August 05, 2008
EEStor Claims Battery Energy Density Breakthrough
Venture capital start-up EEStor claims their battery outperforms lithium-based batteries.
EEStor claims that its system, called an electrical energy storage unit (EESU), will have more than three times the energy density of the top lithium-ion batteries today. The company also says that the solid-state device will be safer and longer lasting, and will have the ability to recharge in less than five minutes. Toronto-based ZENN Motor, an EEStor investor and customer, says that it's developing an EESU-powered car with a top speed of 80 miles per hour and a 250-mile range. It hopes to launch the vehicle, which the company says will be inexpensive, in the fall of 2009.
But skepticism in the research community is high. At the EESU's core is a ceramic material consisting of a barium titanate powder that is coated with aluminum oxide and a type of glass material. At a materials-research conference earlier this year in San Francisco, it was asked whether such an energy-storage device was possible. "The response was not very positive," said one engineering professor who attended the conference.
Click through to read the details on what they claim and why some academics are skeptical. If they succeed and can hit low enough price points then electric cars become quite viable. Plus, wind and solar will become more viable as baseload power sources. We are in a race between the depletion of oil fields and the development of substitute technologies. Battery technologies play a very important part in that race.
Everything I've read suggests that EEStor's claims are possible, but risky. Many, many companies have things that work in the lab, but aren't commercially viable. We can only hope they succeed, but not hold our breath waiting.
paul-diggy on August 4, 2008 8:41 am said:
“Don’t forget the Lockheed Martin is in on the deal too! They take their investments pretty seriously and I’m sure they are privy to all sorts of information that we aren’t. They’re looking at this technology for replacing all batteries in the thousands of products they produce for the U.S. military from night vision goggles to electrical systems on missiles. If there wasn’t results to back up these claims, they wouldn’t have the support they do!” http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/newenergyandfuel/com/2008/01/15/checking-the-facts-in-the-eestore-lockheed-agreement/
"Don’t forget the Lockheed Martin "
Yes, that's a good sign. OTOH, LM hasn't made a commitment, and explicitly says they haven't seen a demo. Again, promising but risky.
These people have been making claims for quite some time. I will believe it when they come out with a commercial product.
EEStor may or may not have the ability to produce the ultracapacitor they promise to deliver. "Theoretically possible" is all well and good, but they're talking about separating thousands of volts with a barrier microns thick, and it wouldn't take much of a flaw to allow a spark to breach that barrier. I still believe the technology is promising, however. Even if the final capacity is half of EEStor's claims, the prospect of a storage system that doesn't degrade (as with most battery chemistries) and can take a charge as fast as electrons can be pushed into it (as a capacitor does) will be a drastic improvement over the current battery technology available. I want an electric car that can charge in five minutes and can fully utilize regenerative braking, and there isn't a battery in the market today that can provide this kind of performance.
Actually, Altairnano and/or A123 currently does produce a battery that pretty much meets those specs. It can charge in 10 minutes, with a demo that proved it to the California Air Resources Board, as I recall. And I believe it can be cycled 20,000 times. Plus, I don't think you need to have your battery have the regenerative charging capabilities of an ultracap - just add in a small ultracap to do that. That's already being done as well, even now for large trucks.
But the kicker with Lithium-Ion batteries, is the expense. They don't make it really clear, but it looks to me like a battery that will get 300 miles or so in a not-too-tiny car will cost the better part of $40K. But that's not really outrageous before volume production. I think $10K for such a battery would be quite reasonable. If it would last 10 years, and you could lease it monthly instead of paying for gas, as GM is considering, then that would be reasonably viable.
We already have volume production of lithium batteries for laptop computers. They are expensive. I think the bigger problem with lithium might be the amount of energy needed to make them. See my post New Method Lowers Energy Cost Of Lithium Battery Manufacture. I had no idea before coming across that report that lithium battery manufacture requires such high temperatures for hours.
