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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.]

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Navigant Research forecasts stop-start vehicles to account for 53.4% of global vehicle sales by 2022

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Annual stop-start light duty vehicle sales by region, world markets: 2013-2022. Source: Navigant. Click to enlarge.

By 2022, total global annual sales for light duty stop-start vehicles (SSVs) will exceed 55 million, accounting for 54.3% of total vehicle sales, according to a new report by Navigant Research. Growth in light duty SSV sales during the next decade will be predominately in the three major market regions of North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific, primarily because these regions are the most aggressive in their implementation of fuel economy and emissions regulations.

By then, 82.8% of vehicles sold in Western Europe, 69.9% of vehicles sold in Asia Pacific, and 42.6% sold in North America will have the stop-start feature, Navigant projects.

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Univ. of Waterloo and GM team develop simple flash heat treatment to boost performance of Si-based anodes for Li-ion batteries

December 17, 2013

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Flash heat treatment significantly boosted the performance of silicon-based electrode materials. Credit: ACS, Hassan et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo (Canada) and the General Motors Global Research and Development Center have developed a novel, economical flash heat treatment (FHT) for fabricated silicon-based Li-ion electrodes to boost the performance and cycle capability of Li-ion batteries.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they report that the flash-heat-enhanced electrodes achieve a first cycle efficiency of 84% and a maximum charge capacity of 3,525 mAh g–1—almost 84% of silicon’s theoretical maximum. Further, a stable reversible charge capacity of 1,150 mAh g–1 at 1.2 A g–1 can be achieved over 500 cycles.

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DOE awards $98M in tax credits to automakers and suppliers for clean technology manufacturing

December 12, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced $150 million in clean energy tax credits to 12 businesses to build US capabilities in clean energy manufacturing; $98 million of that goes to five automakers and suppliers towards investments in domestic manufacturing equipment. The awards are made through the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program (48C Program).

The Departments of Energy and the Treasury worked in partnership to develop, launch, and award the funds for this program. The Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit authorized Treasury to provide developers with an investment tax credit of 30% for the manufacture of particular types of energy equipment. Funded at $2.3 billion, the tax credit was made available to 183 domestic clean energy manufacturing facilities during Phase I of the program.

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Washington University in Saint Louis team disseminating code to identify optimal charging protocols for new advanced Li-ion battery materials

Researchers at Washington University in Saint Louis led by Dr. Venkat Subramanian are offering the open download of application code which, in conjunction with their paper published in the RSC journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, can help the developers of new materials or electrodes for Li-ion batteries to determine how optimally to charge their batteries based on the properties of the new materials.

The code can be downloaded here and run on any Windows PC. “As far I know,” said Dr. Subramanian, “this is the first code disseminated in the literature to show how to charge to minimize capacity fade caused by stress caused by intercalation.

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Sekisui Chemical develops high-capacity film-type Lithium-ion battery with silicon anode; triple the capacity

December 06, 2013

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Sample of the film-type Li-ion battery developed by Sekisui Chemical. Click to enlarge.

Sekisui Chemical Co., Ltd. has developed a high-capacity film-type lithium-ion battery with a silicon anode using a coating process that has simultaneously tripled the battery capacity (900Wh/L) compared to other Sekisui Chemical products; increased its safety (as shown by nail penetration tests or crush tests); and sped up production by ten times (compared to other Sekisui Chemical products).

The new cells feature high lithium-ion conductivity (approximately ten times compared to other Sekisui products) with enhanced safety through the use of a high-performance gel-type electrolyte. Sekisui Chemical used its original materials technology to enable the application the novel high-performance gel-type electrolytes using a coating process instead of the standard vacuum infusion process.

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New Berkeley Lab spectroscopy technique for in situ measurement of charge dynamics in an operating battery electrode

December 05, 2013

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This schematic depicts the new soft X-ray spectroscopy technique. Windows etched into a foil covering allow soft X-rays to measure charge dynamics in an operating electrode. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Berkeley Lab and its Advanced Light Source have developed a new soft X-ray spectroscopy technique that can measure the migration of ions and electrons in an integrated, operating battery electrode. Taking advantage of the elemental, chemical and surface sensitivities of soft X-rays, they reported, in an open access paper in Nature Communications, distinct lithium-ion and electron dynamics in Li(Co1/3Ni1/3Mn1/3)O2 and LiFePO4 cathodes in polymer electrolytes.

