US-based lithium-ion battery producer EnerDel will supply the advanced battery systems at the heart of a new project, based in Tsukuba City, Japan, combining electric vehicles (EVs), stationary grid storage, solar power and a rapid charging infrastructure a in a real-world operating environment. The project involves more than a dozen major partners, including Mazda Motor Corporation and the Japanese industrial trading giant Itochu Corporation. (Earlier post.)
Scheduled to come online in March 2010, the effort involves a set of Mazda vehicles specially converted to electric drive using EnerDel batteries and drivetrain components from EnerDel customer Think Global that will be offered to the public through a car-sharing service akin to Zipcar in the US.
The compact 5-door Mazda Demios (sold outside Japan as the Mazda2) will be based at a Family Mart convenience store equipped with solar panels, high-speed recharging stations and a stationary battery array used to move energy to and from the electric grid.
The combination of on-site battery storage with rapid charging allows the use of direct current throughout the system, sharply reducing the amount of time needed to charge a vehicle. It also allows users to recharge without drawing power from the grid, a significant advantage at peak load times. The project will use a 24 kWh battery pack initially designed for the Think City EV to demonstrate that automotive systems can be used in stationary applications without major modification.
Once the batteries are cycled through their useful vehicular lifespan, the project will showcase their valuable afterlife in stationary grid applications, where operating parameters are much less taxing. A viable battery aftermarket would significantly lower costs for both automotive and utility buyers.
This is the second big opportunity we have had to work with our partners at Think Global to develop a complete drivetrain system for a third party customer.
—Charles Gassenheimer, Chairman and CEO of EnerDel parent company Ener1, Inc.
Itochu is EnerDel’s official sales and marketing partner in Japan, and has been a significant investor in Ener1 since 2003. In July, EnerDel and Itochu joined forces with longtime EnerDel customer Think Global to convert electric drive delivery trucks for Japan’s postal service. (Earlier post.) Itochu is also the largest shareholder in Family Mart, which has more than 14,000 stores across Asia.
The US$90 billion conglomerate has deep ties to the automotive, utility and renewable energy industries, and is the largest global reseller of manufacturing equipment for lithium-ion battery production.