collaborate on next-gen cooling systems for Li-ion battery packs; focus on 48V micro-hybrid system

March 20, 2014

Johnson Controls and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft have signed a collaboration agreement to develop the next generation of more energy efficient, cost-effective cooling systems for vehicle batteries. The scope of the work will initially focus on 48V Micro Hybrid battery technology, which is designed to deliver strong fuel and emissions efficiency, and load management at a lower price than hybrid and electric vehicle technology. (Earlier post.)

Scientists and engineers at Johnson Controls will work with both Fraunhofer’s Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) and with its Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM).

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Antimony nanocrystals as high-capacity anode materials for both Li-ion and Na-ion batteries

March 19, 2014

TEM image (false colored) of monodisperse antimony nanocrystals. (Photo: Maksym Kovalenko Group / ETH Zürich) Click to enlarge.

Researchers from ETH Zürich and Empa have succeeded for the first time in producing uniform (monodisperse) antimony (Sb) nanocrystals (NCs). The nanocrystals possess high and similar Li-ion and Na-ion charge storage capacities of 580−640 mAh g−1 at moderate charging/discharging current densities of 0.5−1C (1C-rate is 660 mA g−1).

At all C-rates (0.5−20C), capacities of 20 nm Sb particles are systematically better than for both 10 nm and bulk Sb. At 20C-rates, retention of charge storage capacities by 10 and 20 nm Sb nanocrystals can reach 78−85% of the low-rate value, indicating that rate capability of Sb nanostructures can be comparable to the best Li-ion intercalation anodes and is so far unprecedented for Na-ion storage. A paper on their work appears in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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Researchers observe major source of aging in Li-ion cathode materials

March 18, 2014

Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB), with colleagues at the University of Muenster, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), and Technische Universität Berlin, have identified a major source of aging in Li-ion batteries during cycling by using the synchrotron radiation sources BESSY II at HZB and DORIS at DESY to observe atomic rearrangements occurring in the cathode material of Li-ion batteries during charge and discharge processes.

Such repetitive changes in atomic arrangements can lead to the breakdown of the crystal structure of a material, and thus are the major causes of aging, the researchers said.

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Nissan and Nissan Arc develop method for direct observation of electron activity in Li-ion cathode materials; L-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy

March 13, 2014

Nissan Motor Company and its affiliate Nissan Arc Ltd. have developed an analysis method that enables direct observation of electron activity in the cathode material of lithium-ion batteries during charging and discharging. Applying this analysis technique to future research and design of battery materials could enable Nissan researchers to develop high-capacity and high-durability batteries that may extend the driving distance of EVs and improve their durability.

Nissan Arc Ltd., a 100% subsidiary of Nissan Motor Company, developed the analysis method in a joint R&D effort with Tokyo University, Kyoto University and Osaka Prefecture University. The newly-developed technique provides an accurate depiction of how electrons are emitted from certain elements that constitute the cathode material of lithium-ion batteries when charging and discharging.

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Researchers developing DC micro smart grid for charging EV fleets; Li-ion, redox flow batteries and renewables

March 07, 2014

Up to 30 electric vehicles at a time can recharge in Fraunhofer IAO’s parking garage. Click to enlarge.

A team from Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, together with Daimler AG and the Institute for Human Factors and Technology Management at the University of Stuttgart, is developing both the charging infrastructure and the energy management systems required to manage large fleets of EVs in a project called charge@work.

The aim of charge@work is to design a micro smart grid (MSG) capable of supplying the EV fleet with electricity produced exclusively from renewable sources. This year will see the installation of a photovoltaic unit and a small wind power system at the Fraunhofer Institute Center Stuttgart IZS, where up to 30 electric vehicles at a time can recharge at AC charge spots in the Fraunhofer Campus parking garage.

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nanoFLOWCELL unveils flow cell battery prototype vehicle

March 05, 2014

Powertrain of the QUANT. The two 200L (400L, 106 gallons US total) electrolyte tanks are packaged in the rear and central tunnel of the vehicle. Click to enlarge.

Liechtenstein-based nanoFLOWCELL unveiled the QUANT e-Sportslimousine, a prototype vehicle equipped with a nanoFLOWCELL flow cell battery powertrain, at the Geneva Motor Show. This flow cell system supports an electric driving range of between 400 to 600 km (249 to 373 miles) in the QUANT e-Sportlimousine prototype, the company claims.