The contrast between the two systems and a relaxation effect in LiFePO4 is attributed to a phase transformation mechanism, and the mesoscale morphology and charge conductivity of the electrodes. These discoveries demonstrate feasibility and power of in situ soft X-ray spectroscopy for studying integrated and dynamic effects in batteries, they suggested.

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Argonne researchers advancing new class of selenium sulfide composite cathodes that could boost Li-ion energy density 5x

December 04, 2013

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Cycle performance of Li cells with (a, b) Se−, (c, d) SeS2−, and (e, f) SeS7−carbon composite as cathodes in ether-based electrolyte. Credit: ACS, Cui et al. Click to enlarge.

New composite materials based on selenium (Se) sulfides used as the cathode in a rechargeable lithium-ion battery could increase Li-ion density five times, according to research carried out at the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. The work most recently reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society by a team of researchers from Argonne and King Abdulaziz University (Saudi Arabia) advances their earlier work with selenium as a high energy density cathode material. (Earlier post.)

The researchers have focused on carbon-selenium sulfide composites as an alternative material to the conventional lithium transition metal oxide positive electrode material in standard Li-ion batteries. The new SeSx cathodes could also provide a way around the cycling challenges facing Li-air and Li-S, while delivering a comparable boost in energy density (and hence, for example, range in an electric vehicle.)

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UT Austin team demonstrates new approach to lithium sulfide cathodes for Li-S batteries

December 02, 2013

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Schematic showing the chemical reduction reaction of one Li2S6 molecule by lithium to form six Li2S molecules, involving the diffusion/driving of lithium out of the graphene layers in the graphite. Credit: ACS, Fu et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, led by Professor Arumugam Manthiram, have demonstrated that lithiated graphite can serve as a lithium donor in lithium-deficient cathodes used, for example, in high energy density lithium-sulfur chemistry batteries. The lithium in the lithiated graphite chemically reduces in situ the polysulfide Li2S6 in liquid electrolyte to insoluble Li2S as a cathode material for rechargeable Li−S batteries.

The approach offers a new way to introduce lithium into the cathode in Li−S chemistry batteries and potentially could become applicable in lithium metal-free Li−air, or Li−organic batteries as well. A paper on their study is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Researchers propose new VO2 cathode material for aluminum-ion rechargeable battery

November 30, 2013

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Schematic representation of the super-valent battery during charge/discharge process. Wang et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from the University of Science and Technology Beijing is proposing a new super-valent battery based on aluminium ion intercalation and deintercalation. In an open access paper published in the Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports, the researchers report that the cell can provide a discharge capacity at a current density of 50 mA g−1 of 165 mAh g-1 in the initial cycle and retain 116 mAh g-1 after 100 cycles.

The new cell uses vanadium oxide (VO2) nanorods synthesized through a low temperature hydrothermal method as the cathode material and high-purity aluminum foil as the anode. The battery exhibits excellent reversibility and relatively long cycle life compared to earlier Al-ion efforts, the team said. Even with very high current densities of 100 mA g-1 and 200 mA g-1, the corresponding capacities could still retain 106 and 70 mAh g-1, respectively.

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TUM CREATE introduces tropical megacity e-taxi prototype at Tokyo; super-fast charging with twin charge ports

November 26, 2013

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Drawing of the 50 kWh pack and the twin charge ports for super-fast charging. Click to enlarge.

Singapore-based TUM CREATE unveiled an electric taxi prototype designed for tropical megacities, codenamed EVA, at the Tokyo Motor Show. EVA serves as a platform to showcase the results of the work at TUM CREATE, a joint research program by Technische Universität München (TUM) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

EVA was designed from the ground-up as an e-taxi and is a result of interdisciplinary research in the areas of energy storage, battery charging, thermal management, and lightweight materials and design.

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Anderman report sees strongest growth for full-hybrid systems; Li-ion batteries for hybrids may be in short supply

November 22, 2013

Low-cost 14V micro hybrid systems and full (strong) hybrid (i.e., systems with limited electric drive) architectures at 140-300V are entering strong growth phases, while the future of intermediate systems—those falling between the high-voltage full hybrids and the low-voltage stop-start systems—is less clear, according to “Assessing the Future of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles: The 2014 xEV Industry Insider Report” by Dr. Menahem Anderman of Advanced Automotive Batteries (AAB), to be released next week.

