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Cobasys to Explore Alternatives to Support Growth Strategy

Cobasys announced today that its owners, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD Ovonics), through its affiliate Ovonic Battery Company, Inc., and Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, have agreed to explore strategic alternatives for Cobasys.

The company has already been awarded contracts to supply the battery and control systems for eight major hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) production and/or development programs. These include providing battery systems and controls for the Saturn Aura and the Saturn Vue Green Line, the recently announced Chevrolet Malibu hybrid and a contract to develop lithium battery systems for the new General Motors plug-in hybrid (PHEV) development program.

Cobasys says it expects that this exploration of alternatives will enable it to further capitalize on global opportunities for integrated energy storage solutions in the rapidly growing hybrid electric vehicle and stationary power industries.

We’re honored to have been selected as the supplier for the majority of North American and European OEM hybrid battery system programs awarded over the last two years. We are now well positioned to capitalize on future opportunities with these and other customers and to take the next logical step in our growth strategy.

—Thomas Neslage, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cobasys

ECD Ovonics and CTV have engaged financial advisors to assist in the process. ECD Ovonics will be represented by UBS Investment Bank and CTV will be represented by Goldman, Sachs & Co. The parties are not disclosing the timing or the alternatives under consideration.


joseph padula

In europe there is a huge large format nicad business (saft etc) for industrial use.
Everyone knows nimh batteries are better. Why doesn't Cobasys sell them?

They make a battery,70 AH if I remember correctly, but only sell it as part of a UPS system.
They will not allow anyone else to make them, look up Panasonic Law suit.

Stan has publicly expressed displeasure at what happened to the company he sold controlling interest in to GM. GM sold to Texaco/Chevron.
Now GM is asking for Lion sysytems from their friends, it is all a shellgame.
Cobasys has no competitve advantage in Lion, they own nimh and all the patents and do not sell them like a legitimate company would.


I own some of the stock so obviously I'm digging the fact that ener wants to capitalize by selling the "hybrid battery inventor and major US producer".



Cobasys is minor producer of Ni-Mh batteries. Major manufacturers of vehicular Ni-Mh batteries are Asian companies, Panasonic and Sanyo being the biggest. These batteries are produced worldwide in any possible format, including very big packs for hybrid buses. Cobasys holds exclusive patent rights for Ni-Mh batteries applications for HEV in US only. Anyone can purchase license and cell Ni-Mh HEV in US, like it is done for Honda, Toyota, GM, Ford, Daimler-Benz, etc. for a very moderate fee of about 2% of battery cost. For the rest of the world it is for free.

Not a single HEV manufacturer is eager to pay licensing up-front fee for PHEV application of Ni-Mh battery, which is absolutely inferior for PHEV applications. Hence the legend of Cobasys not allowing PHEV, actively propagated by conspiracy theory schizophrenics and enviro-nazi scumbags.

P.S. Early licensee of Ni-Mh batteries, Gold Peak (incorporated both in Honk-Kong and US), have legacy license for any imaginable Ni-Mh battery application on US soil for fixed moderate fee, including HEV, PHEV, BEW, or anything else. They do not offer PHEV and BEV sized battery packs because of total absence of quantity orders.


Calling people names adds nothing to learning and to sharing information.

It's OK to disagree only you don't need to slide into base with your spikes high to make your point.

Regarding Cobasys: They are a US joint venture between Tex/Chev and Ovonics; The oil company finances the projects in exchange for patent control of the NiMH batteries. When someone wants to produce a large battery, they sue for patent infringement and through non-public court-ordered agreements, they collect their royalties and allow the company to produce the batteries but limit their size; in effect controlling the EV market.


The involvement of Cobasys in limiting the use of NiMH technology is well known. They do not allow the licensing of large size NiMH batteries for propulsion usages.

It appears Cobasys is trying to get involved in the Lithium Ion technology as well. Given the power of big oil, and Goldman money it would not surprise me if Cobasys is already having success in gaining control of Lithium Ion patents.

This press release reads like some kind of "shopping announcement".


“…involvement of Cobasys in limiting the use of NiMh technology is well known” due to propagation of this fantasy by crowds I mentioned in first post.

Hybrid buses routinely make use of big NiMh batteries. For PHEV and BEV applications NiMh batteries are unacceptable for five reasons:

In order to prolong battery life to acceptable in vehicular applications level deep discharge of Ni-Mh batteries are limited to about 30% of advertised max capacity of 90 KWh per kg.

NiMh battery has max charge/discharge efficiency of only 50%: it means for every KWh pumped into battery according to charger’s meter only 0.5 KWh is ending up driving the propulsion electric motor. Another half is wasted to battery heating, requiring massive battery cooling system.

