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Berkeley Lab team demonstrates high-rate, high-energy, long-life Li/S battery in the lab; looking for industry partners

Long-term cycling test results of the Li/S cell with CTAB-modified S−GO composite cathodes. This result represents the longest cycle life (exceeding 1,500 cycles) with an extremely low decay rate (0.039% per cycle) demonstrated so far for a Li/S cell. Credit: ACS, Song et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated in the laboratory a lithium-sulfur (Li/S) battery that has more than twice the specific energy of lithium-ion batteries, and that lasts for more than 1,500 cycles of charge-discharge with minimal decay of the battery’s capacity.

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team reported that a Li/S cell employing a sulfur-graphene oxide (S–GO) nanocomposite cathode can be discharged at rates as high as 6C (1C = 1.675 A/g of sulfur) and charged at rates as high as 3C while still maintaining high specific capacity (800 mA·h/g of sulfur at 6C), with a long cycle life exceeding 1,500 cycles and an extremely low decay rate (0.039% per cycle)—perhaps the best performance demonstrated so far for a Li/S cell.

The initial estimated cell-level specific energy of the cell was 500 W·h/kg—much higher than that of current Li-ion cells (~200 W·h/kg). Even after 1,500 cycles, the cell exhibited a very high specific capacity (740 mA·h/g of sulfur), which corresponds to 414 mA·h/g of electrode—still higher than state-of-the-art Li-ion cells. These Li/S cells with lithium metal electrodes can be cycled with an excellent Coulombic efficiency of 96.3% after 1,500 cycles, which, the team said, was enabled by its new formulation of the ionic liquid-based electrolyte.

For electric vehicles to have a 300-mile range, the battery should provide a cell-level specific energy of 350 to 400 Watt-hours/kilogram (Wh/kg), they noted. This would require almost double the specific energy (about 200 Wh/kg) of current lithium-ion batteries. The batteries would also need to have at least 1,000, and preferably 1,500 charge-discharge cycles without showing a noticeable power or energy storage capacity loss.

Lithium-sulfur batteries are attractive for electric vehicles and advanced electronic devices due to their much higher theoretical specific energy (∼2600 W·h/kg) than that of current lithium-ion cells (∼600 W·h/kg). This is due to the very high specific capacity of sulfur (1675 mA·h/g), based on a two-electron reaction (S + 2Li+ + 2e ↔ Li2S)—significantly larger than the specific capacities of current cathode materials (130−200 mA·h/g).

Li/S batteries would be cheaper than current Li-ion batteries, and they would be less prone to safety problems that have plagued Li-ion batteries, such as overheating and catching fire.

However, the poor cycle life and rate capability have remained a grand challenge, preventing the practical application of this attractive technology. During discharge lithium polysulfides tend to dissolve from the cathode in the electrolytes and react with the lithium anode forming a barrier layer of Li2S. This chemical degradation is one reason why the cell capacity begins to fade after just a few cycles.

Another problem with Li/S batteries is that the conversion reaction from sulfur to Li2S and back causes the volume of the sulfur electrode to swell and contract up to 76% during cell operation, which leads to mechanical degradation of the electrodes. As the sulfur electrode expands and shrinks during cycling, the sulfur particles can become electrically isolated from the current collector of the electrode.

A schematic of a lithium-sulfur battery with SEM photo of silicon-graphene oxide material. Source: Berkeley Lab. Click to enlarge.

The prototype cell uses several electrochemical technologies to address this array of problems. For one, the S-GO cathode can accommodate the volume change of the electrode active material as sulfur is converted to Li2S on discharge, and back to elemental sulfur on recharge.

To further reduce mechanical degradation from the volume change during operation, the team used an elastomeric binder. By combining elastomeric styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) binder with a thickening agent, the cycle life and power density of the battery cell increased substantially over batteries using conventional binders.

To address the problem of polysulfide dissolution and the chemical degradation the research team applied a coating of cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB) surfactant that is also used in drug delivery systems, dyes, and other chemical processes. CTAB coating on the sulfur electrode reduces the ability of the electrolyte to penetrate and dissolve the electrode material.

Furthermore, the team developed a novel ionic liquid based electrolyte. The new electrolyte inhibits polysulfides dissolution and helps the battery operate at a high rate, increasing the speed at which the battery can be charged up, and the power it can deliver during discharge. The ionic liquid-based electrolyte also significantly improves the safety of the Li/S battery, as ionic liquids are non-volatile and non-flammable.

In summary, we have developed a long-life, high-rate Li/S cell with a high specific energy through a multifaceted approach by uniquely combining CTAB-modified S−GO nanocomposite with an elastomeric SBR/CMC binder and an ionic liquid-based novel electrolyte containing LiNO3 additive.… With the estimated high specific energy, long cycle life, and excellent rate capability demonstrated in this work, the Li/S cell seems to be a promising candidate to challenge the dominant position of the current Li-ion cells.

—Song et al.

The team is now seeking support for the continuing development of the Li/S cell, including higher sulfur utilization, operation under extreme conditions, and scale-up. Partnerships with industry are being sought. The next steps in the development are to further increase the cell energy density, improve cell performance under extreme conditions, and scale up to larger cells.

