Nice Battery Report
By EV World
"It's not one of the most unpleasant cities to visit," teased Netherlander Sjef Peeraer when reporting on the Batteries 2007 conference held in Nice, in the south of France. Although, he admits that, like many technical conferences, he didn't get to see much of the city, he did get to meet and talk with representatives from Valence, EnerDel and BYD, the Chinese battery maker who bought a car company and announced recently that it will be offering an electric model in 2008, some five years after launching its EV effort.
Peeraer heads a Dutch-based research and consulting firm called SPInnovation, which has been tracking electric vehicle developments, as well as working to introduce plug-in hybrids into Europe. He generously offered to report on what he learned while at the conference, and you can listen to his review using either of the two MP3 players at the top of the page or by downloading the 5.8MB audio file to your computer hard drive to playback on your favorite MP3 device.
The spectrum of batteries discussed in various papers ranged from inductively-charged hearing aide batteries to electric vehicles. While the primary focus on the meeting was on presenting technical papers, there was a small exhibit area featuring among the EV-related firms, Valence, Enerdel and BYD. He reports that Altair Nanotechnology attended the conference, but did not have a exhibit.
Peeraer spent time talking with BYD's representative in their exhibit area and concludes that their secret battery technology is most likely lithium iron-phosphate, not the nickel iron battery some have speculated.
With Enerdel's CEO, Ulrik Grape, manning the exhibit both the entire three days, Peeraer reports that the company was having conversations with various European car manufacturers about its lithium-ion battery technology, which it recently announced will cost only $1,500 for a comparable hybrid car battery pack, dramatically cutting the hybrid "premium." The company claims this battery can replace current NiMH batteries in cars like the Prius and be half the weight and half the volume.
Like Altair Nanotechnologies, Enerdel is also using Lithium Titanate, as are other firms including A123 and Valence, Peeraer says. While it doesn't have the energy density of other chemistries, Lithium Titanate Spinel is very safe and has extraordinary charge/discharge capabilities both in terms of rapid charging and life cycle. Altair's batteries have demonstrated full charge capability in ten minutes and thousands of cycles.
Despite their lower voltage and energy density, this chemistry shows promise, especially in public transit situations where a bus, tram, or trolley now can be free of overhead electrical wires and/or polluting fossil fuel engines. It can be recharged quickly at various stops along its route instead.
During the conference, a representative of JCS -- the joint venture of Johnson Controls and Saft -- commented that while hybrids vehicles are definitely on the verge of a breakthrough, pure battery electric vehicles are still, from JCS' perspective, a "distant dream."
Perhaps the surprise of the conference was Altair's announcement that in 18 months it will be at "half a dollar per watt hour," eliciting a certain amount of skepticism, but since others who are experimenting with Titanate anodes are seeing similar performance numbers, Peeraer tends to find the company's claims increasingly credible.
His company, SP Innovation is working with Amberjac in the UK to introduce plug-in hybrid vehicle conversions to Europe, as well as developing an extensive database of alternative fuel vehicles, which EV World is considering integrating into our web site.
For him, the most exciting part of the conference was the focus by increasing numbers of companies on Titanate because it opens up a lot of new green tech applications.