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AFC Energy proclaims fuel cell electrodes breakthrough

Fri, 01/25/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

UK hydrogen fuel cell developer AFC Energy is celebrating after extending the longevity of its electrodes to more than six months of continuous operation.

AFC Energy

Electrodes are the critical components of a fuel cell, which enable the electrochemical reactions to occur between hydrogen and oxygen (from air) to generate electricity, heat and water. Laboratory trials of electrodes are on-going and further field trials of improved electrodes are scheduled to begin early next month.

At six months longevity, these applications have the potential to generate significant revenues for AFC Energy whilst also opening up new commercial opportunities in additional territories such as Germany, where the company is already carrying out long-term longevity trials with Akzo Nobel, one of the world's largest chemicals groups.

Ian Williamson, CEO of AFC Energy, said: "Our progress will surprise and challenge the power generating industry and we have recently filed six new families of patents to secure our rights. We look forward to pushing electrode life towards 12 months and beyond where we believe we will have a product that is economic globally in all target markets."

Cummins to target Europe rental market with launch of new gensets

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Cummins is targeting the European rental market with the launch of four generator sets in the 150 to 300 kVA range.

Cummins

According to International Rental News, the rental-specific sets, which have been created by a new Cummins design team led by former A-Plant power rentals director Richard Mellard, are sized at 150, 200, 250 and 300 kVA, with the smaller two using Cummins QSB7 engine and the two larger models equipped with the QSL9 power unit

The sets will be made available in markets including Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Australia. The reports said Cummins would further expand their rental range, with launches of sub-150 kVA units by the end of 2013 or the start of 2014, and larger units following in 2014/15.

The gensets come equipped with Cummins’ PowerCommand controllers, although Cummins plans to offer third-party controllers for rental companies who want commonality across their fleets. The 150 kVA unit can be used in temperatures up to 500C without any derating and the 200/250/300 sets up to 400C with no derating.

Stan Ovshinsky 1922 - 2012

Thu, 01/17/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The inventor of nickel-metal hydride chemistry has died. Stanford Ovshinsky, a self-taught scientist, died of prostate cancer aged 89 on 17 October 2012.

Stanford Ovshinsky

Widely regarded as a genius, if not a savvy businessman, he developed the NiMH battery licensed companies worldwide.

His pioneering work spanned the development digital memory, battery technology, optical media, solar energy and hydrogen storage.

Born in 1922 in Ohio to Lithuanian parents, Ovshinsky was a self-taught scientist; his curiosity of how things work led him to spend much time in libraries. 

One of his earliest papers covered the links between machine and human intelligence, and this resulted in a research job Wayne State University.

Alongside this, he founded a product development company called Energy Conversion Devices in Detroit with his second wife Iris. Here he developed the nickel-metal hydride battery chemistry that he patented in 1998.

His innovation continued throughout his life including solar energy laminates and panels, flat screen liquid crystal displays, rewritable CD and DVDs and nonvolatile phase-change memory.

Ovshinsky is survived by his third wife Rosa, seven children and six grandchildren.

Exide gets a warning from ratings agency

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Moody’s, the credit rating agency that gave Exide a tough time a decade ago is once again putting the company’s financial performance under the microscope.

Exide Technologies has seen weak operating performance over the last two financial quarters that has resulted in a poor credit rating.

Moody’s Investor Services changed Exide’s rating outlook from stable to negative. The company’s rating is categorised as highly speculative in the categories of Corporate Family and Probability of Default Rating, as well as its liquidity rating.

In an attempt to remedy this, and raise its credit rating back to its previous level, the company has closed battery transportation and recycling facilities in Tennessee, Texas and Pennsylvania. The company hopes the savings on operational costs from closing these facilities will improve earnings for 2013.

These combined actions will bring North American capacity down to demand level and limit the company’s exposure to volatile core costs related to recycling.

The company could be in further trouble if it cannot manage fluctuations in commodity costs; if the global demand for battery products dips; or not being able to offset lower demand with restructuring savings could lower operating performance.

If Exide cannot achieve a sequentially consecutive improvement in operating profits, Moody’s could further downgrade it.

The company can be considered for a stable rating when it can sustain EBIT (total expense from interest payments) over 1.0x; generate positive free cash flow; and maintain an adequate liquidity profile.