The paper was authored by Min-Kyu Song (Molecular Foundry, Berkeley Lab), Yuegang Zhang (Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics, Chinese Academy of Sciences) and Elton Cairns (Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Berkeley Lab). The research was funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science and a University of California Proof of Concept Award.

The Molecular Foundry is one of five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale, supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize, and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.


  • Min-Kyu Song, Yuegang Zhang, and Elton J. Cairns (2013) “A Long-Life, High-Rate Lithium/Sulfur Cell: A Multifaceted Approach to Enhancing Cell Performance,” Nano Letters doi: 10.1021/nl402793z



cujet has described the BEV of the future (2020+) with 400 to 600 Wh/Kg, up to 160 Kw battery pack and up to 600 miles range.

Roger Pham

So you're disappointed with the Fusion Energi? E-P is very happy with his, and so are most owners. Remember that this is the very first batch of affordable PHEV, to be improved upon years after years. The Volt is a bit beyond affordability and little less practical for many.

Of course you're impressed the performance and ergonomic of the Tesla model S. You can't compare the $32k Fusion Energi with a $80k Tesla that costs nearly 3x as much, as the latter is designed for luxury-performance oriented consumers while the Fusion E is for practical daily use.

Sometimes, emotion and status rank higher than economics in vehicular purchasing decision. As such, BEV's, PHEV's, HEV's, and ICEV's will co-exist in the future to satisfy their own niche and the preferences of different types of consumers.

People will continue to be in love with V-8 Corvette and V-twin Harley. I find that the vibration, the rumbling and deep-throated sound of a V-twin Harley very satisfying that no EV could replace. In my younger days, I used to ride in my friend's V-8 Corvette after school, and the experience was quite thrilling, including the sound and vibration of the big-bore deep throated V-8, and the pushed-against-your-seat acceleration when the gas pedal was floored, the screechingly tight turns and all the road noise and vibration! Whereas big-bored ICEV's are like rock 'n roll music, BEV's are like soft, easy-listening music. Different strokes for different folks!


That deep-throated noise wakes me up at 6:00 AM every morning. Why would that be satisfying? HD owners are exist of corrupt politicians who allow HD to sell those because HD says they will go bankrupt if their customers can't harass the neighbors with loud noise. In the HarveyD spirit, I predict that in 2025, enough BEVs will be on the roads, that the only vehicles making noise will be HDs, and legislation will be passed to silence them with mufflers.


Roger Pham,

Gasoline retail is a low-profit business, but at least the investment will pay for itself. A BEV with 80-kWh pack, when charged at 3C, will require 240 kW of power. Such a hefty power and current requirement will require expensive power electronics and local battery storage capacity...much more expensive than the low-tech gasoline pump and storage tank at the gas station.

You are wrong about that. First of all, you fall in to the trap of the naysayer doomsday prophets that run around hysterically shouting that the grid will melt with all those electric cars. 240 kW is really nothing compared to the power requirements factories and offices. Why would you need battery storage? Sorry, but that is a baseless assertion.

I just finished reading "The Fastned story" (sorry, only available in Dutch). Fastned are a startup that recently acquired the rights to exploit fast charging stations on 201 of the 245 highway petrol stations/rest stops. They just jumped through all the planning and permitting hoops and are now beginning the build of those 201 stations. The first one will open next Friday. The rest will follow later this year and in 2014.

They will immediately hook up their stations with a 3x1000A connection, which can deliver about 700 kW.

They want their fast chargers to be as fast as possible, because they want to sell their stuff (electricity) as fast as possible. Not just good for the customer, but also for them because they can serve more customers on the same area and with the same equipment. Getting a thicker pipe to the grid is nothing really special.

And lastly, you seem to vastly underestimate the cost of a gas station with all the environmental regulations. The tanks have to be dug in under ground. They must be guaranteed leak-proof. There must be special, impenetrable pavement in the pumping area to prevent leakage of fluids in the ground. Then there is the fire hazard (=insurance cost), mechanical pumps that wear out and break down, and probably more.

No, somewhere in the not too distant future, 240 kW fast charging will not be considered anything special. And if they install buffer batteries, it is not because the grid can not cope with 240 kW. There might be an exception for remote locations where the medium or high tension grid is so far away that buffer batteries are cheaper than digging in a new cable over a few km's.


Power company reps have already said that they could build plenty of substations to power BEV charging stations. It will be less expensive than digging holes for storage tanks and pumps, and they won't "melt" the grid.

Roger Pham

Thank you, Anne, for the information.

My question was simply that 240-kW charging at what cost per station and how would this cost be recovered, since most people would charge their BEV at home. One business model would be to subsidize the stations with the price of high-end BEV's, like the Tesla's business model, but how long would this practice be sustainable? Can Tesla's Fast-charge stations accommodate BEV's from other makers with different voltages, battery chemistry, and even connectors? And at what extra cost of investment of power electronics? With gasoline or H2, it doesn't matter what makes of car/model/size of fuel tank, etc... the pumps and dispensers will be the same.

