November 28, 2007
New Exxon Mobil Film For Lithium Ion Car Batteries

This discovery is not consistent with conspiracy theories about how oil companies are holding back discoveries of substitutes. Though I'm confident dedicated conspiracists can reconcile this announcement with their beliefs. Anyway, ExxonMobil claims a discovery by their researchers will make lithium ion batteries usable in cars.

ExxonMobil Chemical and ExxonMobil's Japanese affiliate, Tonen Chemical, have developed new film technologies for lithium-ion batteries with the potential to improve the energy efficiency and affordability of next generation hybrid and electric vehicles.

These new film technologies are expected to significantly enhance the power, safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries, thereby helping speed the adoption of these smaller and lighter batteries into the next wave of lower-emission vehicles.

“By developing new film technologies that allow lithium-ion batteries to meet hybrid and electric vehicle requirements, ExxonMobil Chemical is helping to make next generation vehicles more energy and cost efficient, as well as lighter,” said Jim P. Harris, senior vice president, ExxonMobil Chemical Company. “We are currently working with industry-leading battery manufacturers to expand the boundaries of current hybrid and electric vehicle applications.”

The nickel metal hydride batteries found in hybrids like the Toyota Prius don't have enough storage capacity and low enough cost to make pluggable hybrids and pure electric cars practical. The great hope is for both cost and safety breakthroughs with lithium-based batteries. A number of companies are chasing this goal. A123Systems and LG Chem are both in the running to supply next gen batteries to General Motors for the Chevy Volt pluggable hybrid. ExxonMobil apparently is making it easier for more lithium battery makers to compete. Sounds good to me.

The film protects batteries from overheating of the sort that caused laptop batteries to catch fire.

Exxon Mobil developed its film with Japanese affiliate Tonen Chemical. Invented in research labs at Exxon Mobil's Baytown complex, the film is the first to squeeze multiple layers of plastic into a single white sheet the width of a human hair.

The added layers enable the batteries to run at higher temperatures — and produce more power — while still protecting them from overheating, company officials said. It also incorporates features that cause it to shut down if there is a short circuit in the battery.

Exxon and Tonen are going into production with this film at a plant in Gumi South Korea.

Exxon says this film will make a new generation of hybrids possible.

"This new technology for making films, will make the next generation of hybrid and electric vehicles possible," said Jim Harris, a senior vice president at ExxonMobil Chemical Co.

The world is in a race between population growth and resource depletion that cause problems and technological advances that solve at least some of those problems. Advances in battery technologies definitely fit the bill as necessary to deal with resource depletion and population growth.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 November 28 10:32 PM  Energy Batteries

RP said at November 29, 2007 2:01 AM:

The nationalization of foreign oil, dwindling domestic production, and the spectre of global peak oil will transform the big oil companies into big energy companies. Would you be at all suprised to see Exxon Mobil buy Westinghouse, for instance? I think it would be a smart move on their part. Yes the oil companies have great political power and they have not been responsible in how they have used it, but all the political power in the world won't wring more oil from the earth. First and foremost, oil companies are about profit, and so I would expect them to move into algae biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, coal-to-liquids, nuclear, wind, solar, batteries, etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, this blog is a great resource for news and smart commentary on energy issues, and it is always interesting to watch the proprietor vacillate between cautious optimism and dread about our energy future.

Jake said at November 29, 2007 10:05 AM:

Oil companies are the largest producers of alternative energy. Thus they receive more government alternative energy subisidies than anyone else-even Al Gore.

That is the dirty secret about government subsidies. Most of the money goes to people and companies who do not need it.

Ken said at December 1, 2007 1:09 PM:

I do wonder how many patents with potential have failed to be adequately resourced by the patent holders - and are kept from sale to companies that might do the necessary R&D. Not necessarily because they conspire, but simply see it as low priority, not their core business and their best minds are focused elsewhere. i.e. shortsightedness. Still, I'd be surprised if there aren't cases where development is held back because the existing products/processes are very profitable and cheaper better ones would spell obsolescence on a timetable that doesn't suit their business plans - buying up such patents to keep them out of the hands of competitors and having little incentive to follow through any time soon could see valuable new developments languish. That said, I think the importance and future profit potential of developments such as this particular one are becoming more obvious, even to a company that stands to profit enormously - given insatiable demand and flattening supply of their core products - and are quite ruthless when it comes to competition. Even significant breakthroughs in batteries are unlikely to impact that profitability any time soon and I think they know that.

RealityBytes said at December 4, 2007 10:22 PM:

If a 40mile range. "PHEV" battery can be made, and it seems inevitable, then electricity becomes the alpha and omega of energy usage.


Because the average person drives less than 40miles per day. Once people start plugging in, they start tuning out the gas station.

I pray for that day, because it would start down the path toward solving a LOT of different issues.

Benefitting (in no particular order or importance):
1. Global warming. The shit has already hit the fan, but we can hope for some mitigation.
2. Oil dependence
3. Air pollution - asthma, immune system depression, ground level ozone, carbon monoxide poisoning... et al.
4. Auto design
5. Renewable energy industry- jobs?
6. the strangle hold of big oil.

Now big oil can and probably already has been killing the plug- in. They are desperate for a "transitional fuel", but IMHO it's bullshit. A decent 40mile battery will sink their battleship. However, the writing is on the wall, and the smarter companies are starting to make the change, at least in word, and perhaps in deed. We due to see the plug in by 2012, I take promises by the auto manufacturers with a big chunk of aSphALT.

The oil companies will be the king makers, a new investment banker industry, and they will probably try to force flex fuels. They will fight the elimination of the gas tank. But there are a lot of cracks in their armor now. New energy is popping up, the public is more aware, and the industries themselves are changing. The democrats will probably take office, and global warming politics will railroad oil industry backed projects. If the plug-in hybrid can make it to market, I bet (hope?) that things will change rather quickly. Ergo. The plug-in hybrid can change everything, for the better.

Sure they will probably build a lot of coal plants to fuel the plug-in, but it will stimulate every other industry.

"Plug-In Hybrids Are Cleaner (Even on a Coal Grid) "

If the energy underdogs (renewables) get their day in the sun, perhaps breakthroughs will give them the power to slay the dragon. It is my hope for the future.

Donnie Clapp said at May 9, 2008 9:28 AM:

I can't imagine that up until now, battery technology has not been able to be advanced to a degree that plug-in hybrids are viable, but now all of a sudden ExxonMobil puts its mind to it and presto! better batteries. I'm sure the above posters are on to something when they talk about buying up and shelving promising patents until there is no alternative but to become the king of battery power.


Jerry Warren said at June 16, 2008 10:38 PM:

Seems like Exxon has made it's fill of cash lately and wants to relieve social pressures against both its part in the big, sloppy, price gouging oil company's collective persona. This, by way of taking on the role and persona as "The" producing leader in the now long and seriously desired effective/efficient energy (E3) market. Yes, ominous "handwriting" is beginning to appear "on the wall" to them, and they are taking heed.


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