Engineering News. South Africa is reinvigorating its efforts to develop automotive lithium-ion batteries, with the government’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) now determining the commercial feasibility of battery manufacturing in the country.
South Africa’s drive to build batteries include the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Optimal Energy, (which has designed South Africa’s own electric vehicle) [earlier post], and one or two other commercial entities.
[Senior project manager Retief] Bruwer says the nature of the project has not been finalised yet, and will be influenced by the various stakeholders the IDC invites into the development of the project. “We are investigating large-cell lithium-ion battery technology, and we anticipate that the first market for the batteries will be for the electric vehicle or plug-in electric vehicle market, with potential second-life application in stationary energy storage,” he notes.
Beginning in the 1980s, CSIR had a lithium-ion battery effort led by Dr. Michael Thackeray, whose work in the 1980s led to the discovery of lithium-metal-oxide electrode materials with a spinel-type structure. CSIR terminated its investment in lithium battery research in 1992, and in 1994, Thackeray left CSIR to join Argonne National Laboratory in the US.
However, the advent of the electric vehicle has now seen development work at the CSIR pick up again, with the formation of the Battery Research Centre (BRC) in 2009. This centre is headed up by Dr Mkhulu Mathe, who earned his chemistry PhD at Georgia University, in the US. While conducting its own research, the centre is also working with Thackeray to take his work further.