It seems to me that what Tesla could do is to develop a PHEV model with a 20-kWh battery pack instead of the 80 kWh pack, and a 2-cylinder 600cc-1000cc engine for range extension that I've outlined before in GCC. With battery capable of 10C peak power, the car could develop 200 kW from the electric drive system plus 40 kW from the engine, for a total of 240 kW of power. Why not take the advantage of the existing petrol stations everywhere for long-distance trips? With 20 kWh of energy, the PHEV can be driven 50 miles daily on electricity alone, just as the Chevy Volt has 40-mile AER on a 16-kWh pack!

I recently read from the BBC website that Tesla is currently facing a shortage of Lithium battery forcing them to significantly limit production number. If each Tesla PHEV only needs 20 kWh of battery, Tesla could make 4x the number of cars that they are making now, limited by battery shortage.

Bob Wallace

I believe Tesla has stated that they are open to other companies making cars compatible with their rapid chargers. The previous Level 3 chargers simply didn't supply enough output for a long range Tesla to refuel in a short time.

Tesla is considering opening a very large battery factory to produce the volume they need. This would almost certainly be done in conjunction with their current battery providers. It parallels what happened in the solar panel business with solar initially using chip manufacturers' extra wafers then as panel volumes grew opening wafer plants for solar.

Rapid chargers aren't very complex beasts. A big wire with some heavy duty control devices and a marginal amount of processing power (think cheap CPU). I doubt that people would be upset with having to pay 3x, 4x the going rate of off-peak electricity for a quick charge on the sort of very infrequent use they would make of rapid chargers.

I also expect we'll see highway restaurants and stores sponsoring rapid chargers as a way to rope in customers.

Building a PHEV would be a step backwards for Tesla. They already have a BEV capable for long distance driving. The chore now is to bring down battery prices in order to capture a larger market share.

Roger Pham

Thank you for the info, Bob.

It is good that Tesla would offer to cooperate with other makers of BEV's in order that the cost of constructing a nation-wide network of fast charger be affordable for each BEV maker and that potential customers will be reasonably assured of being able to reach their long-distance destinations. This is indeed a very good news: there must be standardization of charging plugs and charging standards, and there must be widespread cooperation among all PEV makers in order to bring BEV's to the mass public.

We must indeed cooperate to bring green mobility and energy independence to the people. Those who are not comfortable with Hydrogen (Hinderburg effect) can buy a BEV. Those who are not comfortable with a large battery pack (fire hazard) will buy a PHEV or a HEV. Those who are completely against EV's like Kit P will continue to drive ICEV at reduced mileage per month, and is still a very honorable thing to do. Conservation at all manners and level is good.

Roger Pham

>>>>"Building a PHEV would be a step backwards for Tesla"

Is building PHEV's steps backward for GM or Ford or Toyota or BMW or Volve or Audi or Honda etc...? While PHEV's sales are doing well, sales of BEV's sputtered, except for Tesla, who could be selling more vehicles except for their current battery shortage!

Please realize that current PHEV's are one small step from being commercially competitive with ICEV and HEV. That little step requires simply to chop down the 4-cyliner engine to a 2-cylinder unit, thereby saving space, weight, and cost, in order to realize full trunk space, lighter weight, and lower the price. The fuel tank could also be downsized from 12 gallons to 6 gallons, thereby saving more internal space and weight. The savings in engine weight and space will result in lower chassis weight, lower suspension and drive train weight, lower battery weigth and size for a given AER range, that will save even more weight...the additive effect that will continue to give!

GM already plans to downsize the 4-cyl Volt engine to 3 cylinder. VW will soon sell PHEV with 2 cylinder engine, and I suggested that the 2-cylinder VW 0.8-liter engine can also be used with even larger cars such as the Gold or CC line.

What Tesla has in advantage is their excellent light-weight battery and packaging technology and the best car design, that, if employed in a PHEV of 20-kWh pack size, will immediately bring PHEV into the medium-luxury ICEV market and will take over PHEV sales of most others. It will be an absolute killer as a "must-have" vehicle for nearly all prospective buyers! The much smaller 20-kWh battery can be much better protected and mounted away from road debris, such that fires will be things of the past. Being able to quadruple the battery supply will make battery shortage thing of the past!

There are so many advantages to building a "killer" PHEV (TESLA brand) that will be the best vehicles of all time that can achieve EVERYTHING everyone can ask for in a car: Emotion appeal, speed, maneuvering, internal space, ultra-efficient, petroleum independence, affordable price, AND ultra safe freedom from fire hazard, and ultra reliable with 2 power plants on board that will almost never need major service nor repair! Never get stranded on the road again!

Meanwhile, BEV's market is still a niche market of high-priced vehicles in waiting for a nation-wide network of fast-charging stations and waiting for faster battery production rate!

Roger Pham

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the "killer" Tesla PHEV will have practically UNLIMITED driving range on liquid fuel, that can be refilled in 1-2 minutes when stopped for restroom break!

The best PHEV architecture currently is in the latest Honda Accord PHEV. It is a simple two-motor serial-hybrid layout using one or two clutches without planetary power split. It is the best because it is the most efficient, simplest and hence least expensive and most reliable, and most important of all, not patent-protected, unlike Toyota HSD that Ford and Toyota are using. This is what I suggested that GM should used during their development of the Volt, but they decided instead on using their more complicated and poorer-performing system. Not surprisingly, Honda Accord HEV and PHEV score the highest MPGe for their class, size and weight, while GM Volt scores quite poorly at hwy mpg of 37 on engine power.