Flow cells or flow batteries combine aspects of an electrochemical battery cell with those of a fuel cell. The electrolytic fluids in flow cells—usually metallic salts in aqueous solution—are pumped from tanks through the cell. This forms a kind of battery cell with a cross-flow of electrolyte liquid. One advantage of this system in general is that the larger the storage tanks for the electrolyte fluid are, the greater the energy capacity. Too, the concentration of an electrolytic solution contributes to the the quantity of energy that it transports.

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Maxwell Technologies introduces ultracapacitor-based engine start module for medium-duty diesel trucks

ESM 31-900_Left Angle_NoBG
New medium-duty ESM. The third terminal connects to the starter solenoid. Click to enlarge.

Maxwell Technologies, Inc. is expanding its ultracapacitor-based Engine Start Module (ESM) product line (earlier post) to provide the same benefits to class 3 through 6 medium-duty trucks that it has been offering previously to class 7 and 8 heavy-duty diesel trucks.

Maxwell’s ESM ULTRA 31/900 assumes the starting responsibility for the truck and effectively eliminates cranking problems that come from weak or discharged batteries. Consistent with Maxwell’s current award-winning ESM product, the ESM ULTRA 31/900 delivers the quick-burst power trucks need to crank their engines in extreme cold, down to -40°F.

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New sulfur-rich copolymer electrodes for Li-S batteries exhibit high-capacity, long-life

February 28, 2014

Cycling performance of Li−S battery from 10% by mass DIB copolymer batteries to 500 cycles with charge (filled circles) and discharge (open circles) capacities, as well as Coulombic efficiency (open triangles). The C-rate capability of the battery is shown in the figure inset. Credit: ACS, Simmonds et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from the University of Arizona, Seoul National University and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed sulfur-rich co-polymers to create cathode materials for lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery applications.

As reported in the journal ACS Macro Letters, the materials exhibit enhanced capacity retention (1,005 mAh/g at 100 cycles) and battery lifetimes over 500 cycles at a C/10 rate. These copolymers, based on poly(sulfur-random-1,3-diisopropenylbenzene) (poly(S-r-DIB)) and synthesized via and inverse vulcanization process reported last year (earlier post), represent a new class of polymeric electrode materials that exhibit one of the highest charge capacities reported, particularly after extended charge–discharge cycling in Li–S batteries.

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Hitachi Vehicle Energy’s Li-ion design and R&D ops to be moved into Hitachi Automotive Systems’ operations

Hitachi is transferring and integrating Hitachi Vehicle Energy’s (HVE) design and research & development operations relating to lithium-ion batteries for hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles into Hitachi Automotive Systems (HAS) on 1 April.

The aim of the move is to optimize synergies involved in the development and design of electric powertrains, while at the same time strengthening the ability to develop technologies for improving battery performance, Hitachi said. HVE will continue to strengthen its production technology, quality and other monozukuri (manufacturing) capabilities as a producer of lithium-ion batteries.

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Tesla outlines scheme for $4-5B battery Gigafactory; announces $1.6B offering

February 27, 2014

The planned cell output of the Gigafactory in 2020 exceeds 2013 global production by current manufacturers, Tesla said. Click to enlarge.

Via a post on its website, Tesla Motors outlined its plan for its future battery “Gigafactory”, projected to require between $4-5 billion in investment from Tesla and its partners by 2020, with a resulting cell capacity of up to 35 GWh/year and pack capacity of up to 50 GWh/y to service a projected 500,000 Tesla electric vehicles per year.

Tesla plans to invest directly approximately $2 billion, the rest to come from its partners in the venture. During the company’s Q4 earnings call last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted that because Panasonic is Tesla’s primary partner on battery production, the “default assumption” is that Panasonic would continue to partner with Tesla in the Gigafactory. Reports have surfaced that Panasonic is considering a $1-billion investment, but nothing has been announced or confirmed at this stage.

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Kia using SK Innovation NCM Li-ion cells in Soul EV

February 24, 2014

Kia is using lithium-ion polymer battery cells supplied by SK Inovation in the battery pack for the new Soul EV (earlier post). The pack, featuring an energy density of 200 Wh/kg (on the high end of specific energy ratings for current EVs), is the result of a three-year joint development program between Kia Motors Corporation and SK Innovation in Korea. The Soul EV offers a driving range of around 200 km (124 miles) on a single charge.

