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Nickel-Zinc Battery Company Targeting Hybrid Electric Vehicle Market

PowerGenix, a San Diego-based high tech company and leading developer of high-performance, sealed rechargeable nickel-zinc (NiZn) batteries for power tools and other high performance applications, has brought Dr. Franz Kruger on board as Senior Vice President, Product Development.

Dr. Kruger, the former CEO of Lithium Technology Corporation, a lithium-ion battery developer, will focus on the development of nickel-zinc technology as an energy storage system for the hybrid electric vehicle market.

Dr. Kruger has more than 30 years of experience in the battery industry and has more than 80 patents to his credit. He did his undergraduate work and earned his PhD in chemistry from the University of Stuttgart. Prior to his position as CEO of Lithium Technology Corporation, Dr. Kruger served as Managing Director of R&D at Varta, a leading European battery company headquartered in Germany. His experience includes the development and launch of battery systems for electric vehicles.

PowerGenix’ nickel-zinc technologies offer many compelling benefits for use in hybrid electric vehicles and other mobility applications. Nickel-zinc offers the high-power, high-cycle life and required energy density to meet the high torque and discharge demands of these vehicles at cost effective performance levels. Nickel-zinc also performs very well at both high and low temperatures, a key performance requirement for HEVs. Just as importantly, nickel-zinc is extremely safe, environmentally clean, and recyclable without any special handling needs.

—Dan Squiller, CEO

Nickel-zinc batteries are chemically very similar to nickel-cadmium. Both use an alkaline electrolyte and a nickel electrode but differ significantly in their voltage. The nickel-zinc cell delivers more than 0.4V of additional voltage both at open circuit and under load, according to PowerGenix.

Nickel-Zinc Charge-Discharge Reaction
H2O + Zn + 2NiOOH = ZnO +2Ni(OH)2
E=1.74V
Nickel-Cadmium Charge-Discharge Reaction
H2O + Cd + 2NiOOH = CdO + 2Ni(OH)2
E=1.3V

Early NiZn batteries (first developed in the 1920s) suffered from short cycle life due to dendrite growth leading to short circuiting, caused by the high solubility of zinc oxide—a discharge product of the zinc anode in the alkaline electrolyte. In addition to dendrite formation, zinc oxide solubility can result in shape change and densification of the anode on repeated charge/discharge cycles.

The basis of PowerGenix’s approach to making its NiZn battery commercially viable is a patented electrolyte formulation that reduces zinc solubility and prevents the dendrite shorting and shape changing problems. Further enhancement of cell capability is due to cathode and anode materials that are free of any heavy metal elements.

The resulting extension of the cycling capability of the PowerGenix NiZn battery maintains the performance properties of the chemistry. The PowerGenix cells offer up to a third more the energy density of a traditional nickel-cadmium (NiCd) battery when measured by either weight (Watt hours per kilogram) or by volume (Watt hours per liter).

PowerGenix NiZn Comparative Attributes
Battery type Energy density
(Wh/kg)
@12A
Energy density
(Wh/L)
Continuous power
density
(W/kg)
Price
(¢/Wh)
Cycle life Internal resistance
(mOhm)
High-rate Operating Temp
(°C)
PowerGenix NiZn 60 170 >900 30-50 100-500 <4.5 -20 to +60
NiCd 40 135 600 35-60 100-800 >5 -30 to +60
NiMH 38 135 600 40-60 100-800 >5 0 to 50

PowerGenix was founded in 2000.

Comments

HealthyBreeze

It still sounds like you need a metric ton of batteries to get 60 Kilowatt hours of storage. And, excuse me, but 100-500 recharge cycles does not sound like enough for PHEV or BEV. Maybe you could stretch that by combining it with a Barium Titanate supercap that could handle a couple miles, so as to minimize using the battery's cycles for regenerative braking, but, sheesh.

eestor has "pushed back" their release date to Summer 2008, and I'd be more encouraged if I'd ever heard of a prototype actually being demonstrated somewhere.

I'm a big believer in over-engineering so that when your product loses 20% of it's capacity or efficiency, it still meets the need. My 1-year-old laptop battery is currently at about 50% of it's original capacity. That would drive me nuts if it happened to my car.

eric

I guess I am rather suspicious of any battery that uses a nickel chemistry. Essentially because of memory effects. They claim that the NiLi battery is an improvement, but that's what they told us about the NiMH batteries as well.

