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Sion Power ARPA-E Project Targeting Li-S Battery With 600 Wh/kg and 1,000 Cycles by 2016

Sion Power Corporation has received a three-year research grant worth up to $5 million from the United States Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) (earlier post) for the development of practical, economical and safe lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries for powering electric vehicles. Sion’s award was one of 10 made to advanced battery projects by ARPA-E during this second round of project funding.

Performance targets for this program are to exceed 500 Wh/kg and 500 cycles at commercially viable recharge rates. By 2016, the goal is to produce a cell with 600 Wh/kg and 1,000 cycles. Sion Power believes that by utilizing Li-S technology, a battery pack weighing less than 700 lbs (318 kg) can power a 3,500 lb (1,588 kg) five-passenger vehicle more than 300 miles (483 km).

Lithium-Sulfur Batteries
Lithium-Sulfur batteries (LSBs) use a lithium metal anode and a soluble polysulfide cathode. Lithium ions are stripped from the anode during discharge and form lithium polysulfides in the cathode. Li2S in the cathode is the result of complete discharge.
On recharge, the lithium ions are plated back onto the anode as the lithium polysulfides in the cathode move towards S8. High order Li-polysulfides (Li2S3 to Li2S8) are soluble in the electrolyte and migrate to the anode, scrubbing off any dendrite growth.
Lithium-sulfur battery. Click to enlarge.
The theoretical specific energy of a lithium-sulfur battery chemistry is in excess of 2,500 Wh/kg with a theoretical energy density of 2,600 Wh/L.
LSBs have a number of issues, including cycle life and operation at higher temperatures. Among the limiting mechanisms, according to Sion, are the rough lithium surface on the anode during cycling and Li/electrolyte depletion.

Li-S chemistry offers the highest energy potential of any two solid elements with more than twice the energy capacity of lithium ion technology at half the weight.

The grant is funding a four-way collaboration coupling Sion Power’s patented materials and process technologies with expertise provided by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the world’s largest chemical company, BASF, to expedite commercial success.

While the energy potential of Li-S is well known, Sion Power has established proprietary and patented materials and methods for protecting the lithium metal anode which differentiates its approach.

In November 2009, Sion Power received a three-year, $800,000 research grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to support ongoing work to develop a new class of electrolytes used in lithium sulfur (Li-S) batteries for electric vehicle (EV) applications. Sion Power is providing matching funds for this three-year effort. (Earlier post.)

In May 2009, Sion Power and BASF SE signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) to accelerate the commercialization of Sion Power’s proprietary Li-S battery technology for the electric vehicle (EV) market and other high-energy applications. (Earlier post.)

Sion’s collaboration with BASF is pursuing solutions to electrode and electrolyte issues that affect cell performance, including a proprietary anode design to reduce lithium roughness; development of structurally stable cathodes; and new materials for multi-functional membrane assemblies for the physical protection of lithium.




This would about double the energy density of the batteries likely to be available in around 2015.
That is OK for some applications where it is of great importance, but personally I would rather have Toshiba's lithium titanate batteries in an EV, at 240wh/kg but with a huge cycle life.


H2 centrally produced and distributed in the old "gas station model" is big oil's attempt to hang on to fuel monopolies. A low cost catalyst using renewable electric energy to produce H2 in situ - is another story - both for mobile and fixed site applications.

Let's see, 85% greenhouse effect is due to water vapor. Longer residence GHGs are:

CO2 - 9%
CH4 - 3%
CFS - 2.1%
N2O - 0.9%

How is H2 a greenhouse gas again?


Oooops! Previous was intended for "Researchers discover Inexpensive Catalyst..." story.

Henry Gibson

ZEBRA type batteries are more than adequate for plug-in-hybrid vehicles. They are also more than adequate for long range full electric vehicles which should be prohibited because they are preventing the adoption of any electric automobiles by cost and range anxiety fears. Lead batteries are also perfectly adequate for plug-in-hybrid vehicles. Firefly might even put some slightly lower weight and longer life batteries on the market if their government subsisidies ever run out. ..HG..


This would make a practical and low cost 200-300 mile range BEV.. low cost I assume because such a battery would not be very big.


No mention about the final cost of this battery. If it comes in at $1000 USDA per Kwh like other lithiums it will be totally impractical.

Craig Shields

Any strides we can make toward a less polluting, more efficient personal vehicle are positives in my view, and all-electric vehicles are a personal favorite of mine.

There are those who say that an electric car is only as green as the power plant that charges it, and therefore the car is simply moving the carbon from the tailpipe to the smokestack, but in fact when the batteries are charged during off-peak hours (as they likely usually would be) they're just feeding off the baseload and wouldn't tax the grid unduly at all.

Electric cars are also more energy efficient in their use of the power they take, while most of the energy used in petroleum fuel vehicles is wasted in the form of heat and mechanical inefficiencies (not to mention the energy cost of refining and transporting the fuel).

Bravo, Sion!

Craig Shields, 2GreenEnergy.com


A 300 mile range BEV?
If I had a 20mile range BEV it would handle all the trips I've done this year.
A 100miles would cover all the trips I did last year.
With 300miles per charge I could go to Kelowna BC for the weekend, I live in Vancouver BC.