Engineers from Kia developed the pack with 192 SK lithium-ion polymer battery cells in eight modules, for a total capacity of 27 kWh. The pack incorporates advanced thermal control technology to maintain individual cells at optimum temperature and structural design to enhance crash worthiness.

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New microscopy method delivers real-time view of Li-ion SEI formation

A new in situ transmission electron microscopy technique enabled researchers to image the snowflake-like growth of the solid electrolyte interphase from a working battery electrode. Source: Sacci et al. Click to enlarge.

Using a new microscopy method (earlier post), researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with colleagues at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, have imaged and measured electrochemical processes in batteries in real time and at nanoscale resolution.

In a paper in the journal Chemical Communications, they reported performing the first in situ high-spatial resolution measurement coupled with real-time quantitative electrochemistry to characterize solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) formation on gold using a standard battery electrolyte. They demonstrated that a dendritic SEI forms prior to Li deposition and that it remains on the surface after Li electrodissolution.

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M5BAT 5MW storage system integrates multiple battery technologies

The E.ON Energy Research Center at RWTH Aachen University, E.ON electric utility company, battery manufacturers Exide and beta-motion and inverter manufacturer SMA Solar Technology AG (SMA) have joined forces to build the first multi-technology, modular large-scale 5MW battery storage system.

The unique feature of the M5BAT (Modular Multimegawatt, Multitechnology Medium-Voltage Battery Storage System) storage system lies in its modular design, which combines different battery technologies for optimal use. It consists of lithium-ion batteries to meet short-term demand; high-temperature batteries to supply power for several hours; and lead-acid batteries when the average discharge time is one hour or less.

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New Na-ion battery combining intercalation and conversion could be promising low-cost energy storage system

February 19, 2014

Scheme of the new full sodium-ion battery, which combines an intercalation cathode and a conversion anode. Credit: ACS, Oh et al. Click to enlarge.

A team led by Yang-Kook Sun at Hanyang University (South Korea), Bruno Scrosati at University of Rome Sapienza, and Khalil Amine at Argonne National Laboratory reports the development of a sodium-ion battery based on a carbon-coated Fe3O4 anode, Na[Ni0.25Fe0.5Mn0.25]O2 layered cathode (NFM), and NaClO4 in fluoroethylene carbonate and ethyl methanesulfonate electrolyte. This battery system combines an intercalation cathode and a conversion anode, resulting in high capacity, high rate capability, thermal stability, and much improved cycle life.

(In January, researchers at Kansas State University reported on the synthesis of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) and reduced graphene oxide flakes (MoS2/rGO) for use as self-standing flexible electrodes in sodium-ion (Na-ion) batteries; the molybdenum disulfide also offers a new combination of intercalation and a conversion-type reaction. Earlier post.)

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Lifecycle study finds that environmental impacts of silicon-anode Li-ion battery could be roughly comparable with conventional Li-ion battery

February 17, 2014

Life cycle impact benchmarking between LIB packs with SiNW and graphite anode. Units of the X-axis values are different and shown under each impact category name on Y-axis. Credit: ACS, Li et al. Click to enlarge.

A lifecycle assessment (LCA) of silicon nanowire (SiNW) anodes for Li-ion batteries (LIBs) by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has concluded that a LIB pack using SiNW anodes from metal-assisted chemical etching could have environmental impacts comparable with those of a conventional Li-ion battery pack, while significantly increasing the battery energy storage. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The LCA was based on the average US driving and electricity supply conditions. The researchers characterized nanowastes and nanoparticle emissions from the SiNW synthesis. The results showed that more than 50% of most characterized impacts are generated from the battery operations, while the battery anode with SiNW material contributes to around 15% of global warming potential and 10% of human toxicity potential.

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New pomegranate-inspired design may bring silicon anodes for Li-ion batteries closer to commercialization

February 16, 2014

Reversible delithiation capacity for the first 1,000 galvanostatic cycles of the silicon pomegranate and other structures tested under the same conditions. Coulombic efficiency is plotted for the silicon pomegranate only. The active material mass loading was ~0.2 mg cm-2. The rate was C/20 for the first cycle and C/2 for later cycles. Source: Liu et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, led by Professor Yi Cui, are proposing a new nanoscale design inspired by pomegranates for high energy capacity but large-volume-change lithium battery anodes such as those using silicon. “While a couple of challenges remain, this design brings us closer to using silicon anodes in smaller, lighter and more powerful batteries for products like cell phones, tablets and electric cars,” said Cui.