Ni-Mh battery has terribly high self-discharge rate at elevated temperature. That means that battery will loose most of it charge after couple of miles EV driving on hot day.

Price of NiMh battery for USABLE portion of its energy is well above 1000$ per KWh and climbing with skyrocketing prices for Nickel.

Ni-Mh batteries could not be fast charged.

Big size Ni-Cd batteries for stationary power applications are used because they are cheaper than Ni-Mh and have smaller rate of self-discharge and better cold weather charge retention and performance. The latter properties explain why Ni-Cd batteries are still used by US military (even in military aircrafts).


First, it's 90 WH per kilogram, not 90 KWH.
Second, it might be helpful for everyone to know that more-than-10-year-old NiMH batteries have been propelling BEV conversions of small pickup trucks such as the Ford Ranger and Chevy S-10 in the fleets of southern California electric utility companies for years, with many trucks well over 100,000 miles. So they have been exposed to deep discharge daily, and extreme heat during much of the year. So somehow they go more than a few miles in the heat, and there is no "massive battery cooling system," although some Cobasys designs have always included liquid cooling.
It is a big mistake to swallow as fact the statements being made by some that "good enough" batteries are not to be embraced, but rather the ever-receding "perfect" battery is required. As Felix Kramer has often said, we are allowing the automakers to position the perfect as being the enemy of the good.


Bill, thanks, it of course 90 Wh/kg.

Battery electric vehicles appeared long before ICE-powered cars. There were countless successful prototypes of steam powered, turbine-powered, Stirling engine-powered, solar-powered, etc. cars. It does not make them competitive with ICE for mass consumer market. There are numerous advanced lead-acid, molted sodium-Ni-chloride, Ni-Cd, even large format Ni-Mh EV and PHEV ( ), not to mention countless Li-ion electric vehicles and conversions. All of them are not yet technologically and economically acceptable for mass application in passenger vehicle market.

Technical break-through of Ni-Mh battery technology twenty years ago allowed to design and mass produce hybrids, but for mass production of mainstream PHEV we need to wait another break-through in battery technology. Looks like some companies are on the verge with Li chemistry batteries.

The reason for this is very clearly explained by expert Congress testimony here:

joseph padula

Can someone tell me where to buy a large format NiMH battery like the ones in the Toyota RAV 4 electric that were made by Panasonic before the court case?

Can someone tell me why Cobasys Makes a large format battery but does not sell them Except as part of a UPS system? They make them but you have to buy a complete value added system to get them. Most battery companies actually sell batteries not just flashlights with batteries in them.
I guess the NiCads makers get a lower price on the Nickle they use.
Can someone explain why Toyota, ford and GM were foolish enough to buy those inefficent batteries for the BEV's they built. GM bought the whole company to get those batterieswhen they wanted them.


The only living ex-production EV I know of is the RAV4 EV. The few of those vehicles that survive seem to be going strong after many years of service. The owners of RAV4 EVs all seem to love their cars and do drive them in all kinds of weather.

These few surviving RAV4's throw a wrench in the story that nickel metal hydride battery technology isn't good enough for vehicles. The fact that NiMh works has been proven by the years of service these RAV4 EVs have given their owners. That can't yet be said for lithium battery vehicles.

So how does one explain away the RAV4 EV and its performance over years of service? And the much bigger question is. Where are all the other EVs that we could have and should have been real world testing all these years? Where are the hundreds of NiMh version EV-1s that could have been proving, or not proving, themselves over the last decade? Why do we only have a handful of RAV4 EVs to prove the effectiveness of NiMh technology?

It's normal for an industry to want to hold on to its cash cows. That includes internal combustion engine vehicles and the petroleum products that power them. That's how things have been done throughout history. Bigger established entities have always sought the use of clout to stifle upstart competition, and often very unscrupulously.

Contending that history has somehow taken a uniquely different course, at this time, in this case, is either supremely naïve or self-serving.

Conspiracy: An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act.

Thank God we know no American corporation would ever do anything like that.



Google “electric car kit”, or something alike.


Does anyone know if any Nissan Altra EVs are still about, and how many miles they have racked up?

That would tell us how long 1st generation LiIon tech lasts in a vehicle.


LOFL, yes and with the bountifull battery tech understanding here and next to zero business knowledge we get a comic witches brew of conspiracy.
Nobody beyond the pre tech bubble geeks wanted the EV1, that's why it died.
Nobody ie non comercial numbers want PHEV that's why it's taking toyota so long to put it out. GM's playing catch up with there PHEV press, don't look for one at your dealership in 2 yrs.
One of the biggest marketing tags early on for Prius and Civic was " you don't have to plug it in".
Most families want to be able to drive to their version of Disneyland, can't do that with an extension cord.