Bob Wallace

Honda claims that their FCEV will be 60% efficient tank-kinetic energy.

If that holds it cuts the EV -> H2 FCEC advantage from 3x to 2.2x for "purchased electricity".

The cost of H2 fuel would be considerable higher than 2.2x due to infrastructure costs.

Roger Pham

Uh, Bob, this thread is about PHEV vs. BEV. FCV vs PEV would be on another thread.

Anyway, according EPA website, BEV's efficiency is 59-62% from grid to wheel, quite comparable to Honda's FCX Clarity 60% tank to wheel.

Hence, the discussion now shall focus on the efficiency between RE to H2 vs. RE to the grid. Loss in commercial electrolyzer from steady DC is ~23%, then ~compression of H2 to 700 bar takes another 10%, however, this energy is largely recuperable. Loss from electricity transmission thru the grid is 7% on average, according to EIA website.

Hence, substracting the (23% + 10% =33%) efficiency loss in producing compressed H2 to the 7% loss in grid transmission will give 26% advantage to PEV's, not the 220% like you stated. When the pressure energy of the compressed H2 is recuperated, which may be on order of 7% out of the 10%, then substracting the 7% from the 26% will give 19% efficiency different between FCV and PEV.

Now, if the heat associated with electrolysis and in compression of the H2 is partially used for another purpose, for example, space heating or water heating at the gas station or at the electrolysis station in the winter, then the efficiency gap between FCV and PEV further narrows down. Depending on latitudes, space heating is needed for 3-6 months out of the year, while water heating is always needed, but more so in the winter.

More important, however, is the fact that the cost of RE, when going directly to the electrolyzers, is a lot lower than the cost of bringing RE to the grid toward the charging socket at your home!

Even when factoring in the infrastructure cost of H2, the energy cost of H2 and FCV will still be lower. Remember that FC stack and H2 tank cost a lot less than the equivalent in batteries, 1/2 to 1/4 as much, depending on the size of the battery pack that you wanna have. That's the reason for going with PHEV, to minimize the cost of batteries, which is the single most expensive item in the car, and can cost as much as the rest of the car!

The H2 infrastructure is a must-have in order to substitute H2 for NG when this fossil fuel will be exhausted. Even if there will be no FCV, H2 infrastructure will still be needed as seasonal storage of RE in order to bring H2 to the end users that were formerly dependent on NG.

Roger Pham

Regarding the topic of BEV vs. PHEV, I forgot to further mention that Lithium batteries do AGE even if not used. The following is a quote from Wiki:

"A test on a commonly-used LiCoO2 cell showed that over one year a fully charged cell kept at 25 °C (77 °F) permanently lost 20% of total capacity; the loss was lower when stored at lower charge levels and lower temperatures. Poor ventilation may increase temperatures, further shortening battery life. Loss rates vary by temperature: 6% loss at 0 °C (32 °F), 20% at 25 °C (77 °F), and 35% at 40 °C (104 °F). When stored at 40%–60% charge level, the capacity loss is reduced to 2%, 4%, and 15%, respectively. In contrast, the calendar life of LiFePO4 cells is not affected by high charge states. They may be stored in a refrigerator."

So, in 10 yrs., significant battery capacity will be lost simply due to aging, especially in warmer-weather areas. It is better to start with a small pack for PHEV and replace after 3-5 years or so, depending on mileage.

To reduce ageing rate, an 80-kWh pack should be charged to 50% only. This will reduce the car's range to about 125-150 miles. By contrast, a PHEV-50 with a 20-kWh pack won't get a full charge, when using home 120-V socket, until nearly the AM when it is time to drive to work. The battery will remain at or below 50% charge nearly all the time, the optimum level for minimizing ageing rate! A PHEV-50 can get a new pack every 5-7 yrs, depending on mileage driven, so very little capacity loss will be due to ageing. The same cannot be said for an 80-kWh pack, unless used in Taxi or courier service.

On a side note regarding future Tesla PHEV, the NCR 18650 (LiCoO2) used in Model S is not capable of high drain nor fast charging. Perhaps fast-charge-capable Models should use a higher power version. The CGR 18650 cells (LiMnO....) with higher drain capacity should be used. Panasonic listed their 2.2 Ah GCR 18650 cell as having a max current drain of 10 A, or below 5C. So, a 20 kWh pack is capable of only 100 kW instead of the 200 kW as I has hoped for. Still, 100 kW of electric power + 40 kW of engine power will give 140 kW of total power, or ~200 hp...still enough to power a 5-seat mid-size car with spirited performance.

Bob Wallace

"Anyway, according EPA website, BEV's efficiency is 59-62% from grid to wheel, quite comparable to Honda's FCX Clarity 60% tank to wheel."

Roger, you fail to acknowledge the grid to tank energy loss for H2.

In your zeal for FCEVs you seem to often lose your objectivity. There is no steady stream of DC for hydrogen to tap. You get a choice, use AC or operate limited hours and encounter higher infrastructure costs.