"We already have volume production of lithium batteries for laptop computers. "
1) We don't have high volumes, we have medium volumes. Volumes will increase by orders of magnitude when PHEV's start production. 2) Conventional li-ion prices are falling predictably by 8-10% per year, as manufacturing experience and volumes increase. 3) Even now, conventional li-ion prices are at about $400/KWH, which would make the Volt battery only $6,400, and 4) the large format, low material cost chemistries planned for the Volt are inherently cheaper.
"I think the bigger problem with lithium might be the amount of energy needed to make them."
The major cost is labor - I understand that currently li-ion is hand-made by cheap, unskilled chinese labor. Makes you understand why Toyota is nervous about quality control. OTOH, there is enormous potential for cost reduction.
"the bigger problem with lithium might be the amount of energy "
I would crawl out on a limb and speculate that you've been reading a lot on Peak Oil websites like The Oil Drum. I like TOD, but I read it with great care, as there is a persistent bias towards seeing the world through the prism of PO, energy costs, commodity limits, and E-ROI, which very often don't really apply.
Honestly, Eestor has been making a lot of claims for for maybe 3 years now. They have produced absolutely nothing of substance, with the exception of rumor and speculation. Many industry professionals and ultra-cap researchers are highly skeptical of Eestor's claims - given the lack of ANYTHING that is verifiable, it would seem that those who doubt Eestor's claims are in fact correct.
The recharge stories really bother me.
What little I know about electricity is that Watts = Volts * Amps.
The biggest power cords in the nearby Lowes are the ones for electric ranges. They are rated for 240 Volts at 50 Amps. That cord can carry 12kW. The charge that it can deliver in 5 minutes is 1kWh. Your average lamp cord is more like 10 amps at 120 V, or one tenth as much as a range cord. That would mean 50 min. for a 1 kWh charge.
How far can you go on 1kWh? I found a report on a testing program NREL ran in the 90s: 2002-01-1916, Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Testing by James E. Francfort and Lee A. Slezak. [PDF].
The most efficient vehicle they tested could get 6.6 km/kWh in a dynamometer test, but on the highway it was about half that efficient. Let's go with 6.6 km (4.1 mi) because that is the distance to from my house my mother's condo. Once I get there, I might have to take her to see her doctor, another 10 km and bring her home, and go home myself. The total round trip is 33.2 km. so I would need to charge for 25 min with my 240V, 50 Amp cable. Of course stopping at the bakery on the way home, which is 3 km in the other direction is out of the question, unless I add 5 more minutes of charging.
If you are driving 6.6 km in 5 minutes, you are driving 79.2 km/h (49 mph). Now, as an average speed for a highway trip in an urban area. That is not too bad. Any faster than that and you will spend more time charging than driving.
If you are a suburbanite with an enclosed garage with full electric service, you may not be perturbed, but if you live in the city and park your car in the street, how are you going to charge it? Range cords are out of the question. The heaviest extension cords are rated for 30 Amps and 120 V. That means a 1kWh charge will take more like 17 min. The trip with mom, her doctor and the bakery, will be more like an hour and 40 minutes of charging.
Personally, I just don't see electric cars or phevs as a panacea.
I've read reports of existing lithium ion battery factories in Japan. Here's a new report on Sony plans to increase lithium battery production in Japan:
Sony Corp will invest about 40 billion yen (US$372 million) to boost its output capacity of lithium-ion batteries amid growing global demand, the company said.
On top of plans to increase production in Singapore and China, the Japanese consumer electronics firm said it will build new facilities and enhance existing lines in Japan, hoping to expand output capacity to 74 million cells per month in 2010 from the current 41 million cells.
Matsushita is building the world's largest lithium battery plant in Japan and this plant will triple their production.