Whoooooboy. To settle the question of whether large format NiMH batts are durable enough, I'd like to link sce's 100k mile performance review of a few of their RAV4-EV fleet.

EVTC test data provide strong evidence that all five vehicles will exceed the 100,00012 mile mark. SCE’s positive experience points to the very strong likelihood of a 130,000 to 150,000-mile Nickel Metal Hydride battery and drive-train operational life. EVs can therefore match or exceed the lifecycle miles of comparable internal combustion engine vehicles.

So, if these vehicles have broken 100k miles as of ~2003, it's safe to assume that they've at least made it to ~130k miles, and possibly to ~150+ miles. I saw one on a meter reading run a few months ago in Orange County CA, so I know there's at least one still out there. If this was done almost a decade ago, how can we not do better today?


Some Zebra battery powered vehicles have now covered more 2 million miles on the orginal batterys ( source wikipeda ) beat that , zebras degrade very little over the years , no oxydisation , no precious metals , can be charged to half capacity in 30 minutes , however there is only one factory making them in switzerland . Zebra powered cars are becoming a regular sight there and appear to have well established reliabilty . If made in quantity this type of battery could be made really cheap , salt is not expensive ! My mobile phone has a lithium ion battery , when I go sking, if it is in a outer pocket of my jacket, within 2 hours its telling me there is no juice left , transfer it to an inner pocket and the battery comes alive again , bit of a problem if you have
an Ev and you live in Norway , the Zebra does not have these problems , it comes in an insulated box and has a heater to keep the core at a toasty 250 degrees centigrade , no cold start problems . Manufacture seems to be relativy easy , and does not demand the investment of say lithium ion.
It seems that this battery is the best kept secret of the EV world , it must
have some drawbacks , though I must admit I cannot find any . Why are there not factorys around the world churning these things out , its been around for ten years or more now .
I wonder who holds the patents ?


This is a great post.

"LOFL, yes and with the bountifull battery tech understanding here and next to zero business knowledge we get a comic witches brew of conspiracy.
Nobody beyond the pre tech bubble geeks wanted the EV1, that's why it died.
Nobody ie non comercial numbers want PHEV that's why it's taking toyota so long to put it out. GM's playing catch up with there PHEV press, don't look for one at your dealership in 2 yrs.
One of the biggest marketing tags early on for Prius and Civic was " you don't have to plug it in".
Most families want to be able to drive to their version of Disneyland, can't do that with an extension cord."

1) You're don't have the mental capacity to understand the subject and you are plagued by superstition.
2) The fact that General Motors never sold but only leased the EV-1 and then recalled and crushed them all, proves that no one ever wanted them.
3) Obviously no one wants PHEVs because they have never been offered for purchase at dealerships.
4) Obviously no one wants to plug in their vehicle at home because we have all been told that repetitively, and because no one is going to be allowed the opportunity to try it out for ourselves to see if they do like it.
5) You will never be able to take a long trip with your PHEV, even though it has the same or a longer range than your gas only vehicle. And finally, a family would never purchase a 20-60-100 mile range EV, because the idea that a family would own more than one vehicle in the United States is absurd.


The problems with NiMH batteries are already listed above (high self-discharge, low energy density, poor temperature performance, etc.). I used to design battery chargers and power converters for notebook computers. As soon as lithium ion became available the computer industry switched, since computer users can and do pay $100 for a 50 WHr pack. NiMH was widely used in notebooks for only about four years (1993 to 1997). It's been lithium ion ever since.

The same will happen with PHEVs. Ten years from now we'll see that NiMH was only used for a short time before being eclipsed by lithium. With lithium batteries on the horizon (and they've been there for at least 10 years) battery manufacturers won't invest 100's of millions of dollars on NiMH manufacturing capacity for EVs. They know that when lithium is ready their capacity will become stranded, and they'll lose a lot of money. Battery manufacturing equipment is very specific to both the chemistry and the cell format. They couldn't simply "switch over" to lithium ion.

NiMH was tried for EVs, and it sort of worked. But the EV1 was a two-seater with about 3/4 ton of batteries, and the RAV4 had a very limited range. Yes, they worked for EV enthusiasts willing to accept a special vehicle for special needs. But car companies couldn't build a million of them at a reasonable cost, and a million people wouldn't buy them.

NiMH is not a conspiracy story; it's a technology obsolescence story. Lithium batteries are really good news. Let's focus on that.


I'd just like to add that while NiMH may work for pure EV's they would never be feasible for PHEV's. A PHEV would probably deep cycle every day. I bet most of the RAV4's with high mileage probably rarely deeply discharged their batteries over their life time. If not, I would expect to see way over 100,000 miles on them. For a PHEV, you would need a NiMH battery that is WAY over capacity to avoid early cycle failure. There is no way this would be commercially feasible.