I've kind of had my fill of true believers lately. I'm going to let you spin this one on by yourself.


""A test on a commonly-used LiCoO2 cell showed that over one year a fully charged cell kept at 25 °C (77 °F) permanently lost 20% of total capacity"

Good thing no EV since the Roadster is using LiCoO2 chemistry, even though real world polling from Roadster uses shows much less capacity reduction.

"On a side note regarding future Tesla PHEV, the NCR 18650 (LiCoO2) used in Model S is not capable of high drain nor fast charging."

Wrong again, Model S does not use LiCoO2, it uses NCA, LiNiCoAlO2, and since the current superchargers are 120kW in the US and 135kW in Europe, and since the S is quite capable of amazing acceleration, your claim that it's "not capable of high drain nor fast charging" is false.

Roger Pham

There could be grid to tank loss for H2 if the electrolyzers are to be run from the grid electricity. From grid electricity, the efficiency is only 71%, not the higher number of 78% efficiency when using Direct Current from solar PV's, as I've shown you. I've already accounted the 10% loss when H2 is compressed to 700 bar. If compressed to 350 bar, the loss is only 5%. There are worse ways to make and distribute H2 like Bossel and you would like to believe, and then there are optimal ways to make H2 that I would like to use for the sake of this discussion.


Thank you for your informational update. I was trying to see if anyone is reading these postings except for Bob and myself. Of course, there has been a recent switch to the NCA type of cells with faster charge potential, or else, Tesla would not be building fast charging stations. Older generation of Tesla used the low-current NCR and are capable of amazing acceleration because of to the sheer size of the battery pack. Low C rate but very large capacity.

Now, please kindly post information as to the aging rate of the NCA type with regard to % loss of capacity yearly, at full charge and at 1/2 charge, and at temperatures of O, 25 and 40 degrees C. If you can't or won't post these requested info, we will assume the worse and use the ageing data for LiCoO2 that's already available for the purpose of our discussion! That ought to motivate you a little bit!


I don't usually take a week to write a reply like this one to Roger Pham, but a whole blog post with analysis had to get done to check out some of the hunches it gave me.

you have not considered a future in which an-H2 piping system feeding local fuel-cells for local co-generation of heat and power, will be the dominant source of energy storage for winter and industrial use.

That's quite right, I have not.  You have to do this if you're capturing power flows, but it makes no sense to convert one kind of energy stockpile (like fissiles) to another just to make electricity again.  Hydrogen is so problematic as a fuel (especially with leaks) that piping it to homes appears to be out of the question.  All the space heat and DHW systems would have to be replaced with ones fully isolated from the indoors, and cooking with it is unthinkable; that's a good chunk of a trillion bucks right there.  This is aside from the capital cost of all the production systems, plus the conversion of what can be converted.

Do you think that electrolytic hydrogen can dominate industrial process heat vs. something like an MSR or LEADIR reactor supplying it directly?

I think the LEADIR concept has a lot going for it.  Small units under cities could supply steam for district heating; the pressure drop between the 300+°C boilers and low-pressure distribution lines can drive turbines for all the electricity anyone could want.  You'd fire them up seasonally, and buildings beyond the steam network could use heat pumps.  Demand-side buffering and DHW can be supplied by molten-salt heat batteries.  For truly emergency fallback in cold snaps, why not wood stoves?  The traditional and romantic heat supply can be practical too.

In this H2-dominant future, FC's will be the grid's main backup power source, so you won't be needing grid-scale battery

EOS is touting the grid-scale battery now.  It's worthwhile now.  Why not let them compete against FCs, and see what wins?  (I think the lack of need for any new infrastructure is likely to make batteries a winner, but we'll see.)

All what needed to be done is to dig up existing NG outdoor piping to replace them with H2-compatible piping

It's a complete replacement operation.  Thats a trillion bucks or a good fraction right there.

We will have name-plate capacity for RE at 3-5 folds average grid requirement.

$5 per average watt plus the storage systems.  China's building AP-1000's at $2.50/W, with no requirement for excess transmission capacity.  You got me going on an analysis that took a week to produce this post.

most homes will have heat pump with COP of at least 3, and in combination with waste heat from the FC's, will be able to double the energy available from stored H2 as compared with when the NG is used currently for furnace combustion for space heating.

Except the round trip from electricity to H2 to electricity again is going to take a pile of equipment used at low capacity factors (meaning EXPENSIVE).  Between grid power to run heat pumps directly, heat batteries and ice storage for buffering and carbon-based fuels for ultimate backup (which may themselves be renewable, like pelletized torrefied biomass), I think this can be done.

My question was simply that 240-kW charging at what cost per station and how would this cost be recovered, since most people would charge their BEV at home

Nobody makes any real profit from fuel any more.  Selling fuel brings people to your C-store, but they're going to stop anyway for that half-gallon of milk they need for dinner.  A fast-charging station will bring people in for between 10 minutes (1-2 kWh PHEV boost) to half an hour (half-charge in a Tesla) and you can sell them lunch or at least a coffee and danish.  That's a buck and a half profit vs. 3 cents a gallon on ten gallons.

