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Altair Nanotechnologies Receives $540,000 Order for HEV Demonstration Battery Packs

Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. has received an initial $540,000 order for four hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) demonstration battery packs from DesignLine International. The HEV battery packs will be utilized in buses for three city transit customers, and one HEV battery pack will be used for a modular testing program.

Altair will provide DesignLine International with 11 Ah cells, which will be assembled into four 44 kWh demonstration battery packs. Altair will configure the cells into modules and then integrate a battery management system supplied by DesignLine International.

During the assembly process Altair will train DesignLine’s personnel, preparing them to perform future modular assembly without Altair’s assistance.

The selection of Altair battery cells for the company’s hybrid demonstration buses was based on meeting four key criteria: the high energy capturing efficiency of the cells; its energy density to weight capability; the cell’s ability to rapidly charge and discharge in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees C to +55 degrees C; and a long cycle life that complements our technically advanced vehicle platform.

—Brad C. Glosson, DesignLine International CEO

DesignLine targets the mass transit sector with buses constructed with advanced, extruded aluminum technology for superior strength and reduced weight. The company employs a component manufacturing strategy and a manufacturing process that has been refined to approximate automotive tolerances.

The HEV bus operates in an electric-only mode for as much as 30% of its range, and doubles the fuel economy of a diesel bus, according to DesignLine.



This may be a very good testing ground for Altair's superior technology. At $3068/Kwh it is certainly not cheap but mass production could easily cut the price down to $1500/Kwh or less within 3 years.

However, price will have to come down to about $300/Kwh for affordable PHEV and BEV massive applications.

Much more agressive worldwide competition (and time) is required to bring the price down to the affordable levels.


Agree Harvey. This is good for Altair but they are up against much larger players who have footholds in Li-consumer electronics. I think we can expect that consumer electronics demand for Li-ion batteries will provide the foundation for automotive batteries.

As most EV battery packs are composed of modules containing standard form factor cells like the Saft VL6P 3.6V unit - the demand from the electronics markets will drive volume and lower cost. This will happen far more rapidly than if the batteries have a stand-alone application like Altair.

Altair may need to think about licensing their chemistry to a much larger manufacturer. It would give them some added cash (equity) and they could focus on standardized cells more amenable to mass production. Hint: Enerdel is looking at rapid expansion.

Healthy Breeze

I suspect Altair is being arrogant. It's one thing to seek out the niche that will pay the highest amount for your differentiated product. It is another to price your product so high, that it can not conceivably expand into larger adjacent markets. They are charging a half million dollars for a bus battery. It's hard to justify the ROI on something like that.


Altair's technology may be one of the best but others will catch up.

BYD (China) just announced that they will install their home built battery packs good for 10 years and 600,000 Km in their own PHEV by the end of 2008. (ONe full year ahead of the planned date)

BYD batteries may not have the same energy density, broad temperature operation capabilities and extremely quick charge capabilities as the Altair units, but they will be very much cheaper and certainly last long enough for the average affordable PHEV.

Interesting months/years ahead.


if you do the math, the buss operator will get a 3-4 year payback on a battery that will last for about 20,000 cycles! Heavy and industrial applications are where this abattery will excell.

Cenes de la Vega

The Designline bus with NanoSafe batteries is perfect for the NanoBus/Opbrid:

Pushing these remarkable batteries to their endurance limits by rapid charging each time the bus reaches the end of its route will displace an enormous amount of petroleum, saving both the planet and money.

I saw the EcoSaver IV at APTA last week, and it is very impressive. It is modern, lightweight, has seen many miles of service, uses the best technologies in an integrated fashion, eg the Capstone turbine + NanoSafe. It just needs a rapid charging system (I'm developing one, to become a quantum leap in efficiency.

BTW, that is 4 batteries for 540k = 540000/44*4 = $3068/kwH. However if they last as long as has been reported, this is a screaming deal in petroleum displaced. It's like owning your own oil well.

Folks, this battery will not shine in once-a-day plug-in cars which are serviced fine by LiFEPO4. However in the case of certain innovative applications, like Nanobus/Opbrid, and perhaps frequency regulation, they will have no competitors (at least for now).

