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ZAP and ABAT Open Joint Development Office In Beijing

ZAP and lithium-polymer battery developer Advanced Battery Technologies, Inc. (ABAT) have opened a joint development office in Beijing to expand their research, manufacturing and marketing of advanced batteries for electric cars.

ZAP recently completed a purchase agreement to acquire $US5.168 Million in lithium-polymer batteries from Advance Battery Technologies for use in ZAP’s line of XEBRA electric cars and trucks as well as other vehicles and battery systems. (Earlier post.)

Advanced Battery Technologies says that it is developing a new generation of large format lithium-polymer batteries with a higher energy density while improving the performance, life expectancy and safety.

Conventional lithium-ion technology uses carbon as the active material in the cell’s anode. ABAT, however, is working to improve the anode by using lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2). Other companies working with non-carbon anodes for lithium-ion batteries include AltairNano, which uses a lithium titanate material (Li4Ti5O12); EnerDel, also using a lithium titanate material; and Toshiba, which reportedly uses a cobalt-based anode in its new fast-charging Li-ion cell under development (earlier post).

Using a non-carbon anode material opens up a number of possibilities, including high rate capabilities, fast charge even at low temperatures, long-life capability, no lithium plating and enhanced stability. The titanate anode, however, results in a lower cell voltage and lower capacity density—about half that of graphite, according to Dr. Menahem Anderman of Advanced Automotive Batteries.

Metal oxide anodes, however, offer more capacity than the carbon anodes, according to Prof. Martin Winter from the Graz University of Technology.



Great news.

Partnership with Chinese (and Indian) manufacturers will increase availability and greatly reduce production cost of Lithium batteries for electric bikes, PHEVs, BEVs etc.

A basic under $10K BEV could be available within 2 to 3 years.

There are no reasons why more intricate 5-passenger compact PHEVs and BEVs could not be built in China or India and retailed for $20K to $25K as more lower cost lithium batteries become available.


When comparing chemistries, I think it's also important to consider the difference that cell format (18650, 26650, 12V, etc) makes for energy density (in terms of watt hours per kilogram). As the article stated, many of these novel approaches certainly do reduce the energy density and voltage - but I've noticed that regardless of chemistry, increasing the cell size also reduces the energy density.

Just as an example of this principle, look at Valence's large format lithium iron phosphate cells versus their 18650 laptop format cells. The larger cells are lucky to get 85Wh/kg, but the 18650's approach 117Wh/kg. Nothing compared to the conventional (and unstable) maximum of 200Wh/kg, of course, but "half that of graphite" is a bit of an exaggeration.

With respect to the AltairNano cells, I think it's also important to point out that their " nano-structured lithium titanate spinel oxide" anode technology has its conceptual roots in spinel cathode cells - which similarly offer fast recharge rates and lower density. But that density gets up to 120Wh/kg, and Altair has thus far achieved only ~85Wh/kg with their large format (12V) cells. So perhaps there's more to be eked out of this technology before it can be written off.

Useful reference:

Regardless, given the bulk of the safety equipment needed to control the 200Wh/kg cells, the lower density and faster recharge rate of all the newer technologies seems like a worthwhile tradeoff. Even Tesla Motors, with their sophisticated ESS, balked at using those high energy cells and went for a more stable 170Wh/kg cell.

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