The 170-page report also finds that while the combined global EV and plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) market share is expected to grow to about 1.5% of total vehicle sales by 2020, the more significant story is the rapid expansion of strong-hybrid vehicles led by Toyota, Ford, and Honda, followed by Hyundai, Nissan and others. The current market share in Japan already exceeds 20%, and the world market share is estimated to exceed 5% by 2020.

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Berkeley Lab team demonstrates high-rate, high-energy, long-life Li/S battery in the lab; looking for industry partners

November 20, 2013

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Long-term cycling test results of the Li/S cell with CTAB-modified S−GO composite cathodes. This result represents the longest cycle life (exceeding 1,500 cycles) with an extremely low decay rate (0.039% per cycle) demonstrated so far for a Li/S cell. Credit: ACS, Song et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated in the laboratory a lithium-sulfur (Li/S) battery that has more than twice the specific energy of lithium-ion batteries, and that lasts for more than 1,500 cycles of charge-discharge with minimal decay of the battery’s capacity.

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team reported that a Li/S cell employing a sulfur-graphene oxide (S–GO) nanocomposite cathode can be discharged at rates as high as 6C (1C = 1.675 A/g of sulfur) and charged at rates as high as 3C while still maintaining high specific capacity (800 mA·h/g of sulfur at 6C), with a long cycle life exceeding 1,500 cycles and an extremely low decay rate (0.039% per cycle)—perhaps the best performance demonstrated so far for a Li/S cell.

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UC Riverside-led team uses solvothermal process to increase performance of lithium iron phosphate cathode materials

November 19, 2013

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Cycling performance of polycrystalline (10 min) and single crystalline (900 min) LFP at various current rates. Credit: ACS, Zhu et al. Click to enlarge.

Lithium-iron phosphate (LiFePO4, or LFP) is an attractive cathode material for use in Li-ion batteries used, for example, in EVs due to its low cost, low toxicity, thermal and chemical stability, and good cycle stability. However, LiFePO4 is also hindered by low rate capacity due to the poor electronic conductivity and low lithium ion diffusivity. Battery scientists and engineers have used a variety of approaches to address these issues, including the use of conductive agents and doping.

Researchers led by a team from the University of California, Riverside’s (UCR's) Bourns College of Engineering report using a solvothermal process to synthesize LiFePO4 materials with larger discharge capacities at higher rates. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Crystal Growth & Design.

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Self-healing polymer wrapper enables longer cycle life in silicon anodes for Li-ion batteries

November 17, 2013

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Top: The stress of repeated swelling and shrinking shatters a conventional silicon electrode and its polymer binding. Bottom: An electrode coated with stretchy, self-healing polymer remains intact. (C. Wang et al., Nature Chemistry) Click to enlarge.

Two Stanford/SLAC labs—one studying next-generation lithium-ion batteries and the other working on synthetic human skin—have combined their expertise and created an advanced silicon anode that can heal its own cracks after extended cycles of charging and discharging. They report the advance in the 19 Nov. issue of Nature Chemistry.

The key is a stretchy polymer that coats the electrode, binds it together and spontaneously heals tiny cracks that develop during battery operation, said the team from Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Silicon electrodes coated with the self-healing polymer lasted 10 times longer than those without the new polymer, healing any cracks within just a few hours, said Stanford Professor Zhenan Bao, whose group has been working on flexible electronic skin for use in robots, sensors, prosthetic limbs and other applications.

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Nanocomposite of bio-templated manganese oxide and Pd as high-performance cathode for Li-air batteries

November 15, 2013

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Schematic of a nanocomposite structure. Synthesis step of the metal nanoparticle/M13 virus-templated manganese oxide nanowires (bio MO nanowires) and the operational reaction inside Li-O2 battery cells. Oh et al. Click to enlarge.

Scientists at MIT have built catalyst structures to achieve high Li-O2 battery performances by forming a nanocomposite of bio-templated manganese oxide nanowires (bio MO nanowires) produced by the M13 bacteriophage virus (earlier post) with incorporation of a small weight percent (3-5 wt%) of Pd nanoparticles.

