|GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt shows a sodium-metal halide battery cell at the press conference announcing the battery plant. Click to enlarge.|
GE will open a new battery manufacturing plant in Upstate New York that will serve as the main manufacturing facility for GE’s newly launched battery business. The battery business will be a part of GE Transportation and will serve customers in the rail, marine, mining, telecommunications and utility sectors.
GE says the planned facility will produce approximately 10 million sodium-metal halide cells each year—equivalent to 900 MWh of energy storage, or enough to support 1,000 GE hybrid locomotives. The first application will be GE’s hybrid locomotive, which will be commercialized in 2010. (Earlier post.)
|Battery Requirements for Hybrid Locomotives|
|At the AABC 2008 conference, Robert King from GE Global Research outlined requirements and challenges for hybrid locomotive batteries, including:|
The initial investment in the factory will be $100 million. The announcement coincides with GE’s submission this week for federal stimulus dollars from the US Department of Energy. GE hopes that with the acceleration provided by stimulus funds, it will select the exact location and break ground on the plant this year and be in full production in 2011, said Mark Little, Senior Vice President at GE Research.
GE has invested more than $150 million to develop advanced battery technologies, including the high-energy density, sodium-based chemistry battery that will provide energy storage for several future product applications. The batteries have some 30 patents associated with them, with more coming, Little said.
In addition to the internal locomotive application, GE has launch customers in several industries, including mining, telecommunications and utility, with key applications for heavy service vehicles, backup storage and load leveling for the smart grid. (Earlier post.)
This investment in sodium battery technology complements GE’s investment in A123Systems, a leading supplier of lithium-ion batteries, said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt during a press conference at GE Global Research Center.
We really believe that lithium provides power, sodium provides storage and the combination of these two technologies will find great fits, perhaps even in plug in electric vehicles over time. This gives GE a real portfolio advantage in technology and innovation. We like that.—Jeff Immelt
GE has been exploring a “dual-battery” concept—optimized power and energy storage systems—with Chrysler for plug-in vehicles under a DOE-funded project. (Earlier post.) Of the dual-battery concept, Glen Merfeld, lab manager for the Chemical Energy Systems Lab at GE Global Research wrote:
Lithium-ion batteries, which are most often discussed for passenger cars, deliver a lot of power for acceleration but are less optimized in providing capacity for range. Sodium batteries are just the opposite…. It is believed combining these two types of batteries into one system can help achieve an optimal balance of acceleration and electric range, while minimizing the size and cost of the energy storage system and maximizing life. Moreover, this type of system could play broadly across the transportation sector from locomotives and heavy-duty mining trucks, to buses, SUVs and passenger car applications.
Immelt said that GE expected to generate about $500 million in sales from its batteries by 2015, building forward to a $1-billion franchise over time.
We never think small about anything we do, and we’re not thinking small about where this technology goes and the impact it can have.—Jeff Immelt
GE said it selected New York for the manufacturing plant because of strong support from New York state officials, specifically Governor David Paterson and Dennis Mullen, President of the Upstate Empire State Development Corporation. The new factory also will have the advantage of being in close proximity to GE Global Research in Niskayuna, where advances to the battery chemistry were developed. The batteries will rely heavily on new materials, new manufacturing technologies and intelligent controls.