As described in a paper in Nature Nanotechnology, using the pomegranate design concept the team encapsulated single silicon nanoparticles with a conductive carbon layer that leaves enough room for expansion and contraction following lithiation and delithiation. An ensemble of these hybrid nanoparticles is then encapsulated by a thicker carbon layer in micrometer-size pouches to act as an electrolyte barrier.

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Bosch, GS Yuasa, Mitsubishi form JV for next-gen Li-ion battery technology; targeting a doubling of capacity

February 12, 2014

Robert Bosch GmbH, GS Yuasa International Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation have set up a joint venture—Lithium Energy and Power GmbH & Co. KG—to develop next-generation lithium-ion battery technology with a goal of doubling energy capacity. The companies had announced their intent to do so in June 2013. (Earlier post.)

For electric vehicles, higher capacity can mean greater range and/or lower cost, since the battery pack could be smaller, depending upon design targets. This next generation of technology is needed in order to make the electric vehicle a successful mass product in the next decade, the partners said. Bosch and its partners said they are confident that electromobility will become a mass market from 2020 onward.

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Researchers identify new class of non-flammable electrolytes for Li-ion batteries

February 11, 2014

Researchers led by chemist Joseph DeSimone at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in collaboration with Nitash P. Balsara at UC Berkeley, have identified a new class of nonflammable electrolytes based on functionalized perfluoropolyethers (PFPEs) for lithium-ion batteries. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team reports that these electrolytes exhibit thermal stability beyond 200 °C and a very high transference number of at least 0.91 (more than double that of conventional electrolytes).

Li/LiNi1/3Co1/3Mn1/3O2 cells made with this electrolyte showed good performance in galvanostatic cycling, confirming the potential as rechargeable lithium batteries with enhanced safety and longevity.

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New tin-seeded germanium nanowire array anodes for Li-ion batteries show high capacity and lifetime

February 10, 2014

The chart shows the discharge capacities of the Sn-seeded Ge NW electrode over 1,100 cycles. The active material was charged and discharged at a C/2 rate in the potential range of 0.01−1.5 V. The illustration shows the formation of the porous network over time. Credit: ACS, Kennedy et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at University of Limerick and University College Cork (Ireland) have developed high-performance and high-capacity lithium-ion battery anodes from high-density tin-seeded germanium nanowire arrays grown directly from the current collector. The anodes retain a reversible capacity of 888 mAh/g after 1,100 cycles at a C/2 rate. The material exhibits good high-rate performance characteristics, even at very high discharge rates of 20–100C; the NW electrode achieved a discharge capacity of 435 mAh/g after 80 cycles at a discharge rate of 100C.

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the researchers show, using ex situ high-resolution transmission electron microscopy and high-resolution scanning electron microscopy, that this high performance can be attributed to the complete restructuring of the nanowires that occurs within the first 100 cycles to form a continuous porous network that is mechanically robust.

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Yissum offering novel high-performance anode for sodium-ion batteries; antimony sulphide nanoparticle-coated graphene

Sodium-ion batteries (Na-ion, NIBs) are seen as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries for large-scale applications due to their lower cost and abundant supply of sodium. However, low capacity and poor rate capability of existing anodes have been major obstacles to the commercialization of NIBs.

Yissum, the Research and Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is offering a novel anode for sodium-ion batteries (Na-ion, NIB) which enables the production of a battery with high capacity, excellent rate capability and good cycle performance. Yissum is the technology transfer company of the University.

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Sumitomo installs first large-scale power system using used EV batteries

February 08, 2014

Sumitomo Corporation has developed and installed the first large-scale power storage system which utilizes used batteries collected from electric vehicles. This commercial scale storage system, built on Yume-shima Island, Osaka, will begin operating in February 2014.

Sumitomo Corporation created the joint venture company, 4R Energy Corporation, in collaboration with Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. in September 2010, to address the secondary use of EV lithium-ion batteries. (Earlier post.) The used EV batteries that will be recycled into this large-scale storage system have been recovered and have gone through thorough inspection and maintenance at 4R, to confirm safety and performance. This prototype system (600kW/400kWh) consists of sixteen used EV batteries.

