We have been tracking energy storage research and results since January of 2010.
Energy storage is the biggest challenge facing electric vehicle travel. It is important to remote energy facilities like wind farms and solar facilities as well. A lot of people are working on this problem. Research and production results are listed below from last to latest.
Check on the market
The young EV lithium ion battery industry is already over built. According to Lux Research, EV battery supply is on track to far exceed demand soon. This is due in large part to a lagging electric car market. As happens in a shrinking market, only a few battery producing companies are likely to survive. Others will merge and consolidate.
A few possible long term contenders are: SB LiMotive, LG Chem, China Aviation, BYD and China BAK. A123 Systems and Ener1 are listed as hopeful.
The market is not looking too good for: International Battery, K2 Energy Solutions, Valence Technology, Leyden Energy, Electrovaya and Altair Nano.
Prices down, Profits up: Recent forecasts indicate that by 2017 battery prices should drop by 1/3. Likewise, the world EV battery market is estimated to top $40 billion by 2020.
A123 Battery has gone bankrupt, filed Chapter 11. The company got a $249.1 million federal grant which has drawn attention from the Anti-EV crowd. Financially the company showed a debt of $376 million and assets of $460 million. Johnson Controls will assume control of the automotive part of A123 for some $125 million and will finance A123 operations to the tune of $72.5 million.
The A123 company has been purchased by the U.S. Branch of the Chinese auto concern Wanxiang Group Corp. for $256.6 million. Th sale is subject to Government approval.
Nissan working with Kansei University in Japan claim to have developed a new device to charge a Nissan Leaf sized pack in 10 minutes! The new device replaces a carbon capacitor with tungsten oxide/vanadium oxide. It could take years however to commercialize the product.
Feb. 2012: A GM funded company Envia Systems claims a 400 Watt-Hour battery module weighing in at just 1 kg (2.2 lbs) and costing just $125 per kWh to produce! GM is testing the batteries. Improvements are credited to a Manganese based Cathode, and novel electrolyte.
Oct. 2012: The CalBattery company claims to have developed a new silicon-graphene composite anode in conjunction with new cathode and electrolyte materials. Independent testing has shown an energy density of 525 Watt hours per kilogram and specific anode capacity of some 1,250 milli amp hours per gram.
Hold the research bus. Workers at the Ohio State University have noticed that inside the Li-Ion battery, a layer of lithium ions actually builds up over time. The ions become deposited on the copper sheet called the current collector. The ratio is 1 lithium atom per 1250 copper atoms. This is significant since lithium ions only count for 1.5 to 3 percent by weight of ions in the battery.
Once deposited the ions are out of service and battery performance likewise decreases. Retarding deposition appears to be a preliminary step in improving li-ion battery performance.
Researchers at the City College of New York and Rice University in Texas have engineered a cathode for the li-ion- battery made entirely of a plant based material called purpurin. A working prototype appears to be on the horizon.
The Bottom Line
Recent estimates indicate that the current Lithium Ion EV battery market has reached some $1.6 billion annually. The market is forecast to grow to around $22 billion per year in 2020.
GM backed Envia promises a lot
Energy Storage is not simple to accomplish
Results are listed by month and year. 2013 results are on this page. 2010-2012 results may be downloaded here.
Most research is in the area of improving the storage battery. The most common battery chemistry is Lithium-Ion or Li-Ion. We cover battery chemistry in our other battery pages.
There is much apparent progress, but no silver bullet battery has yet to be produced that increases storage and lowers cost.
The startup SiNode Systems is experimenting with perforated graphene anodes. The result could be a battery holding 10 times more energy than the conventional graphite anode.
An apparent breakthrough in Power Density has been achieved by workers at the University of Illinois. The improvement in structure allows li-ion batteries to be charged and discharged orders of magnitude faster than
current batteries. Think ultracapacitor. However, the fast exchange rates do not come with an increase in energy density - the amount of energy in the battery.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden have managed to extend the life of lithium sulfur batteries to 200 cycles. Li-Sulfur batteries have a higher energy density (600 Wh/kg compared to 200) and cost less than li-ion batteries.
The Perfect Lithium Corp. Announced a manufacturing process they say can cut lithium ion battery costs in half.
The process cuts out up to 75% of current production steps in the production of fine, ultra-fine, nano-scale and uniform ceramic powders. The company has applied for a patent and is negotiating with manufacturers.
Silicon Nano Beads are the approach taken by the University of Maryland NanoCentre to increase storage. The
researchers attached organic molecules to carbon nanotubes just 50 nm in diameter. The tubes were then surrounded with a silicon gas. Beads from the gas grew on the tubes. The new structures are in testing.
Sodium Air batteries as an alternative to Lithium Air batteries. Lithium air batteries promise very high energy density - see November, 2011. They can store a lot of energy that is. The only problem is the complexity of the battery keeps it from being developed much beyond the lab.
The Na-O2 cell was made of a metallic sodium based anode, a separator of glass fiber, and a cathode made of carbon fiber or a GDL, carbon fiber gas diffusion layer. Energy densities of around 1,600 Watt-Hr per Kg appear possible. The main problem is the low number (8) recharge cycles obtained so far before the end of the battery.
The Real World
Disregarding the R&D for a moment, the German concern DBM-Energy has reportedly produced the "Hummingbird" Lithium-Metal-Polymer Battery that has enabled several record EV runs. First was a 602 km (374 mi) NON-STOP trip from Munich to Berlin. The run was questioned as rigged somehow.
Now, a second test has seemingly verified the first. In March, another Audi was fitted with a smaller Hummingbird. The car performed exactly as the first, and posted a verified 455 km (282 mi) range. EvsRock!
Creative Thinking: BAE Systems is working on integrating EV batteries with structural car components. A Lola race car prototype has been developed and is testing.