The point is although Kelowna is a nice place it's been quite a while since I've actually gone there and for me to buy a 300 mile range BEV just for the off-chance I 'might' go again is just not reasonable. Give me a 20 mile BEV and I'll be happy, give me a 100 mile range BEV and I'll have no worries. Throw in a genset trailer for those long trips I might never take and I'll be overjoyed.


Why carry all that dead weight if you're only travelling 40 miles a day. which is average? They need to make batteries that are easily interchanged. Four twenty-five lb batteries would get you 4o miles. You could easily carry them from your house to the car. If you need a longer distance, put in more of them. I would only need one battery most of the time.


Zhukova the problem is often high energy batteries are low power. This means while they might cram 600 wh into a kg of battery cell they might only pack a 400 watt output each.

Thus even 25 of them would only net you 10 kw of power AND to make it worse thats peak power they might only manage 2 kw sustained.


If they are light, 100 miles of batteries is like carrying more gas in your tank than you need (no big deal).

But if they are not affordably pticed - this will help little.

1st we need affordability.

2nd it would be NICE if we had enough "range" to cover occasional idle periods with the AC on, forgetting or unable to charge some nights etc. - nice, and good for sales numbers, but maybe not essential.


sulleny says
"Oooops! Previous was intended for Oooops! Previous was intended for "Researchers discover Inexpensive Catalyst..." story. "

On that subject, I cannot get
"Researchers discover Inexpensive Catalyst..."
to accept posts. ? ?


All this talk of special battery chemistries to get long range - even the lowly lead/acid battery will give long range if it's in the right car;


If they reach the ARPA-E targets, a 300 mile pack will only weigh 150kg, I would not mind carrying that around in my car every day.. how much does a 4 cylinder ICE and all its subsystems weigh?, around 600lbs is my guess, including fluids.

There is probably a sweet spot for acceptance.. 100 miles, maybe 150 miles?.. we will soon find out when the LEAF is out.

Lithium is around $500 per kwh now so I hope that keeps going way down.


Wintermane2000, I forgot about the power. You're right about Sion's batteries at least. They have a discharge rate of 2C. So if you use a 40 mile battery, which is about 10 KWh, 2C is only 20kW. That's only 27 hp. So 100 hp, not much for a 3,500 lb car, would need 160 mile battery, which would weight about 400 lb. Looks like the 700 lb battery would be needed to give good performance as well as mileage.

Sion's battery also has a C/5 charging rate. That would be about 15kW for a 300 mile (75 kwh) battery. That's at least 5 hours for charging, not very attractive. If they could use nano technology like Toshiba and A123 on their Li-Ions, they might get more power and charge rate.


You use both power and energy batteries. That allows you to use fewer expensive power batteries and more less expensive energy batteries as a form of "range extender".


The titanate technology used by AltairNano claims 3-4k cycles. They are now testing their batteries in hybrid buses that recharge at route end points.


Another thought on long range BEVs: Some believe it's better to have a PHEV or RE-EV but the whole idea of going electric is to use the least amount of gasoline as you can so you'll size the battery pack to handle your most frequent trip. In a PHEV with a properly sized battery you may go weeks between using the engine and months between fill-ups. Ever try starting a gas mower after a long winter?

The truth is gasoline goes bad over time, it actually has a half life of only a couple of months and if you leave it sitting for as much as a year it becomes totally un-usable.

A better choice of fuel for an extended range engine might be natural gas. Methane doesn't break down with out help.

OTOH putting a larger battery than you normally need in your car will give you more than extra range. They say EV batteries have to be replaced because they have limited cycles but have you ever asked what this actually means? It's not a straight cut-off thing; a battery rated for 1000 cycles isn't going to quit on you if you try going for 1001. It means that batteries lose some capacity with each recharge and by the 1000th recharge the battery has "only" 80% of what it started with. 80% isn't a limit to the useful life of a battery, it's an industry standard.

If you have a 20 mile range BEV and your daily trip takes it to 80% DOD you will have to replace it soon after the end of its rated cycle life, but if you start with a 50 mile BEV and your daily trip is only 15 you won't have any problem with keeping the battery a lot longer. And if your BEV has a 300 mile range you'll be passing the battery pack down to your grandkids before it becomes useless. Jay Leno owns a 1909 Baker Electric and its original battery pack, which he still uses.


Correction: When I said "80% isn't a limit to the useful life of a battery, it's an industry standard." I meant '80% isn't a limit to the useful life of a battery, it's JUST an industry standard.'


A combo SION batteries + very quick charge/discharge ultra caps could meet most driver requirements. Ultra caps are ideal for acceleration + maximum energy recoup in stop and go traffic.


Good news for lithium future availability. Canada Lithium Mines is planning to reopen an old mine and produce up to 20,000 tons per year for the next 50 years. With early financing ($150+ million) production could start in 18 to 24 months.

Henry Gibson

Alcohols, especially n-butanol, can be used in range extender tanks that are seldom filled. It will not break down very fast. Propane is perhaps the best fuel for range extenders. A standard torch cylinder should give at least 15 miles, but a larger tank can be used.

It took me many days to find that Firefly was missing. Did their negative foams, at least, work? ..HG..

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