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US Army Researchers develop diagnostic approach to evaluate SEI in Li-ion batteries

February 07, 2014

SEI live formation on a graphite surface in electrolyte. Credit: ACS, Cresce et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at the US Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland reports on a diagnostic approach to study and to study and to characterize the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) on graphitic anodes of Li-ion batteries. A paper on their work, which combines in situ AFM (atomic force microscopy) with ex situ XPS (X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy), is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

The SEI plays a critical role in electrochemical reversibility and cell chemistry kinetics of Li-ion batteries; however, it is not well understood due to its trace presence, delicate chemical nature, heterogeneity in morphology, elusive formation mechanism, and lack of reliable in situ quantitative tools to characterize it, the authors note.

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Alcoa and Phinergy enter joint development agreement for high energy-density aluminum-air batteries

February 05, 2014

Alcoa and Israel-based Phinergy have entered into a joint development agreement to develop further Phinergy’s aluminum-air batteries. Announced at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Atlanta, the partnership will collaborate on new materials, processes and components to commercialize the aluminum-air battery, which could significantly extend electric vehicle range.

Aluminium–air cells are high-energy density primary (non-rechargeable) batteries originally developed in the 1960s. Aluminum-air batteries (a type of metal-air cell) use a catalytic air cathode in combination with an electrolyte and an aluminum anode; the systems offer a theoretical specific energy of 8.1 kWh/kg of Al—second only to the Li-air battery (13.0 kWh/kg). (Earlier post.)

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BASF inaugurates battery materials R&D and application center in Japan; focus on Li-ion electrolytes and electrodes

BASF inaugurated its Research and Development Laboratory and Application Technology Center for Battery Materials in Amagasaki, Japan. The facility, located in the Amagasaki Research Incubation Center (ARIC), is BASF’s first combined battery materials research and development (R&D) and application technology operation in Asia Pacific.

The Amagasaki laboratory will focus on developing electrolytes and electrode materials for high-performance lithium ion batteries as part of BASF’s global R&D network, leveraging technology platforms from around the world. In addition, the Amagasaki laboratory will run development programs jointly with Japanese customers.

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New Toyota TS040 racing hybrid features new V8 all-wheel drive hybrid system with supercap energy storage

February 03, 2014

Since 2012, Toyota has been racing its TS030 Hybrid, equipped with a full racing hybrid system, in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). (Earlier post.) Participating in all eight races and with two wins last year, Toyota plans to enter all races this year with two new TS040 vehicles from Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) designed to meet changes in this year’s vehicle rules. Toyota hopes to achieve its first win in this year’s Le Mans 24-hour race, the third race in the WEC series.

The THS-R (Toyota Hybrid System―Racing) powertrain, developed at Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Japan, incorporates a new hybrid system equipped with a new V8 engine and an Aisin AW motor/generator on the front axle in combination with the DENSO unit at the rear to better power all four wheels to meet changes in vehicle rules this year.

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High-efficiency MoS2/graphene paper electrode for Na-ion batteries combines intercalation and conversion reactions

January 30, 2014

Researchers at Kansas State University have synthesized free-standing papers composed of acid-exfoliated few-layer molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) and reduced graphene oxide flakes (MoS2/rGO) for use as self-standing flexible electrodes in sodium-ion (Na-ion) batteries.

In electrochemical testing, the electrode showed good Na cycling ability with high first cycle capacity of 338 mAh g-1 and a stable charge capacity of approximately 230 mAh g–1 with respect to total weight of the electrode, with Coulombic efficiency reaching approximately 99%. In addition, static uniaxial tensile tests performed on crumpled composite papers showed high average strain to failure reaching approximately 2%. A paper on their work is published in the journal ACS Nano.

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Samsung researchers propose novel electrolyte system to enable high-capacity Li-metal anodes with large areal capacities

January 23, 2014

Although lithium metal is a promising anode material for Li-ion rechargeable batteries due to its theoretical high capacity (3,860 mAh g−1—i.e., ~10x that of the 372 mAh g−1of graphite anodes), 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.