The hybrid nanocatalyst achieves 13,350 mAhg-1c (7,340 mAhg-1c+catalyst) of specific capacity at 0.4Ag-1c and a stable cycle life up to 50 cycles (4,000 mAhg-1c, 400 mAhg-1c+catalyst) at 1 Ag-1c. In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the team notes that they believe that this marks the first bio-directed synthetic method demonstrated for Li-O2 battery applications.

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SAE New Energy Vehicle Forum: China’s focus on NEVs may have profound impact on future of transportation

November 13, 2013

China has a number of critical economic and environmental imperatives driving its pursuit of vehicle electrification, said the roster of plenary speakers at the SAE 2013 New Energy Vehicle Forum held in Shanghai this week. These include the increasingly problematic pollution and haze in cities; China’s projected increased reliance on imported oil; the need for rationalized multimodal transportation systems in ever more congested and space-limited cities; the growing dominance of the China auto market; and the desire to have China become the leader in the next generation of automotive technology, vehicles and mobility systems.

The shift from fossil fuels to electricity—while held in common with other countries—will be based on the “specific situation” in China, making the best use of China’s own advantages and innovations, but also with international cooperation, said Dr. Zhixin Wu, Vice President of the China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC). The details of that specific situation may result in an electric vehicle parc somewhat different than in Western countries, other speakers noted, and may indeed—given the obvious scale of the China market—herald a major transformation in transportation, including the type and role of personal vehicles, others suggested.

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New high-performance silicon@graphitic nanowire array Li-ion anode shows excellent cycling stability

November 11, 2013

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Cross-sectional view of a proposed textured silicon@graphitic carbon nanowire (t-Si@G NW) array electrode configuration. Credit: ACS, Wang et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology in Beijing, China have designed and developed a textured silicon@graphitic nanowire array material for use as a high-performance Li-ion battery anode with high volumetric capacity, competing rate capability, and excellent cycling stability: 1,500 mAh cm-3 after 200 cycles.

The design strikes a balance, they suggest in a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, between maximizing the Si tap (packing) density and incorporating satisfactory void space, while addressing the structural and interfacial instability issues that silicon materials typically experience during Li-ion cycling.

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JRC study finds 8 metals for low-carbon energy technologies at risk of shortages; EVs, wind and solar, and lighting the applications of most concern

November 04, 2013

A new European Joint Research Centre (JRC) study looking into the supply of raw materials for the manufacture of low-carbon energy technologies found that eight metals were at high risk of shortages. The applications, i.e. technologies, of particular concern as a result are electric vehicles, wind and solar energy, and lighting. The risk arises from EU dependency on imports, growing demand worldwide and geopolitical reasons.

The study builds on a 2011 effort which looked into the six key applications of the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan: wind, solar, nuclear fission, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the electricity grid. In the new study, these were re-assessed and considered along with 11 other technologies—including fuel cells, electricity storage, electric vehicles and lighting—treated in the new report, this time evaluated on the expected supplies of the metals and not on the current situation as in the first report.

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Panasonic and Tesla expand supply agreement for Li-ion cells; nearly 2 billion through 2017

October 30, 2013

Panasonic Corporation and Tesla Motors have expanded their 2011 supply agreement so that Panasonic will now supply nearly 2 billion automotive-grade lithium-ion battery cells to Tesla through 31 December 2017 at long-term preferential prices. Panasonic also has a position in Tesla, having purchased $30 million of Tesla’s common stock in a private placement transaction that closed in November 2010.

The lithium-ion battery cells purchased from Panasonic will be used to power the Model S as well as Model X, a performance utility vehicle that is scheduled to go into production by the end of 2014.

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NSF awards Univ. of Maryland and Genovation $438K to develop novel hybrid energy storage system for EVs

October 29, 2013

The National Science Foundation has selected a project by researchers at the University of Maryland and their partners from Genovation Cars (earlier post) for a $438,418 GOALI (Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry) award to develop a novel hybrid energy storage system for electric vehicles.

The specific objectives of the project—“Advanced Silicon Carbide based Novel Hybrid Energy Storage System for Plug-In Electric Vehicles”—are to: (a) reduce the weight of the energy storage system (composed of high energy-density battery pack, ultracapacitor pack and a DC/DC converter) to less than the weight of a high power-density battery pack alone, while increasing the battery lifetime; and (b) implement, develop, and validate this technology on the powertrain of a new electric car.