It seems to me that what Tesla could do is to develop a PHEV model with a 20-kWh battery pack instead of the 80 kWh pack, and a 2-cylinder 600cc-1000cc engine for range extension that I've outlined before in GCC.

Roger, you forget that Tesla got its drivetrain from AC Propulsion and has all its expertise on hand.  Back in the 1990's, AC Propulsion developed a generator-trailer with self-steeering wheels (so it could be driven in reverse) using a mere 250cc motorcycle engine.  With this trailer, test drivers took cross-country trips in a converted Honda EV.  Tesla knows the upsides and downsides of this.  Tesla's success proves it knows what it is doing.

Rapid charging stations operated in concert with utilities (providing both high-power charging terminals for EVs and peak shaving and spinning reserve for the utility) are a way to leverage assets to provide several services at once.

The H2 infrastructure is a must-have in order to substitute H2 for NG when this fossil fuel will be exhausted.

I dispute that.  Nuclear energy especially eliminates the need for most energy stockpiles, and there are many storable energy options out there which are cheaper, more convenient, or more widely useful than direct production of hydrogen.  Just because they're not sexy doesn't mean that a liquid that sits quietly in a tank is less desirable than the lightest gas in the universe squeezed to 5 tons per square inch.  Quite the opposite.

Roger Pham

Thank you for posting a detailed analysis, esp in your blogosphere site. The data show that the high cost of RE is due largely to the requirement for the very long HVDC line to transport RE from desert areas and Great Plains to the East coast, plus NG or coal backup or battery storage. However, most issues in life are seldom all or nothing, or black and white, but shades of grays. What if RE is used in conjunction with Nuclear Energy (NE)? NE is used for regions with poor RE potential, thus avoiding long HVDC transmission line and reduce the need for H2 storage system. Please kindly re-do the analysis to see how much more practical the scenario would be.

RE is low-cost and quick to setup, but is intermittent so is expensive if backup or storage is required, however, perfect as H2 for transportation fuel. NE is steady and dependable but is more expensive and takes longer to build, but is perfect as baseload provider in region of low RE potential.

The urgency re-GW and Climate change requires that the RE and NE interest groups to work together to overcome the entrenched power of the fossil-fuel interest groups, not for RE and NE to work against each other. What we need now is legislations to gradually curb fossil fuel consumption while building more and more RE and NE capacity.

Likewise, BEV and FCV interest groups should work together to ensure a pollution-free and CO2-free future for our cities and our environment. Both BEV and FCV are good, efficient and affordable means of transportation, and the public should be made aware of that, instead of being told of disadvantages of either.

What if RE is used in conjunction with Nuclear Energy (NE)?

By and large, there's no point in trying to accomodate fluctuating wind/PV electric generation in a grid loaded with carbon-free plants (the chief exception being saving water in a hydro-dominated grid).  Then there's the cost.  Take Germany as an example.  Supposedly it now has 65 GW of nameplate RE on the grid, with 35% of that being owned by individuals.  It's likely that essentially all of that 35% is PV, or 22 GW nameplate.  Given Germany's 11% capacity factor for PV, the average generation is just 2.4 GW.  If it cost as little as 1€/W to put on the grid (ha!), that would still be 9€ per average watt.  Despite the massive cost overruns, the FOAK EPR at Olkiluoto is up to maybe 6€/W(avg).

RE works when collectors are cheap, you don't mind spilling excess energy and you have a buffer.  Solar DHW in sunny climates is one of those applications; water tanks are cheap and not hard to insulate, so yesterday's sun can wash today's laundry.  The grid requires just-in-time delivery or it crashes, HARD.

The urgency re-GW and Climate change requires that the RE and NE interest groups to work together to overcome the entrenched power of the fossil-fuel interest groups

The major "environmental" organizations have been bankrolled by the fossil interests (see Rod Adams' piece on the founding of Friends of the Earth) and are specifically there to stop nuclear energy.  There is no "together" with someone who wants you dead.

I've got nothing seriously against FCVs, I just think they can't compete against BEVs if they use clean H2.  If H2 comes from steam-reformed methane or gasified coal, you've done nothing about carbon.  This is one of the strategies of misdirection the fossil industry uses.  Electric vehicles and even PHEVs mean money goes to carmakers and electric utilities, and a lot less changes hands overall.  The fossil companies will do anything to keep that money going their way, including a lobbying effort to push vehicles that look "green" but still send business to them.


I forgot:  in the all-RE scenario in the spreadsheet, the vast bulk of the cost isn't for HVDC transmission but for storage.  To really make an all-RE grid for the USA, you need at least hundreds of terawatt-hours of storage at a price per kWh in the low double digits.  That, my friend, is a long, long ways away.

This comes down to the difficulty and cost of stockpiling electricity in some other form.  The 4000-something tons of thorium nitrate buried in a dump somewhere in the Southwest is a far better stockpile of energy than a country-full of hydrogen tanks and pipelines.

Roger Pham

Please re-check the cost data and re-do the math. Solar PV now can cost as little as $1/W installed if not made grid compatible (raw DC output).