Now, a team at the Energy Lab, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Samsung Electronics in South Korea, is proposing a novel electrolyte system that is relatively stable against lithium metal and mitigates dendritic growth. In a paper in the open access journal Scientific Reports, the researchers report that a lithium metal anode in contact with the designed electrolyte exhibited “remarkable” cyclability (more than 100 cycles) at a high areal capacity of 12 mAh cm−2.

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DOE to award $49.4M for advanced vehicle technologies research; meeting Tier 3 emissions

January 22, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $49.4 million to projects to to accelerate research and development of new vehicle technologies. The new program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0000991) (earlier post), was announced by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the Washington Auto Show.

The funding opportunity will contains a total of 13 areas of interest in the general areas of advanced light-weighting; advanced battery development; power electronics; advanced heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems; advanced powertrains (including the ability to meet proposed EPA Tier 3 tailpipe emissions standards); and fuels and lubricants. These areas of interest apply to light, medium and heavy duty on-road vehicles.

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DOE issues $10M incubator FOA for batteries, power electronics, engines, materials, fuels and lubricants

January 18, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) issued an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOAs) for a total of approximately $10 million. (DE-FOA-0000988)

EERE is focused on achieving well‐defined mid‐to‐long term clean energy goals for the US, and in that context has established multi‐year plans and roadmaps, with a concomitant focus of the majority of its resources on a limited number of “highest probability of success” pathways/approaches to ensure that the program initiatives are supported at a critical mass (both in terms of dollars and time) for maximum impact. While this roadmap‐based approach can be a strength, it can also create challenges in recognizing and exploring unanticipated, game changing pathways/approaches which may ultimately be superior to the pathways/approaches on the existing roadmaps.

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UNIST team develops novel coated LMO cathode material with resistance to elevated temperatures for EVs

January 13, 2014

Schematic view of fabrication process and a spinel particle surrounded by layered phase surface. Credit: ACS, Lee et al. Click to enlarge.

While a large amount of research is targeting the development of new materials and chemistries for Li-ion batteries and “beyond Li-ion” solutions for electric vehicles, work is also proceeding apace on improving and optimizing materials currently in use for such an application. One such is LiMn2O4 (LMO); the material offers high power and a lower cost per kg, but cell life at elevated temperatures can be problematic. (Earlier post.)

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, a team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea, led by Dr. Jaephil Cho, reports on a novel heterostructure LiMn2O4 material with an expitaxially grown layered surface phase. This layered surface phase provides an efficient path for ionic and electronic mobility for the host spinel, and also protects the spinel from being directly exposed to the highly active electrolyte. The heterostructure LiMn2O4 exhibited a discharge capacity of 123 mAh g–1 and retained 85% of its initial capacity at the elevated temperature (60 °C) after 100 cycles.

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Harvard team demonstrates new metal-free organic–inorganic aqueous flow battery; potential breakthrough for low-cost grid-scale storage

January 11, 2014

Cell schematic. Discharge mode is shown; the arrows are reversed for electrolytic/charge mode. AQDSH2 refers to the reduced form of AQDS. Huskinson et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Harvard have demonstrated a metal-free organic–inorganic aqueous flow battery—a quinone–bromide flow battery (QBFB)—as an example of a class of energy storage materials that exploits the favorable chemical and electrochemical properties of a family of molecules known as quinones. Quinones are naturally abundant, inexpensive, small organic molecules, and similar to molecules that store energy in plants and animals. The new flow battery developed by the Harvard team already performs as well as vanadium flow batteries, with chemicals that are significantly less expensive and with no precious-metal electrocatalyst.

In a paper in Nature, they suggest that the use of such redox-active organic molecules instead of redox-active metals represents a new and promising direction for realizing massive electrical energy storage at greatly reduced cost. The technology could fundamentally transform the way electricity is stored on the grid, making power from renewable energy sources such as wind and sun far more economical and reliable.

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New hybrid Li metal/graphite anode enables high-performance Li-S battery with significantly extended life

January 10, 2014

Schematic of hybrid anode placed in a Li–S battery. The graphite/Li connected in parallel forms a shorted cell where the graphite is always lithiated at equilibrium and maintains a pseudo-equal potential with the Li metal. As such, it functions as an artificial SEI layer of Li metal that supplies Li+ ions on demand, while minimizing direct contact between soluble polysulfides and the metal surface. Huang et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have designed a lithium–sulfur battery using electrically connected graphite and lithium metal as a hybrid anode to control undesirable surface reactions on lithium. Lithiated graphite placed in front of the lithium metal functions as an artificial, self-regulated solid electrolyte interface (SEI) layer that actively controls the electrochemical reactions and minimizes the deleterious side reactions, leading to significant performance improvements.