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Cornell researchers develop two approaches to improving Li-sulfur performance; spin-off commercializing the tech

October 28, 2013

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Charge/discharge capacities vs cycle numbers of GO-S-Amy at different sulfur loadings. Credit: ACS, Zhou et al. 2013 a. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in the lab of Hector Abruña, the Emile M. Chamot Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University, have developed two approaches to improve the durability and performance of lithium-sulfur battery cathodes. A paper on one method is published in the journal ACS Nano, while a paper on the other is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Lithium-sulfur batteries offer a high theoretical capacity of 1673 mAh g-1—about five times that of current commercial cathodes. Although the voltage of Li/S cells is around 2.12.3 V (relative to Li/Li+), the very high capacity and low cost overcome this limitation. However, despite these attractive properties, Li/S batteries suffer from poor cyclability.

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St. Andrews team identifies TiC as a promising cathode for Li-air batteries

October 24, 2013

Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland report in a paper in the journal Nature Materials that titanium carbide (TiC) may represent a viable, stable cathode for rechargeable lithium-air batteries.

Li-air batteries are receiving intense interest because of their extremely high theoretical specific energy. However, the team, led by Dr. Peter Bruce, notes that the cathodes for lithium-air batteries are “a serious problem.” The basic mechanism of the Li-air (Li-O2) battery requires highly reversible formation and decomposition of Li2O2 at the cathode on cycling. Although carbon is ubiquitously used as the basis of the cathode, its use in an Li-O2 battery is problematic, they note.

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2D niobium and vanadium carbides as promising materials for high-power Li-ion batteries; extending MXenes

October 23, 2013

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Specific lithiation (circles.) and delithiation (squares) capacities (per mass of active material) vs cycle number at different rates for Nb2CTx and V2CTx-based electrodes compared to previously reported Ti2C. Credit: ACS, Naguib et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Drexel University report in a paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society on the potential for 2D niobium and titanium carbide materials as high-power electrode materials for Li-ion batteries (LIBs). Earlier this year in a paper in Science, the team had reported on the high volumetric capacitance and intercalation of other “MXene” structures. (Earlier post.)

Testing of the two new MXenes—Nb2CTx and V2CTx—as electrodes materials in LIBs showed that each has its own voltage profile. Nb2CTx showed good reversible capacity (170 mAh·g-1 at 1C) at lower lithiation voltages; V2CTx showed higher capacities (210 mAh·g−1 and 260 mAh·g−1) at higher lithiation voltages. Both Nb2CTx and V2CTx showed excellent capability to handle high cycling rates (10C), suggesting fast Li diffusion between MXene layers and potential use in high power applications, the team found.

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A123 Venture Technologies to collaborate with SolidEnergy on safer, high-energy battery chemistry; potentially up to ~800 Wh/kg

October 22, 2013

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SolidEnergy says that its Solid Polymer Ionic Liquid technology can deliver energy densities upwards of 800 Wh/kg—twice the densities of advanced startup batteries and four times the density of current conventional batteries. Source: SolidEnergy. Click to enlarge.

A123 Venture Technologies, a Massachusetts-based technology incubator, will collaborate with MIT startup SolidEnergy. This strategic partnership leverages SolidEnergy’s solid electrolyte technology which enables the safe and practical use of lithium metal anodes for high energy density batteries in a wide range of applications. This partnership also marks the first publicly announced agreement under A123’s expanded R&D model introduced earlier this year. (Earlier post.)

The partnership combines SolidEnergy’s Solid Polymer Ionic Liquid (SPIL) electrolyte—originally developed at MIT—with the mature cell design and prototyping capabilities of A123. As claimed by founder Dr. Qichao Hu in the company’s presentation at the US DOE’s 2012 National Clean Energy Business Competition, SolidEnergy technology can potentially deliver energy densities of up to 800 Wh/kg—twice the energy density of state-of-the-art batteries and four times the energy density compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries.

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Tier 1 HELLA evaluating PowerGenix NiZn batteries for 48V mild hybrid vehicles

October 21, 2013

PowerGenix, the developer of nickel-zinc (NiZn) rechargeable batteries (earlier post), has signed a product evaluation contract with HELLA, a Tier 1 supplier to major automotive manufacturers worldwide. HELLA will conduct real-world vehicle tests to evaluate NiZn’s ability in meeting the high-power requirements of 48-volt mild hybrid systems, while substantially reducing overall system complexity and cost.