At a capacity factor of 13% for Japan or 11% for Germany, see how much it would cost per kW when amortized over 30 years? 3 cents/kWh for Japan or 3.6 cents/kWh for Germany. Using this to make H2 at 50 kWh/kg, then the energy cost of the H2 will be $1.5/kg for Japan or $1.77 for Germany. Adding other costs and you can see that this electrolytic H2 now is more than compatible with Petroleum, costing $3.5/kg-equv USA or $6-8/kg-equv in Europe or Japan. This is from roof-top or Parking-lot or street-side PV panels placed near the place of H2 production and consumption. No additional cost for HVDC lines, nor any cost for energy storage.

With automotive FC now costing $50/kW, you can see that similarly home-based FC can't cost too much more, yet can deliver heat and power cogeneration (CHP), thus allowing nearly 100% efficiency of H2 utilization, even using the High-Heat Value of the H2 of 39 kWh/kg when the steam from the HC is condensed to water, not just the 33 kWh/kg Low-Heat Value of H2 when the heat from the steam is not counted when waste heat is not used!
A system of home-based FC-CHP can double the energy efficiency of H2 fuel, unlike the NG CCGT that throws away 1/2 of the energy of NG at the power plant and from transmission loss in the grid.

At the price of NG in Japan or Europe of about $15-20/MMBTU (293 kWh), or 5 cents/kWh, you can see that even electrolytic H2 from solar PV now can beat the cost of NG fossil fuel. Even more so when FCV can double the efficiency of NG-ICEV, or home FC-CHP can double the efficiency of NG-CCGT power plants.

However, using RE-electricity directly to the grid is quite problematic due to their intermittent nature. This problem can be solved, however, by relying on smart-grid and home-based FC-CHP that can quickly react to counter any sag in the supply of solar or wind for grid electricity. FC can react much faster than any type of commercial power plants.

You think that a system of piping of H2 is too expensive? Not really. We did easily afford to have NG to most houses and factories...This type of infrastructure was easy to do, even more so now with increasing industrial productivity and wealth than 60-70 years ago. In fact, many old NG piping are due for replacement, and all of them will need replacement in due time. Just simply replace the NG piping with those that are H2-compatible. Very simple! Placing H2 piping outside the houses only is much easier than placing NG piping all the way INSIDE the house.

Of course, where solar and wind and hydro are not economically available, nuclear energy can take care of all energy needs, WITH a concomitant H2 piping system to provide H2 for transportation fuel AND home FC-CHP to help in grid-buffering so that the nuclear plants can be built in just-enough number and run at 100% of load for maximal construction cost recuperation.

Using NE alone, you will need to rely on batteries, a lot of batteries. Whereas FCV's are now proven with 300-mi range and quick fill up, BEV's are no where near. PHEV's and NE together makes sense, but grid leveling still requires NG power plants standby for peak power delivery, unless you have home-based FC-CHP standing by, and then you'll need H2 piping system. Grid-utility batteries are still way too expensive. A FC costing $50-100/kW that can last 10,000-20,000 hrs will only cost 0.25-1 cent/kWh, while batteries will cost 5-10 cent/kWh for the forseeable future!

In short, a H2 piping and FC-CHP system and FCV can do many things at much much lower costs than battery-based systems, no matter whether RE or NE is being used! RE and NE should be used together, in case of "nuclear winter" due to global-scale nuclear war, during which time, no solar PV will be available. However, nuclear fuels are extremely valuable for humanity, far more important for future space travels to nearby planets, that NE must not be squandered when solar and wind can do the same job for less cost!

Please re-check the cost data and re-do the math. Solar PV now can cost as little as $1/W installed if not made grid compatible (raw DC output).

Without a grid connection, you need either immediate local use or storage.  Remember, storage cost is the killer in the all-RE scenario.

At a capacity factor of 13% for Japan or 11% for Germany, see how much it would cost per kW when amortized over 30 years?

An asset with a warranted life of 25 years or less should not be amortized over 30 years.  At $1/W(peak) and 13% CF, you are over $7.50 per average watt and you can't even dispatch it.  Nuclear is a far better deal even at Olkiluoto prices.

3 cents/kWh for Japan or 3.6 cents/kWh for Germany. Using this to make H2 at 50 kWh/kg, then the energy cost of the H2 will be $1.5/kg for Japan or $1.77 for Germany.

Roll in the cost of the production system, compressors, pipelines and everything else.  My spreadsheet has the amortization function used a few times for an example, just download it, cut and paste to new cells and fill in your own numbers.  A quick search shows pipeline costs as high as $100k per inch-mile, and that survey ended in 2007.  Hydrogen is about 1/3 the energy density of methane, and you're talking a lot more energy being moved so your pipelines will be even bigger.  That is going to run into lots and lots of money, plus political issues with pipelines in general.  It's best just to forget the intermittent generation.

using RE-electricity directly to the grid is quite problematic due to their intermittent nature. This problem can be solved, however, by relying on smart-grid and home-based FC-CHP that can quickly react to counter any sag in the supply of solar or wind for grid electricity.
Weren't you saying to forget the grid connection?

Instead of adding on a heap of systems to manage intermittency, just get rid of it.  While you're building out the nuclear grid, the legacy NG network can be used with e.g. Freewatt-style generators where demand peaks in the winter.  This adds some cost and emits some carbon while operating, but it's incremental and leverages the existing assets.  A bankrupt country cannot even think about massive infrastructure replacement for its own sake.