The sale of the smelter in Frisco, Texas should gain the company US$37million, which will strengthen the company’s US$74 million in cash on its September 2012 balance sheet.

Exide's ‘highly speculative’ Corporate Family Rating of B3 reflects the company's business focus on markets that enjoy greater stability. The automotive aftermarket replacement battery market represents about 75% of Exide's transportation revenues (44% of total revenues). About half of Exide's revenues are generated in North America where industry reports indicate shipments of both aftermarket and OEM batteries have increased on a year-to-date basis through October 2012. 

Green Grid white paper offers fresh perspective on UPS ‘eco mode’ for data centres

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The Green Grid has published a white paper on how Eco Mode can improve data centre efficiency and overall Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) when appropriately deployed.

The paper, Evaluation of Eco Mode in Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems, offers an extensive look into UPS systems, and makes recommendations to data centre managers regarding other power distribution equipment to ensure a reliable power system.  

In order to help understand and deploy what is typically the highest-efficiency mode, the white paper breaks down key elements such as UPS technology and performance, critical power systems configuration, IT power supply ride-through, and utility grid reliability. The white paper explores each of these ideas and their trade-offs, helping data centre operators understand Eco Mode from the ground up.

According to The Green Grid, transfer-time is “one of the most salient performance characteristics for eco mode.” This is the amount of time during which the UPS will not output any power.  

Saft powering Canadian wind turbine

Mon, 11/19/2012 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The energy storage system will include two large-scale lithium-ion battery packs to store energy generated by wind power from an 800kW wind turbine.

The harnessed energy will be fed back to the electrical grid to be used during peak times of energy consumption, with the battery being recharged during off-peak periods.

Saft has demonstrated that this base system achieves a maximum ramp rate of 10% per minute of the rated power output of the 800kW wind turbine while also providing up to 400kWh of peak shaving capability. The flexibility and scalability of Saft's solution also allows the energy content to be increased in 124kWh increments up to 992kWh if additional peak shaving capability is desired.

This is the first project of its kind that Saft is involved in in North America.

Lead-acid growth for Hitachi

Wed, 08/15/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Hitachi Chemical Co will increase its production capacity for industrial lead-acid batteries by next January by expanding facilities of the subsidiary company Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co.

Some US$12 750000 (one billion yen) will be spent on constructing a building with a new assembly line at Shin-Kobe's Nabari Works in Mie Prefecture, the main site making lead-acid batteries.  It is estimated cell production capacity is likely to increase by 50%.

The site will make back-up power source batteries, the LL-W series of which demand is growing for in offices and factories at risk of power failures.  Joining 192 LL-W batteries together can produce 40kw of electricity for around ten hours.

Shin-Kobe Co. accounts for roughly 30% of the domestic market for industrial lead-acid batteries.  The LL-W products claim a battery life of 17 years, one of the world's longest, and are a fraction of the cost of a lithium-ion counterpart. 

South Korea battery exports reach new high

Mon, 07/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

South Korea shipped 20% more rechargeable batteries overseas in 2011 finacial year than the previous year.  Of these, 56% were lithium-ion making South Korea the world’s largest exporter of lithium-ion batteries for 2011.  The exports of the batteries were valued at US$3.8 billion according to the Korea Customs Service.

New battery plant in South Korea

Fri, 07/20/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

A plant to make components for lithium-ion batteries is to be built in South Korea by Belgian company Umicore. 

The high-tech recycler and specialist materials maker will double its capacity of the product as it expands into the market.  The plant should be operational in 2014 to make parts for rechargeable batteries.

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Lead surplus no more?

Thu, 07/19/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Lead supplies could fall into deficit for the first time in five years.  Recycling of car batteries has stunted demand for raw resources but, with a growing market in Asia for electric bikes, industry demand for lead is rising.  

The 2012 global lead market is set to record a surplus of 144,000 metric tons. The price has declined in recent years due to this surplus, with value falling from US$2 700/t to $1 900/t from last year.

Demand for electric bikes should reduce the surplus and push prices up, lead producers would welcome this as prices have fallen steadily since 2007 when it was valued at US$3 890/t on the London Metal Exchange.

With lead producing factories closing in China and environmental concerns hindering expansion, the demand for lead is outstripping supply. 

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