High-rate, high-power capabilities are critical to the performance of 48-volt systems, but cost and complexity of Li-ion battery technologies capable of meeting such requirements pose the biggest challenge to their widespread adoption. Advanced battery solutions such as NiZn offer a promising alternative, while meeting both the cost and technical performance targets of mild hybrids, PowerGenix suggests.

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Team uses x-ray tomography to visualize and to quantify degradation of tin-oxide Li-ion electrode under operation

October 18, 2013

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Screenshot from 3D movie of evolution of particle fracture. Preferential crack initiation and growth in the (001) planes leading to zig-zag morphology is shown for multiple particles. Click here to view movie.

Materials in certain high energy density lithium-ion battery electrodes—specifically, materials that undergo conversion and alloying reactions with lithium—expand and contract during charge and discharge; these volume changes drive particle fracture, which shortens battery lifetime.

Researchers from ETH Zurich and the Paul Scherrer Institute have visualized and quantified the origins and evolution of this electrochemical and mechanical degradation of Li-ion batteries during battery operation using high-resolution 3D movies recorded using using x-ray tomography at the Swiss Light Source. A paper on their work is published in the journal Science.

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Volvo Car Group testing lightweight structural energy storage material applied in trunk lid and plenum cover

October 17, 2013

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A composite blend of carbon fibers and polymer resin is being developed that can store and charge more energy faster than conventional batteries can. Volvo Cars is the only car manufacturer participating in the EU-funded project, which started in early 2010. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Car Group—the only automaker participating in a 3.5-year EU-funded project developing a prototype material which can store and discharge electrical energy and which is also strong and lightweight enough to be used for car parts (earlier post)—has created two components for the testing and further development of the technology. These are a trunk lid and a plenum cover, tested within the Volvo S80.

The material combines carbon fibers and a polymer resin, creating a very advanced nanomaterial, and structural supercapacitors. The material can be moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame in locations such as the door panels, the trunk lid and wheel bowl, substantially saving on space.

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ams introduces new chip for simpler distributed cell monitoring and balancing operations in Li-ion battery systems

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AS8506 cell balancer block diagram. Click to enlarge.

ams AG, a provider of high-performance analog ICs and sensors, has introduced a simplified and more robust method of implementing cell monitoring and balancing in lithium battery systems. The innovative architecture developed by ams has been implemented in a new, highly integrated chip, the AS8506, to perform distributed cell monitoring and balancing operations for stacked cell modules, including Safe Operating Area (SOA) checks and passive or active cell balancing.

The new chip is suited for all lithium-based cell chemistries, such as those found in hybrid and fully electric vehicles, as well as for EDLCs (also known as supercaps or ultracaps).

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BRUSA picks up awards at eCarTec Munich 2013 for wireless charging and electric truck; synchronous motor shortlisted

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The two components of BRUSA’s Inductive Charging System. Click to enlarge.

BRUSA won two of the eCarTec Awards presented at eCarTec Munich 2013 trade fair. BRUSA’s new ICS inductive charging system and the E-FORCE electric truck won in their particular categories, while BRUSA’s synchronous motor was shortlisted in the category of “Drive Technology, System Electrics, Testing Systems”.

BRUSA Inductive Charging System. BRUSA’s ICS was the winner in the category “Energy, Infrastructure, Connection Technology”. The new system only comprises a floor and vehicle plate—the required power electronics are integrated.

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Ford, University of Michigan open $8M battery lab focused on test production of advanced technologies

October 14, 2013

Ford and the University of Michigan opened a new $8-million battery lab, housed at the U-M Energy Institute, which will serve as a battery manufacturing facility designed to support pilot projects. Advanced manufacturing methods will be used to make test batteries that replicate the performance of full-scale production batteries, allowing for faster implementation in future production vehicles.

The lab is the result of collaboration between Ford, battery suppliers, the University of Michigan, and the state and federal governments, and is targeting advancements in extending battery life and durability. Ford, the only automaker to invest in the facility, contributed $2.1 million. Other investors include the University of Michigan, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the US Department of Energy.