Roger Pham

Let's look at the entire electricity consumption in the USA per year: ~4,000 billion kWh. Let's look at an even bigger picture: Total yearly energy consumption in the USA: ~25,000 billion kWh.
Assuming average electricity generation efficiency is 40%, then it takes 10,000 billion kWh out of that 25,000 kWh to be devoted to electricity production, leaving 15,000 billion kWh of primary energy consumption for the rest, like transportation, industrial, farming, space heating, etc.

If nuclear energy is to be responsible for 100% of electricity production, at 33% efficiency, then it would take about 12,000 billion kWh of primary thermal nuclear energy to generate 4,000 billion kWh electricity, leaving about 13,000 billion kWh of energy from other non-nuclear sources for other consumptions like transportation. Do you see the enormity of energy demand in the USA?

At 90% capacity factor, it would take about 4,000 billion kWh x 0.9 / 8700 hours/year = 510 GW of nuclear capacity. Current US nuclear capacity is 107 GW, meaning that another 400 GW of nuclear capacity must be built. Wait a minute, total US electricity generation capacity is 1152 GW, for an average capacity factor of only 39%, because of tremendous variability in power demand. If nuclear is to assume 100% of electricty production at all times and nothing else, you must build another 1000 GW of nuclear capacity. Can you estimate how long it would take to achieve that? And at what cost? And at what cost per kWh with amortization and maintenance and fuel cost? This, in comparison to the cost of $50-100/kW for FC-CHP for local use! $5000/kW for nuclear electricity vs $50-100/kW for FC-electricity and electrolyzer for H2 production... hmmmm!!!

Thus, it would be better to build 400 GW of additional nuclear capacity AND building an H2-piping-FC system of at least 600 GW of power, for storing excess nuclear energy when not needed, to produce power when the total demand exceed the 510 GW of nuclear capacity.

Parallel to ramping up nuclear capacity to a goal of 400 GW additional, we must also do something about providing the 13,000 billion kWh of energy for transportation, industrial use, farming, and space heating. RE and H2-piping-FC-CHP-FCV system will now come into play. You see, if RE is devoted entirely for NON-Electricity use, the intermittency is a moot point! The problem of grid balancing and grid backup generation for RE and long HVDC lines are moot points.

When devoted to only H2 production, RE can be obtained much cheaper, at ~1/2 the cost of when RE is shoved directly into the grid that would create headaches for people like KitP trying to balance the grid to prevent blowout, brownout, and blackout!

You cannot compare the cost of NG pipeline system for long-distance and local distribution, to the cost of a mostly-local H2 piping. H2 can be produced mostly locally from RE and NE, unlike NG that must be dug-up from underground and transported thousands of miles! Updating the local NG piping system to become H2-compatible would be much, much cheaper than expanding the NG pipeline and piping system to bring fracked shale gas hundreds to thousands of miles to destination, or to liquefy the NG and transporting it overseas. I'd would estimate a local H2-compatible NG-H2 system of piping and local H2 storage would cost 1/10th the cost of long-distance and local NG pipeline and storage system. You see, where RE is not economically available, one can use NE to produce H2. There is absolutely NO NEED for LONG-DISTANCE H2 pipelines like NG is required to have! H2 can be produce also via thermal-chemical method from high-temp nuclear reactors and from concentrated solar thermal at much higher efficiencies than via the electricity-electrolysis route! All that can be done locally!

Roger Pham

I must hasten to add that since H2 utilization is 2-3x more efficient than fossil-fuel energy, for both transportation and space heating and water heating due to CHP co-generation, the 13,000 billion kWh required yearly for other than electricity production will required only perhaps 7,000 billion kWh's worth of RE electricity going into H2 production, including the loss in electrolysis process! This still is an enormous 100% capacity factor, it would require 800 GW of power. At an average 16% capacity factor for solar in the USA, the total installed solar power will have to be a staggering 5,333 GW of solar PV power. At a cost of 1$/W installed for DC output going directly into the electrolyzers, 5,333 GW of solar power will required $5,333 billion USD...Over 20 years' time, it will be only 250-300 billions/year. This is 1/2 of our current US Defense budget. (Defending us from what?...) Declare WAR on GW and use the defense budget to fight GW and Climate Change, our true enemy!

Can NE do it for less than $5 trillion USD? Perhaps...but not by much!!!NE costs ~5-6x more per nameplate capacity than solar, but has 5-6x higher capacity factor, so NE will cost comparable...But, cost here is a moot point, since the more important question should be asked is: Can nuclear power be built fast enough? But an even more important consideration is: Why not build nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, waste biomass...and all other zero-CO2 energy sources, TOGETHER, at the fastest way we can do!

You see, for the last several decades after the "Inconvenient Truth" was out, humanity was merely re-arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic 2, rather than charting a new course away from the Iceberg (GW)! WE have squandered valuable time...Now is the time for all zero-CO2 interest groups and informed citizens to come together to influence world governments to chart a new course to wean us off all fossil-fuel consumptions, in order to save the Titanic 2 (our Earth mother Spaceship) from its disastrous course!

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