BTW, I am looking for a municipality/operator to take the Nanosafe/EcoSaver IV to the next level with the Opbrid rapid charging system. (Not quite shameless plug, as this will help move along the electric drive revolution)



Roger makes a good point and has a very interesting project going. At a per bus cost of $135k the Altair battery is competitive with

FCs: avg. $1M/bus,

Hybrid FCs: avg. $750k/bus,

Diesel/NG/gas hybrids: $500k/bus.

And average diesel bus costs around $300k plus another $200k for batteries and power controls - an Altair EV bus matches the diesel/NG/gas hybrids. But it never uses petroleum, reduces CO2 by 80-90%, and can be rapid charged up to 20k cycles.

If the bus runs a round trip route of 15m, 8 times per day and charges to half SOC (22kWh)at end of each run, then: 8*22*.14/kWh = $24.64 per day for energy costs. A relative steal compared to FC or fossil fuel costs.

Far from arrogant, this is a perfect niche for high performance batteries with exceptionally long duty cycles.


Altair Nano has one of the best batteries for BEV, but I'd say only on paper.
Apparently they get fantastic results testing some samples, but customers who tried their batteries switched to another supplier after a couple of months. Most likely they have some serious technological problem and seem unable to solve it on their own.

Interesting that not a larger chemical firm didn't try to buy the small cap Altair, and then resolved outstanding issues. For example it may be an ideal deal for some European giants from the field (no European company has a good Lithium based battery), some of them set JVs with Korean and Japanese firms about 6 months ago for BEV/HEV batteries.

Perhaps those companies know something we don't, and stay away from Altair.
Or a plain lack of vision of their highly paid executives.

Completely opposite to Altair are JC Saft batts - unimpressive specs, but major automakers order cells from them for upcoming models (BMW, Daimler).
JC Saft are apparently able to deliver what they promis, in large quantities, with guaranteed quality.


Altair Math

$540,000 < (1 CEO salary + expenses)

To fly around the globe delivering power point presentatation in hotel ball rooms.


I always wondered why batteries aren't placed in trolley buses, extending their reach beyond the network of overhead cables. You would need to electrify only part of the network. Of course some hurdles have to be taken, but they don't seem to be impossible.



A Swiss city is using onboard batteries and/or flywheels to keep trolleys moving in part of the city not equipped qith overhead cables. Eventually, 50% or more of trolleys runs could be cableless. It all depends on how much energy each trolley can store on board.

Ideally, trolleys (and e-buses) could automatically connect and get enough quick charge at regular stops only.



I think that about a year or two ago an e-bus with overhead recharging at bus-stops was launched in a Chinese city, and used ultracaps for storage.

As nobody can predict how fast the price of fast charging EESU (batts and/or ultracaps) will go down in the near future, it may not be prudent to plan introduction of such systems until a significant drop in fast EESU price is reached. The risk is that the system will become suboptimal within 2-3 years, or may cost too much if introduced too soon.

Building on top of that Chinese solution, charging overhead wires could also be placed say 10-15 m in front of some traffic lights.
On uphill sections much longer % of the route would need to be electrified.

As vehicles consume much more when heavy loaded, it would make sense to add an extra charging stop between longer routes where e-bus would stop for 1-2 min only when overloaded (already slower moving), or for older buses that lost much of their initial storage capacity.

Adding slow charging, low energy density (ie heavy) LeadAcid batts to trolleys might not be a viable solution.


With batteries equivalent to the AltairNano, high capacity ten minute recharges at one or both ends of a regular bus route should be the only charge stations needed for a full EV. DesignLine plans 30% EV-only operation for these HEVs, presumably to limit charging to the end of day/overnight interim.

A study is needed to determine the cost of high capacity route charging vs. fossil fuel costs.


I agree with gr a bus system using Altair technology only needs a few strategically placed fast charge stations.

MG brings up a good point about catenary overhead rails.

I'd like to explore fitting long distance trucks with Altair batteries good for 100 miles range. Charging is by fast charge at truck stops AND catenary rail on selected stretches of road (e.g. long climbs).

