January 24, 2008
Lead Acid UltraBattery Cuts Hybrid Car Costs?

Can improvements on the lead acid battery make it viable for hybrid electric cars?

The future market for hybrid-electric vehicles, at least those that are affordable, isn't necessarily paved with lithium. Researchers in Australia have created what could be called a lead-acid battery on steroids, capable of performing as well as the nickel-metal hydride systems found in most hybrid cars but at a fraction of the cost.

The so-called UltraBattery combines 150-year-old lead-acid technology with supercapacitors, electronic devices that can quickly absorb and release large bursts of energy over millions of cycles without significant degradation. As a result, the new battery lasts at least four times longer than conventional lead-acid batteries, and its creators say that it can be manufactured at one-quarter the cost of existing hybrid-electric battery packs.

The battery has undergone extensive testing in Britain.

The odometer of a low emission hybrid electric test vehicle today reached 100,000 miles as the car circled a track in the UK using the power of an advanced CSIRO battery system.

The UltraBattery combines a supercapacitor and a lead acid battery in a single unit, creating a hybrid car battery that lasts longer, costs less and is more powerful than current technologies used in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

“The UltraBattery is a leap forward for low emission transport and uptake of HEVs,” said David Lamb, who leads low emissions transport research with the Energy Transformed National Research Flagship.

“Previous tests show the UltraBattery has a life cycle that is at least four times longer and produces 50 per cent more power than conventional battery systems. It’s also about 70 per cent cheaper than the batteries currently used in HEVs,” he said.

By marrying a conventional fuel-powered engine with a battery to drive an electric motor, HEVs achieve the dual environmental benefit of reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

The UltraBattery also has the ability to provide and absorb charge rapidly during vehicle acceleration and braking, making it particularly suitable for HEVs, which rely on the electric motor to meet peak power needs during acceleration and can recapture energy normally wasted through braking to recharge the battery.

The designers claim their battery will lower hybrid car design costs by $2000.

The test vehicle was a Honda Insight: a production hybrid (no longer in production) that used a nickel metal hydride battery (the same technology as powers the Toyota Prius). "Our goal was to fit our battery into the same space," Lamb said. "It is 17kg heavier and that creates a fuel consumption penalty of 2.8 percent. But it is about one quarter of the cost, so you save around $2000 on the cost of building the car."

The UK test was undertaken in collaboration with the Furukawa Battery Company of Japan, which manufactured the battery and the US Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium.

The high price of oil should cause a burst of innovation in the coming years. The incentives for energy innovation have gone up dramatically. For this reason alone we should expect some game-changing innovations to emerge in energy and transportation.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 January 24 09:14 PM  Energy Batteries

Joe K. said at January 24, 2008 10:56 PM:

Could supercapacitors be used with nickel-metal hydride or lithium? Would there be commensurate increases in power and life cycle?

Alex Holt said at January 25, 2008 7:37 AM:

They could, but I think that would miss the point, cost is a big factor. The higher the cost of gas, the more that 2.8 percent fuel consumption penalty becomes important. Additionally, I think it worth stress how this battery design is optimized for cars and other applications of similar profile.

Jeremiah Kirkendall said at January 25, 2008 3:59 PM:

The average person driving 12000 miles/yr would spend about $30/yr more for gas if gas cost average is $4/gal. And the difference in millage between a normally powered car is 32 vs. 80 mpg for the capacitor led acid hybrid battery power.

Most cars do not last 66 years $2000/30

Sounds like a winner to me

Fat Man said at January 25, 2008 9:53 PM:

I am trying to learn more about batteries. One thing that bothers me is my lack of chemical knowledge.

It seems to me that every battery chemistry has certain inherent limits. For instance: A lead acid battery combines lead plates and dilute sulfuric acid. The lead and the sulfuric acid react to form lead sulfate and release energy which is drained from the system as electricity. If perfect, the reaction would produce a given quantity of energy per weight of lead and sulfuric acid. That quantity of energy is a limit beyond which lead and sulfuric acid cannot go. There is therefor a maximum MJ/kg number that is the absolute limit for lead acid chemistry.

Similarly there are limits on all battery chemistries.

It seems to me that all battery technologies can be evaluated in terms of their maximum MJ/kg and the real world percentage of that number they achieve.

Does anybody have this sort of information or know where it can be found.

Engineer-Poet said at January 26, 2008 8:35 AM:

One wonders how this compares to e.g. the Firefly Energy 3D² technology.

One also wonders how the lifespan of the battery portion affects the economics of the capacitor, and if the presence of the capacitor affects the recycling of the battery portion.

Fat Man said at January 26, 2008 1:42 PM:

Chris: Thanks, unfortunately the article states the gross chemistry but does not give the electrochemical details, i.e. specific energy, that I want.

Allan said at January 30, 2008 7:50 PM:

One of the big issues with lead-acid batteries is weight. Are they any lighter than conventional lead-acid batteries?

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