Lithium–sulfur cells incorporating such hybrid anodes deliver capacities of >800 mAh g−1 for 400 cycles (4x the cycle life compared to a conventional anode) at a high rate of 1,737 mA g−1, with only 11% capacity fade and a Coulombic efficiency of more than 99%. In a paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers suggest that this simple hybrid concept may also provide scientific strategies for protecting metal anodes in other energy-storage devices.

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MIT researchers open new direction in search for better batteries; the potential of disordered materials

January 09, 2014

Conventional layered lithium and transition metal cathode material (top) and the new disordered material studied by researchers at MIT (bottom) as seen through a scanning tunneling electron microscope. Inset images show diagrams of the different structures in these materials. (In the disordered material, the blue lines show the pathways that allow lithium ions to traverse the material.) Image courtesy of the researchers. Click to enlarge.

In a new paper in the journal Science, researchers at MIT and Brookhaven National Laboratory, led by MIT’s Dr. Gerbrand Ceder, report that contrary to conventional wisdom, Li-ion battery cathodes made of disordered lithium compounds can perform better than perfectly ordered ones. The group’s analysis of the performance of a lithium molybdenum chromium oxide (LMCO) material opens a new direction in the search for better battery materials, and a whole new category of materials possibilities that had previously been ignored, Dr. Ceder suggests.

In a rechargeable lithium-based battery, lithium ions move out of the battery’s cathode during the charging process, and return to the cathode as power is drained. These repeated round-trips can cause the electrode material to shrink and expand, leading to cracks and degrading performance over time. Currently, cathodes are usually made of an orderly crystalline material, sometimes in a striated structure of layers of lithium alternating with oxides of transition metals. When slight deviations from that order are introduced, the battery’s efficiency generally goes down—so disordered materials have mostly been ignored in the search for improved battery materials.

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Porous Power launches Symmetrix NC2020; new ceramic separator enhances safety, cycle life and performance of lithium-ion batteries

January 08, 2014

Porous Power Technologies, LLC (PPT) launched Symmetrix NC2020, a new ceramic battery separator designed to improve significantly thermal stability and safety of large-format lithium-ion batteries. Applications include batteries for electric vehicles, flat-cell consumer electronics, utility-grade energy storage, and other high-power or high-energy applications.

The battery separator is a vital component in the safety/cycle life/performance equation of batteries; Symmetrix NC2020, developed by PPT in partnership with Ahlstrom, delivers sizable improvements in all three areas, particularly safety, the company said. Ahlstrom took a 49.5% stake in Porous Power Technologies in 2011.

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Swiss WTW study finds important role for alternative fuels as well as alt drivetrains in move to low-emissions vehicles

January 03, 2014

WTW energy demand and GHG emissions for EV and PHEV drivetrains for various electricity sources; gasoline ICE vehicle is solid square, hybrid the hollow square. Click to enlarge.

A comprehensive analysis of well-to-wheel (WTW) primary energy demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the operation of conventional and alternative passenger vehicle drivetrains in Switzerland has concluded that alternative combustion fuels—not only alternative drivetrains such as PEVs or FCVs—play an important role in the transition towards low-emission vehicles.

The study by a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, reported in the Journal of Power Sources, is novel in three respects, the researchers said. First, it considers the performance of both mature and novel hydrogen production processes, multiple electricity generation pathways and several alternative drivetrains. Second, it is specific to Switzerland. Third, the analysis offers a novel comparison of drivetrain and energy carrier production pathways based on natural resource categories.

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Iron(III) oxide-graphene sheet-on-sheet nanocomposite shows high performance as Li-ion battery anode material

January 01, 2014

High-rate cycling performances of Fe2O3-graphene sheet-on-sheet composite. Kan and Wang. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Shanghai University have synthesized Fe2O3-graphene sheet-on-sheet sandwich-like nanocomposites that, when used as an anode for Li-ion battery, shows a high reversible capacity of 662.4 mAh g−1 after 100 cycles at 1000 mA g−1. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The Fe2O3-graphene sheet-on-sheet composite has a surface area of 173.9 m2 g-1—more than two times as large as that of Fe2O3-graphene particle-on-sheet composite (81.5 m2 g−1).