Thomas Lankester

I'll speak up for NiZn battery chemistry from my experience. Over the last 4 years I have owned and tested 5 electric scooters ~ once a week over a hilly 15 mile commute. The first 4 used lead acid batts and all failed in a few months either in the cold or from premature ageing due to the high depth of discharge I was putting them through. I got my final scooter, an Oxygen with NiZn Evercel batts, over 2 years ago. I have noticed no 'memory effect', no drop off and no obvious sign of significant self-discharge (as with NiMH). Power does suffer in the cold somewhat but not to the extent of lead acid batts

HealthyBreeze

@ Thomas,

Thanks for the info on your experiences. Primary research is always valuable!

sjc

The advances in battery technology in recent years is encouraging. Some people may have said that batteries have been around a long time and have not advanced much, so they probably will not advance much now. New technologies in other areas can enable rapid advances in mature industries in a short time and that is what we may be seeing now.

Emphyrio

Very interesting feedback Thomas.

Evercel were doing good work with NiZn batteries, Evionyx/ Powergenix basically seem to have carried that on. The limiting factor was the Zn anode as in ZnAir batteries - Evercel said they could get 500-600 100% DoD cycles before significant capacity loss started (Zn shape change etc) but at 50% DoD Evercel claimed a few thousand cycles if memory serves me - you would definitely have to limit the discharge, as with NiMH batteries used in hybrids today to ensure adequate service life.

NiZn is a much simpler and cheaper battery to make than NiMH with good specific energy and using abundant Zn (Ni less so but it uses less Ni per Wh than NiMH). No 10Ah limit on battery size either from a Cobasys, if that is true.

This battery is why I keep "banging on" about ZnAir: the anode technology is identical for ZnAir. If we can get 500 - 600 100% DoD cycles with NiZn, then we can get the same with 150Wh/kg ZnAir. Then you can do a deep discharge, strip the anode, and replate it to recondition and have another 500 cycles. Biannual maintenance that's all. This potential is why research into ZnAir should be prioritised to improve the weak points of low recharge efficiency. Low specific power of ZnAir not such a problem because you can pack enough weight with the high specific energy to get reasonable power anyway.

I have developed (theoretically) an alternative CO2 filter, using cheap abundant materials, which eliminates the problems of using hydroxide filters (which is not really viable in millions of ZnAir EVs).

Jaros

Emphyrio:
What about OH- conducting membranes? Maybe some day such membranes would replace KOH and ultimately solve two major Zn based chemistry problems: zincate and carbonate formation.

Polly

The PowerGenix web site has some further details on their HEV plans:
http://www.powergenixsystems.com/hev.php

"Expensive safety power control systems and manufacturing processes required by lithium-ion batteries are not necessary for a nickel-zinc battery, making a nickel-zinc about 1/2 the cost per watt hour of a lithium-ion battery."

PowerGenix intends to exploit the nickel-zinc price/performance, form and safety advantages for HEV and other light weight mobility applications. PowerGenix is currently developing a nickel-zinc D cell for use initially in smaller mobility applications such as scooters and power-assisted bikes. PowerGenix will then further develop this NiZn D cell technology with select strategic partners for use in the HEV's as an alternative to nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion.

I like the sound of D cells for power-assisted bikes at half the cost of lithium-ion.

Jeremy Parsons

I question the figures that show NiCd batteries having higher energy density than NiMh. They can perform better with extreme currents but that is not an issue with any long range electric vehicle (50+ miles) as currents will be relatively low per battery because there will be many batteries. For example normal NiMh AA batteries including packaging are approximately 25g mass and labelled 2.6 AmpHour capacity (assume 2.2 at normal currents) we get:
2.2 * 1.2Volts = 2.64 WattHours
/0.025 Kg = 105.6 WattHours/Kg
Which does not make NiZn look very good: connecting wires don't weigh that much ?

Besides, if one wants high currents, the Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries look unbeatable - thats why GM will use A123 in its short range Chevrolet Volt.

gabriel owoloko

my company is interested in your products but would want to visit your company for more business update.
owoloko Gabriel
kuse alaye and son nig. ltd.

Peter Hickey

Please see:

http://profiles.incredible-people.com/james-j-drumm/

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