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USABC Awards Johnson Controls-Saft $8.2 M PHEV Li-Ion Contract

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) has awarded Johnson Controls-Saft a two-year contract valued at $8.2 million for the development of lithium-ion battery systems for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The JCS contract is for the development of lithium-ion battery systems to meet USABC PHEV goals of low cost, long life, high power and high energy. In the course of the program, JCS will develop PHEV battery systems targeted to meet the goals set by the USABC for 10- mile and 40-mile all-electric range plug-in hybrid vehicles.

USABC formally awarded the contract earlier this year, in collaboration with the US Department of Energy (DOE), which previously announced the award, pending agreement on all terms and conditions. The 24-month cost-share contract is for the development of battery cell, module and pack technology for plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) applications.

We are working on the development of the complete PHEV system, which includes high energy capacity cells, battery management electronics, control software and an efficient thermal management system, all optimally packaged for safety and efficient integration into the vehicle. Specifically, key goals for this PHEV contract are to optimize cell and battery system design for 10-mile and 40-mile electric range vehicles.

—Mary Ann Wright, vice president and general manager for Johnson Controls hybrid battery business

USABC, whose members are Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation, awarded Johnson Controls-Saft a similar contract in 2006 focused on lithium-ion battery systems for hybrid electric vehicles. (Earlier post.) USABC is one of several technology development consortia of USCAR, the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC.

Johnson-Controls Saft is providing the lithium-ion battery pack for Ford’s research plug-in Escape hybrids. (Earlier post).



"Specifically, key goals for this PHEV contract are to optimize cell and battery system design for 10-mile and 40-mile electric range vehicles.
—Mary Ann Wright, general manager for Johnson Controls hybrid battery business"

It's interesting that the general manager for their hybrid battery business is specifically aiming to optimise design for 10-mile as well as 40-miles electric ranges.

Toyota is reported to be developing a Prius PHEV starting with a modest 10 mile plus electric range then incrementally increase range when cost and weight permit.

The USABC has been criticised in the past for setting development targets for an ideal battery rather than focusing on delivering a 'good enough' battery first.

Early adopters of solar PV systems started with small systems in off-grid locations where the cost-benefit was greatest.
Likewise, PHEVS will find an initial market with commuters whose commute includes not much more than 10 miles each way at less than 30 mph and who can plug-in at work and at home.
In practice, many commuters with long commutes drive some of the way at cruising speeds of 55 to 70 mph.
The extra cost and weight of a battery pack for longer electric range means that beyond 10 miles electric range, the cost increases substantially while the benefit increases marginally.
Also, incentives for vehicles with electric drive are very likely to be greatest in cities with congestion and air quality issues. This will create demand for BEVs and PHEVs from people who drive in those places.

Currently HEV sales are limited by battery production capacity. A million PHEV10 cars will save a lot more fuel than 250,000 PHEV40 cars, so it's encouraging that USABC will specifically aim to optimise PHEV10 vehicles as well as PHEV40.


I've read geological reports that estimate that there isn't enough extractable lithium in the world to meet 10% of the automotive needs globally. I have seen other reports that suggest there may be enough. I'm no geologist, I have no idea what is true. I also read about corn based ethanol 8years ago, suggesting that it would drive up the cost of corn, lead to worldwide food shortages and do little or nothing to lessen the US dependence on foreign oil. Corn based ethanol now appears to have been a red herring supported by the oil companies and politicians from farming states who get contributions from big ariculture and big oil. My question--Is the lithium battery also a red herring? Is oil money pushing this because they already know it can't be a real solution? Doesn't Cobasys already have a workable solution used in the EV1? Why won't Chevron make it more available? Why is Daimler currently suing Chvron to release the Cobasys battery? Why have small companies like Power Technologies that seemed to have cheap workable batteries suddenly disappeared (see the press release stream at www.pwtcbattery.com)? Why doess EEStor find it necessary to hide from the world? Clearly electric cars and PHEVs can't work until a simple inexpensive battery becomes available. It is also clear that the longer it takes the world to find one, the more money the oil companies make. Since Cobasys proved that their NIMH battery worked just fine 8 ears ago in the EV1, why isn't it available today?

Would like to see a 4-module system capable of 10, 20, 30 and 40 miles.



NiMH systems are in widespread use on most hybrids in service today. But, like they did on laptops and cellphones before, they are slowly being replaced by Li-Ion systems that have superior performance. However, not all the questions about Li-Ion use have been fully resolved for safe, affordable use in automotive applications. (just because a very small cell works reliably for 2-3 years on your cell phone, doesn't necessarily mean a much, much larger system work work reliably (and safely) for 15 years in the much more extreme enviornoment of auto applications (temp/vib/etc).


Creativforce, this article on lithium:


gives both sides. The "abundance of lithium" guy is a real geologist who makes money assessing lithium for large miners. As for Cobasys, they've licensed NIMH to about a dozen companies. All are allowed to sell EV batteries outside North America and a few, including Toyota subsidiary PEVE, are allowed to sell EV batteries in North America. NIMH's problem is price/performance, not control by evil oil companies. As for EEStor and other miracle products, I remain hopeful but skeptical.

Henry Gibson

It may be best to develop combined technologies. Lead-acid batteries can provide enough energy for a 10 mile PHEV and more. ZEBRA batteries have been able to provide for 100 mile PHEVS for more than ten years. Low power very-high-energy ZEBRA cells could be built tomorrow, and combined with nickel or lithium high power cells could make a very cheap long distance plug-in-hybrid. Full electric commutes may not be economic. Series hybrids can have very small, light weight engine generators because they can be built to run at very high speeds and high power. A 30 KG. machine would be more than adequate for most users. Fast electrical recharging at service stations is not a real option because of the high instantaneous power needed. Gasoline and diesel tanks are cheap compared to the massive batteries needed at stations for quick charging. ..HG..

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