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NASA Glenn develops automated flywheel pulse-and-glide system; improving fuel economy up to 40-100%

December 27, 2013

Innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed an automated pulse-and-glide technique using a flywheel energy storage system for on-road vehicles; the technology, which NASA Glenn says can improve fuel economy over existing internal combustion or battery hybrid systems by 40-100%, is available for licensing.

Drivers can use a manual “pulse-and-glide” (PnG) driving technique—accelerating and decelerating an automobile in cycles of approximately 10-30 seconds—as a way to improve fuel economy. A 2009 SAE paper by a team from Virginia Tech and Argonne National Laboratory found that a simulated PnG driving strategy in a Ford Focus delivered 33-77% fuel economy improvement depending on different speed ranges and acceleration times. The fuel economy results of a 2004 Toyota Prius from simulation and testing showed 24-90% fuel economy improvement with PnG drive cycles compared to steady speed results.

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PNNL-led team devises microscopy technique for investigating real Li-ion batteries in real time

December 26, 2013

Schematic drawing showing the experimental setup of the existing open-cell approach using (a) ionic liquid as electrolyte and (b) using Li metal as lithium source and Li2O as solid electrolyte; (c) schematic drawing showing the setup of the new liquid cell battery. Credit: ACS, Gu et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have led a multi-institutional effort to develop a transmission electron microscopy (TEM) technique that can provide insights into the structural and chemical evolution of electrode materials of real batteries in real time.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the authors note that TEM studies of lithium-ion batteries over the past few years have used an open-cell configuration in which the electrolyte is either solid lithium oxide or an ionic liquid, which is point-contacted with the electrode. This cell design is inherently different from a real battery, in which liquid electrolyte forms conformal contact with electrode materials. As a result, the knowledge gleaned from open cells can deviate significantly from that from a real battery; the new operando TEM electrochemical liquid cell is designed to address this issue.

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Univ. of Tokyo researchers demonstrate new “oxygen-rocking” battery

December 25, 2013

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a battery based on the concept of a combination of a perovskite-type cathode and a low-electrode-potential anode that can achieve high energy densities through the use of organic rather than aqueous electrolytes. The work is derivative of their earlier investigation into a “oxygen-rocking batteries” reported in 2012. (Earlier post.)

Batteries based on this system allow the use of various anode materials, such as lithium and sodium, without the requirement to develop new cathode intercalation materials. In the new study reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they used the concept and demonstrated a new battery based on a CaFeO3 cathode with a sodium anode, in conjunction with a NaClO4/triglyme electrolyte.

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DOE to issue FY14 Vehicle Technologies program-wide funding opportunity announcement

December 20, 2013

The Department Of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Vehicle Technology Office (VTO), a program-wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000991) for fiscal year 2014 on or about January 2014. The advance notice (DE-FOA-0001053) is to alert interested parties of the coming FOA.

The areas of interest outlined in the notice of intent (NOI) fall into two broad categories: technologies to advance plug-in electric vehicles; and technologies to improve fuel efficiency, including dual-fuel, fuel properties (e.g., high octane fuels), and advanced powertrain work.

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Berkeley Lab study suggests subsurface structures responsible for dendrite formation with Li metal anodes

December 19, 2013

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have shed new light on the formation of dendrites in high energy density rechargeable batteries with lithium metal anodes. The results of their study, reported in a paper in the journal Nature Materials, provide a clear prescription for the path forward to enabling the widespread use of lithium metal anodes, they suggest.

Using a lithium metal anode in a rechargeable battery offers the promise of significantly higher energy density that enabled by current Li-ion batteries with graphite anodes; lithium has an extremely high theoretical specific capacity (3,860 mAh g−1), low density (0.59 g cm−3) and the lowest negative electrochemical potential (−3.040 V vs. the standard hydrogen electrode). However, as Xu et al. note in a recent paper in Energy & Environmental Science, uncontrollable dendritic Li growth and limited Coulombic efficiency during Li deposition/stripping inherent in such Li-metal rechargeable batteries have prevented their practical applications over the past 40 years.

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