Given that hundreds of millions of dollars get spent on these plants and in Japan they must be pretty automated. Here's still more on Japanese battery manufacturing plants:
Just last week, Panasonic said it would earmark $1.1 billion for a new factory (it will initially crank out 300 million lithium-ion batteries a year when it’s completed in April 2010, and double that amount 18 months later) and another $212 million to refurbish three existing plants. Early in July, the Nikkei reported that Sanyo, the world’s No. 1 lithium-ion batter producer, would drop $500 million on new factories that are expected to be up and running next spring.
Got another source if info for you on electric car energy usage. A full sized SUV might use only 460 watt-hours/mile (0.46 kwh/mile) (warning: PDF file).
If we assume your 120V and 30 amps then that would work out to about 8 minutes to recharge per mile of driving, right? Given that you can travel a mile a minute it works out to 8 hours of charging per hour of commuting.
That long recharging time okay if you do not mind charging up overnight. But it doesn't make the electric car useful for longer trips. Also, it does not work well for people who do not park in suburban house garages. I'd have to run an electric cord out to the street and have it there all night for who knows whoever to come by and mess with it.
Suppose you use 500 watt-hours per mile (though in the comments here Engineer-Poet claims a pure electric Prius conversion uses 262 watt-hours per mile). That's 30 kwh per hour when going 60 miles per hour. 30000 watts divided by 240V is 125 Amps. So if you could charge at 240V and 125 Amps you could charge as fast as you would use the power.
How costly would it be to get a 240V, 125 Amp plug installed on the side of your house and would you be able to recharge your car in the rain?
"Given that hundreds of millions of dollars get spent on these plants and in Japan they must be pretty automated."
Seems reasonable, but it would be nice to get more detailed info. Trade journals are probably the place - general interest journalism is just too light on details.
Re charging time: the average driver drives about 30 miles per day. At 240V and 30A, and .3KWH/mile, that's a little more than an hour per night. If you had a bigger battery, you could charge ahead for longer trips.
240 V 125 AMP? I don't think so. That is a very big number. You would have to go to stuff that is normally only handled by electricians, and turn off everything in the house to use it.
.46 kWh/mi = .46 kwh/3.8km = 8.3 km/kWh I am skeptical.
If Nick's numbers are right GM is planning to use 16 kWh to push its Volt 40 mi (64 km) so that would be 4 kWh/km. That figure is more in line with the tests I cited.
GM will only use 8 of the 16KWH's, to ensure battery longevity. Actually, they expect to get about 50 miles for 8KWH's, to start with - the 40 mile range is at the end of warranty. You can trust their numbers - their testing regime is very serious.
Don't forget, older numbers use much less efficient batteries (li-ion is 90%+ efficient round trip), and I suspect they're including transformer losses.
8 KWH for 40 miles would be 200 watt-hour/mile. That is more in line with the PNL numbers I provide.
I do not see the need for fast recharging for commuter cars. People will plug in when they get home and unplug in the morning when they go to work. Though this only works well for people who have garages and car ports.
Does this super capacitor obey the 1/2CV squared law of capacitors? If so, the energy required to charge it will be about 210% of the stored KW Hours. Imagine for a moment. At minimum, a 30 HP electric motor would be required to have a practical car. At 100% efficiency, and 50 miles per hour, we need some 7500 Watt Hours to make the 500 mile trip. To replace the 7500 watt hours with a 90% efficient charger we have to supply 15,750 Watt hours in 5 minutes. And, we need to do something about the 7,500 Watt Hours converted to heat as we do so. But it gets better. We are going to push these 15,000 Watt Hours into the capacitor in 5 minutes, which requires a 180,000 Watt rate. Assuming the typical 200 Volt system, that's a mere 900 Ampere connection to the car. I think they have something like that on Diesel Electric locomotives. Absolutely absurd. People putting millions into this implies there is something we are not being told.
You wouldn't need to charge these things directly from the mains. You could have another EESU sitting at home drawing power all day/night, then when you need to recharge your car, pass it all in at once. The home EESU would be useful for power outages as well, I guess.
Need a bloody big cable between the two, I suppose, but it is doable.