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Under Wanxiang, Li-ion battery maker A123 Systems to increase focus on low-voltage hybrids

October 09, 2013

A123 Systems LLC, a developer and manufacturer of Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate batteries and systems, has outlined its new organizational structure and strategic focus as a member of the Wanxiang Group, which acquired nearly all of A123’s businesses last January. (Earlier post.)

A123’s transportation business continues to serve customers including BAE Systems, BMW, Daimler, GM and SAIC, among others. The production facilities in Michigan continue to produce the majority of A123’s transportation output and successfully launched the Chevy Spark EV battery system for General Motors earlier this year. (Earlier post.) However, going forward, the transportation unit will be increasingly focused on low-voltage (12- and 48-volt) hybrids to capitalize on the performance advantages of its Nanophosphate EXT chemistry and systems competence in micro-hybrids. (Earlier post.)

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BASF expanding catalyst and battery R&D site in Ohio with $25M investment; new cathode materials research

October 03, 2013

BASF is investing $25 million in renovating and expanding its research and development (R&D) facility in Beachwood, Ohio. In addition to the existing catalyst and battery materials research, the facility is being renovated to make space for a new cathode materials research team and a team of researchers focused on chemical and process engineering.

BASF is focused on developing a full suite of advanced cathode and electrolyte solutions for current and next-generation lithium-ion batteries as well as for future battery systems. On the cathode side, BASF is currently licensed worldwide to produce and market lithium-ion battery materials by both Argonne National Laboratories (earlier post)—the leader in NCM (Nickel Cobalt Manganese) technology—and LiFePO4+C Licensing, the leader in LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) technology (earlier post).

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DOE proposing $100M in FY2014 for 2nd round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers

October 01, 2013

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a proposed $100 million in FY2014 funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers; research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production and use.

The Department of Energy (DOE) currently funds 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), which were selected for five-year funding in 2009. (Earlier post.) With support for those centers set to expire in July 2014, DOE has announced a “re-competition” for a second round of funding (DE-FOA-0001010).

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Georgia Tech study finds MD electric urban delivery trucks have cost advantages over diesel in some conditions; relative benefits depend on numerous factors

September 26, 2013

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The study found that TCO for electric and diesel medium-duty urban delivery trucks were similar. The electric truck is relatively more cost-effective on the NYCC and when VKT demand is higher. Cost-competitiveness of the electric truck diminishes in drive cycles with higher average speeds. Credit: ACS, Lee et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Georgia Tech have compared medium-duty (MD) electric and diesel urban delivery trucks in terms of life-cycle energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and total cost of ownership (TCO). One surprise among their findings was that the electric truck had cost advantages over the diesel vehicle under some conditions. The team had expected that electric truck costs would always be higher, especially since the purchase price of the electric truck studied was higher than that of the diesel truck.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that the relative benefits of electric trucks depend heavily on vehicle efficiency associated with drive cycle; diesel fuel price; travel demand; electric drive battery replacement and price; electricity generation and transmission efficiency; electric truck recharging infrastructure; and purchase price.

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Study shows paper-folding concepts can compact a Li-ion battery and increase its areal energy density

September 25, 2013

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Areal discharge capacities for Miura-folded versus unfolded cells. Credit: ACS, Cheng et al.Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Arizona State University have shown that paper-folding concepts can be applied to Li-ion batteries in order to realize a device with higher areal energy densities. In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team reported that folded cells showed higher areal capacities compared to the planar versions with a 5 × 5 cell folded using the Miura-ori pattern displaying a 14× increase in areal energy density.

In their paper, they suggested that advances in geometric folding algorithms and computational tools to determine folding patterns for making complex 3D structures from planar 2D sheets may lead to numerous other configurations possible for 3D batteries. Furthermore, with advances in robot manipulation including paper folding by robots, the manufacturability of folded batteries at scale may be possible in the near future, they suggested.

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MIT team discovers new family of materials with best performance yet for oxygen evolution reaction; implications for fuel cells and Li-air batteries

September 19, 2013

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A diagram of the molecular structure of double perovskite shows how atoms of barium (green) and a lanthanide (purple) are arranged within a crystalline structure of cobalt (pink) and oxygen (red). Grimaud et al. Click to enlarge.