Zebras aren't around because they are ugly as sin.


but they seem to work , and they are available now !


Paul, you are correct that PHEVs are harder on batteries than EVs. The five SCE RAV4-EVs referred to above did exceed 100k miles (though one had several battery modules replaced and Toyota performed an undisclosed "range recovery" procedure on another when it's range fell to only 54 miles). 100k miles represents about 1250 deep discharge cycles for these vehicles, and other testing indicates NiMH can survive 2000 cycles. But a PHEV-40 needs 3-4000 cycles and a PHEV-10 needs around 10,000 cycles.

PHEVs also need much higher power density than EVs. Power density of the RAV4-EV's NiMH pack was less than 200 W/kg. The Volt platform needs as least 600 W/kg and most PHEV designs require 1000 W/kg or more. So called "power NiMH" can meet these specs, but energy density drops to a meager 45 Wh/kg. That's OK for a Prius with a mere 1.3 kWh pack, but at 45 Wh/kg the 16 kWh pack for the Volt would tip the scales at an unacceptable 350 kg. Power NiMH is also expensive at $1200/kWh in volume production. That's almost $20k for a Volt battery pack, again completely unacceptable. Advanced lithium chemistries (e.g. A123) are also expensive, but the hope is volume production will bring costs down to the $400/kWh range.

Conspiracy theories can be fun, but the reality is NiMH came up short. There's a reason laptop computers, cell phones and now power tools dropped NiMH in favor of lithium, and it's not because evil oil companies controlled the NiMH patents. Lithium won on its merits. If gasoline didn't exist (or was outlawed) then sure, NiMH cars would have been "good enough" for us to get by, just as NiMH cell phones were good enough when there was no alternative. But NiMh couldn't compete against gasoline, and it fell so far short of the mark the gap couldn't be closed with reasonable subsidies. Advanced lithium, on the other hand, along with higher gas prices, just might be able to get us there.


Andrichrose - Zebra batteries must be kept hot, which is OK for continuous-duty vehicles like city buses but a problem for intermittent-use vehicles like personal cars. Most cars are in use less than an hour per day, the other 23 hours the Zebra battery consumes power and wastes energy just to keep itself warm. And woe to the person who parks his car for a few days where there's no electricity (it takes up to two days to reheat and recharge a Zebra).

The Zebra's other problem is low power density. A Zebra-based PHEV would need a surge power unit (e.g. ultracap) for acceptable acceleration. That adds weight and kills much of the Zebra's cost advantage.


Why do HEV batteries need to be deep cycle? If battery life drops precipitously as the SOC approaches zero, why not do what Toyota with the Prius and baby the packs? 20 mile all electric range is better than a kick in the head, and it would still represent a substantial savings in terms of fuel costs and maximizing ICE engine efficiency.

joseph padula

just for the record, the large format battery Cobasys makes but does not not sell unlless you buy a complete UPS is the Series 9500 NiMH and it is 85 AMP-Hrs.


Of course NiMh isn't the ultimate battery technology. That's not the point at all. Lithium may turn out to be passé next week or next year or never. No one knows. What if we wait until 2010 to conclude that lithium is okay for hybrids and EV's and then capacitors prove their superiority? If we follow the course we've been taking, we will then abandoned lithium and set a target for 2020 to begin producing capacitor powered electric vehicles.

The fact is that there are no street legal electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids being produced by any major auto manufacturer. It really doesn't matter if this is the result of conspiracy, just good business or Olympic level ineptitude. There were many plain old EVs produced a decade ago by multiple manufacturers. But with the exception of a few RAV4's, all were leased and all were recalled and crushed. What a wasted opportunity to learn about and develop these types of vehicles. And the amazing thing is that they would probably all still be running today if they were not recalled and crushed. Their original batteries could have easily been replaced by newer, better varieties. All their other EV related drive components would have had the benefit of long term, real world testing also. But now instead of years of testing and reams of real-world data, we have instead a heaping helping of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

How many more years will we need to remain at the drawing board, twiddling our thumbs and slapping together concept cars. Everyone seems to agree that if the cost of fossil fuels went up significantly, the economic viability of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids would improve in direct relation to that cost increase. But we seem to overlook the trillion dollar cost of militarily subsidizing fossil fuels. We somehow forget the fact that fossil fuels impose significant costs on our environment and society that every single earthbound individual must eventually pay.

It may take a couple hundred years (if we have that long) to truly understand what's been going on with the automobile and fossil fuel industries and the electrification of transportation. For now, we are compelled to use our olfactory senses. And something smells very fishy.

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