Chosun Ilbo. LG Chem, South Korea’s largest chemical company, has a $4.6 million contract with the US Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) to develop advanced lithium-ion (Li-ion) polymer battery cells for hybrid electric vehicles. Daimler Chrysler, Ford and GM formed the USABC consortium in 1991 to develop batteries for hybrids and fuel cell cars.
LG Chem plans to develop highly advanced lithium-ion polymer battery cells by August 2005. Depending on the outcome, it will proceed into the second phase of the project to develop high-tech battery pack systems for vehicles. The market for large size battery cells for HEVs is expected to top W2 trillion by 2010.
Both Li-ion and NiMH batteries have been under investigation for more than 10 years as possible battery elements in hybrid electric and fuel cell electric (FCEV) vehicles. With a few exceptions, current retail hybrids use Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. Lithium Ion batteries offer a higher energy density (and hence lower weight than comparable NiMH batteries), but have a shorter lifecycle. Li-ion is featured in a FedEx delivery truck diesel hybrid put together by Eaton (Hitachi Li-ion battery, Mercedes diesel engine, Freightliner truck).
This is not the first Li-ion contract awarded by USABC. In 1998, for example, it entered a $9.5 million deal with Polystor (a spinoff from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) to develop, test and deliver Li-ion cells. (Polystor ceased operations in 2002.)
Battery technology is a critical, evolving component for hybrids and fuelcell vehicles. There will be many more LG-type contracts, and there are sure to be (I hope) some wildcard discoveries along the way that transform the economics of energy storage for vehicles.