MIT researchers have found a new family of highly active catalyst materials that provides the best performance yet in the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in electrochemical water-splitting—a key requirement for energy storage and delivery systems such as advanced fuel cells and lithium-air batteries.

The materials, double perovskites (Ln0.5Ba0.5)CoO3−δ (Ln=Pr, Sm, Gd and Ho), are a variant of a mineral that exists in abundance in the Earth’s crust. Their remarkable ability to promote oxygen evolution in a water-splitting reaction is detailed in a paper appearing in the journal Nature Communications. The work was conducted by Dr. Yang Shao-Horn, the Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering; postdoc Alexis Grimaud; and six others.

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New high energy, highly stable cathode for sodium-ion batteries

September 16, 2013

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Ragone plot for the new Na1.5VPO4.8F0.7 cathode and other cathode materials for NIBs. Credit: ACS, Park et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in South Korea have developed a novel high-energy cathode material, Na1.5VPO4.8F0.7, for sodium-ion (Na-ion) batteries (NIBs). This new material provides an energy density of 600 Wh kg–1, the highest value among Na-ion cathodes.

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they further report that the material shows high cycling stability with 95% capacity retention for 100 cycles and 84% for 500 cycles, which the team attributes to the small volume change (2.9%) upon cycling—the smallest volume change among known Na intercalation cathodes.

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BIT and Argonne researchers develop new 3D sandwich material for Li-S cathodes showing high capacity and cycling stability

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(Left) Cycling performance and (Right) rate capabilities of MWCNT@S, GS@S, and GS-MWCNT@S composite cathodes. Credit: ACS, Chen et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) and the US Argonne National Laboratory has developed a new cathode material for Lithium-sulfur batteries: a multi-walled carbon nanotube/sulfur (MWCNT@S) composite with core–shell structure embedded into the interlay galleries of graphene sheets (GS).

The 3D hierarchical sandwich-type architecture of layered MWCNT@S and GS effectively addresses the inherent problems associated with S chemistry, the team says in a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters. The GS-MWCNT@S composite containing 70 wt % S exhibited a high initial capacity of 1,396 mAh/g at a current density of 0.2C (1C = 1,672 mA/g), corresponding to 83% usage of the sulfur active material. This cathode maintained a reversible capacity of 844 mAh/g after 100 cycles, and also demonstrated good rate capability, 743 mAh/g at 1C rate.

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GWU researchers introduce new class of molten air batteries; significantly greater energy capacity than Li-air

September 13, 2013

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Generalized form of the molten air battery. Licht et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at George Washington University led by Dr. Stuart Licht have introduced the principles of a new class rechargeable molten air batteries that offer amongst the highest intrinsic electric energy storage capabilities.

In a paper just accepted and published online by the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, Licht and his colleagues show three examples of the new battery’s electron transfer chemistry. These are the iron, carbon and VB2 molten air batteries with respective 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 the lithium-air battery.

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Johnson Controls introducing first-generation 48V Micro Hybrid battery at Frankfurt show (fuel economy benefit corrected)

September 11, 2013

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The first-generation 48-volt Lithium-ion Micro Hybrid battery has the potential to enable up to 1% fuel savings in vehicles. Click to enlarge.

Johnson Controls unveiled its first-generation 48-volt Lithium-ion Micro Hybrid battery (earlier post) at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany. The company had shown demonstration modules earlier in the year at the Detroit Auto Show and the Hannover Messe.

Leveraging a dual voltage architecture, Johnson Controls’ Micro Hybrid battery system will involve a 12-volt lead-acid starter battery and a 48-volt Lithium-ion battery that enables optimization of energy generation and consumption. The Micro Hybrid technology has the potential to provide up to 15% fuel savings in vehicles and is available for testing with key automotive customers this December.

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Cornell spin-off lithium-sulfur battery company NOHMs to locate in Lexington, KY

September 07, 2013

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NOHMs technology portfolio. Source: NOHMs. Click to enlarge.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced that start-up lithium-sulfur battery company NOHMs (Nano Organic Hybrid Materials) Technologies Inc. has selected to locate its research, manufacturing and product development facility for military, cell phone and electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries in Lexington.

NOHMs, a spin-off from Cornell University, will utilize the Kentucky-Argonne Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center and the University of Kentucky’s Spindletop Administration Building.

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