If there is 10 miles of catenary section wthin every 100 mile stretch, the trucks never need to stop. In practice, truck drivers are required to take breaks, so less catenary is required. Only major highways need to be fitted with the catenary system.

The catenary technology is tried and tusted. It has been used for many years in railways, mines and trolly bus systems. It's not a major challenge to get the trucks hooked on and off.



If there is 10 miles of catenary section within every 100 mile stretch, the trucks never need to stop.

Interesting idea.The problem with it is the limited power of the catenary system, and unpredictable number of connected trucks, ie access control.
In existing catenary system (Railways, public transport vehicles), the number of connected vehicles is known.

Given the fact that the traffic often moves unevenly on highways, number of connected trucks would vary wildly in time, and therefore power load of the grid.
One truck drawing 10X its normal traction power (when recharging off such 10% road length catenary) may consume more than a small passenger train (train 500 ton heavy, truck 50 ton), plus trucks have higher rolling resistance.

Tractor trailers have diesel engines of 300+ kWs. With diesel efficiency of about 45%, and truck operating at about 2/3 of its peak power, it's 100 kW on the wheels. Ten times that is 1 MW power for one truck charging batteries off catenary, and going with traffic, say 60 mph.
On a 10 miles strech of electrified road, there can easily be 20 trucks at a time, drawing 20 MW off the grid. It's a very large consumer. And every 100 miles 20 MW for trucks. Many new nukes would need to be built. Or wind and solar power plants.

As for recharging times - to travel 10 miles it takes 10 min at 60 mph, or 20 min at 30 mph.
Those are reasonable times for Altair batts.

Another issue would be the power collecting system on the roof. Should look like on locomotives (similar power reqs).

Can be concluded that it would be much more economical to reduce number of trucks, and add more electrified railroads. Less road wear, less power needed, and trains don't need tire replacement.
For longer distances trucks can be put on electric trains.
The problem is that trucking companies, who do most of highway damage, are not properly charged for that.


With 20MW type load there would be huge electrical potential in the overhead hardware. I would worry about arcing, intermittent disconnect, and the variable leveling issues. But it would be worth a trial somewhere.

Truck stop recharge is a much simpler task and could be piloted in the very near term. The charging times might increase due to pack sizes (70+kWh)and volume of trucks charging at any one time. Between DOT and DOE - the could set this up for demonstration quickly.

Of course off-loading more freight on rail is much needed. California is voting on a high speed rail Proposition (November) for the north south route. Very expensive but much needed. We could also use an East West rail corridor utilizing automated high speed equipment.


MG: I also wonder what is going on with Altairnano. They seem to deliver virtually nothing but test wonderfully.

And some of the tests seem pretty independent and objective.

Yes, you would think a larger company would have snapped them up. The purchase price would have seemed trivial to the large companies.

The patents alone seem worth it. And acquiring the technical staff would be a plus.


Good discussion about electrifying trucks and ways to recharge them on the fly folks.

One thing to keep in mind with the Altair battery is that it only takes one minute to get an 80% charge. That fact alone should lend flexibility to the whole system. Plus, with some sort of smart metering and having the grid know your route/energy consumption/etc, it could determine if any particular vehicle would need to have a full charge. Also, to deal with the load problem you could use stationary ALTI batteries to share the load with the grid. In addition, this 10 mile charging corridor could be divided up in 10 or so different electrically isolated sections making it very unlikely that you'd get 20 trucks, or even more than a few in any one section.

Lastly, there could be some system implemented whereby trucks could be told to slow down some or speed up in order to have them spaced out properly. Aren't systems in place now that report where trucks are located, as well as their speed? Anyhow, it would be a computer programmed thing that has already been done in a much more complex environment for the airline industry. I believe that is being implemented now.

As much as it would be ideal to electrify all rail tracking and the trains that run on them, I think it's only going to be practical to electrify the main arteries. That will leave trucks to finish delivery of goods. Granted, they won't have to go but a few hundred miles at best depending on the degree of electrification of the rails, but a system like you guys are discussing would still save a lot of fuel.

And in the event of an oil embargo or successful attack on a major Saudi oil terminal, it could save our bacon. I mean, how do you an objective economic analysis on something like that?


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