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China unveils a new round of electric car subsidies

Wed, 09/18/2013 - 09:28 -- Editor

China has unveiled a new round of subsidies for fuel-efficient vehicles in a bid to combat rising air pollution in its major cities.

The government will provide up to 60,000 yuan ($9,800) to buyers of all-electric, "near all-electric" and hydrogen vehicles until 2015, according to the BBC. The policy is expected to boost Chinese automakers such as BYD, which makes electric cars and batteries. However, the programme does not include gasoline-electric hybrid cars.

In a statement, the government said the policy was aimed at "accelerating the development of new-energy vehicles, promoting energy saving and reducing air pollution". China aims to put five million "new-energy" vehicles on the road by 2020.

According to the state-owned Xinhua news agency, there were about 27,800 new-energy vehicles being used last year, mostly buses. China's last electric vehicle subsidy programme expired at the end of 2012, but failed to provide a large boost to electric car sales.

Sacred Sun Power opens state-of-the-art lead-acid plant

Thu, 08/22/2013 - 15:32 -- Ruth Williams

Shandong Sacred Sun Power Sources Co. Ltd has opened a state-of-the-art facility that, when running at full capacity, will be one of the largest lead-acid battery factories in the world. The production site in Qufu City, Shandong, China, currently has an annual production capacity of four million kVAh, when the plant is fully operational this could reach six million kVAh each year.

The one billion RMB (US$163 million) plant is part of the new environmentally-conscious era of Chinese lead-acid battery manufacturing because it adheres to the Lead-Acid Battery Industry Access Conditions that have recently been announced by the Chinese Government.

Some Chinese battery producers have been criticised for lead contamination coming from plants. To prevent such pollution, Sacred Sun has introduced ultramodern production processes and equipment including a fully automatic lead-milling process, a closed-loop system to supply, recover and recycle lead in production, and fully enclosed battery formation. These methods are highly effective for reducing lead fumes and dust. The new plant also uses advanced technology and equipment for producing tubular plating.

According to the Lead-Acid Battery Industry Access Conditions, as set out by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People's Republic of China, new, reorganised and expanded lead-acid battery manufacturers' capacities can be no less than 500,000 kVAh, in the hope of improving the industry access threshold.

Shandong Sacred Sun Power Sources, located in Qufu City, Shandong Province, China, was established in 1991. The company produces lead-acid batteries that are primarily used in standby power and electric vehicle applications around the world.

Rolls-Royce wins $40m contract to power Turkmenistan-China natural gas pipeline

Mon, 02/25/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Rolls-Royce has bagged a $40m contract to supply equipment and related services to power the flow of natural gas through the Uzbekistan section of the Turkmenistan-China natural gas pipeline.

Rolls-Royce will supply Asia Trans Gas (ATG LLC), a joint venture between Uzbekistan's Uzbekneftegaz and China’s National Petroleum Corporation, with three RB211 gas turbine driven pipeline compressor units for operation at a compressor station on the 530km Uzbekistan section of the 1,830 km Turkmenistan-China natural gas pipeline.

The Uzbekistan section of the Turkmenistan-China natural gas pipeline will transport 25 billion cubic meters per year of gas from Turkmenistan, through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, to China, helping to stabilise China’s consumption of natural gas.

Rolls-Royce will manufacture and package the equipment at its energy facilities in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and Mount Vernon, Ohio, USA.

A123 sale complete to Chinese automaker

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The sale of A123’s automotive assets to Wanxiang Corporation has closed for US$256.6 million. An assurance has been made that Wanxiang America will continue to operate A123 as a wholly owned subsidiary, focussing upon making micro-hybrid batteries. 

Wanxiang America President Pin Ni, said:  “A123 is a company with exceptional talent and potential, Wanxiang America is committed to the long-term success and the continuance of its US operations.”

The US Department of Energy gave A123 a grant of US$249 million to build new plants in Michigan and create 3000 new jobs. Up until bankruptcy proceedings it had only spent $132 million and created 1300 jobs. This loan will only be repaid if A123 cannot fulfill the initial promises. 

Amid fears of US-taxpayer funded development going into the hands of a foreign company, federal approval for the sale had to be obtained. The defence and security contracts were sold to a small US-based pack maker called Navitas for US$2.2 million. By ensuring these contracts remained within the US reduced fears of security breaches if technology developed for US military was in the hands of a non-allied nation.

Navitas’s founder and COO Alan ElShafei said: "I don't want to say we're a savior on the government side, but that's kind of our role. There are some unique technologies we're acquiring that Wanxiang will not have access to."

The Chief Executive of A123, David Vieau, has left the company to “pursue other interests.”

 

Plant-based anodes for lithium batteries

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Chinese companies Kuraray and Kureha are to produce lithium-ion batteries made from plant-based raw materials at a joint factory in Okayama Prefecture.

Traditionally the anode material comes from graphite but the new factory will use ‘hard carbon’ made from plant materials, including coconut shells.  The effect of using the hard carbon will have a more complex crystal structure than conventional graphite.  This will reduce deterioration occurring because of repeated charge – discharge cycles.

The factory for the joint venture will be built at Kuraray Chemical’s carbon plant and will cost US$ 38 159 000.  Output of the factory should be 1 000 tons of anode material annually.  Building work is due to commence in October with plans for the factory to be operational in Autumn 2013 with plans for expansion already being considered.

Chinese rare earth exports

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

China has published a white paper confirming its position on rare earth elements following a complaint filed to the World Trade Organisation.  The US, EU and Japan protested China are limiting their export of rare earth elements to protect domestic industries. China has rebuked this claim and cites mounting environmental damage by over-mining as the reason for slowing its mining programme.
The country is now being criticised for manipulating its estimation of reserves held. Previously they claimed to have 30% of the global reserves but now state it is closer to 20%. The Chinese government is fearful of the environmental impact of over mining.  The country has already come under much scrutiny for its poor environmental track record so vigilance should be welcomed. However some critics fear the re-estimation and slower mining of reserves could have more to do with keeping prices up than concerns for the land they come from.
Industries rely heavily upon rare earth elements and will have to look elsewhere for resources if China is to stand by its conviction.  Greenland could hold the answer, there is an estimated quarter of the elements required globally hidden beneath its ice.  Alternatively countries could follow suit with South-East Asia and by ‘urban mining’ – reclaiming used materials from landfill sites.

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. 

Lithium-ion without the rare earth metals

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

A Tohoku University researcher last month announced the development of a lithium-ion battery whose positive electrode does not use any rare earth metals.

Conventional lithium-ion batteries do use rare metals, such as cobalt and nickel, in the positive electrode. Due to their geochemical properties rare earth elements can be dispersed and often not found in concentrated or economically exploitable forms.  This makes these metals costly, and supplies not always stable. Eliminating them will likely make the batteries cheaper to manufacture.

China announced plans in 2009 to reduce its export quota of rare earth minerals to around 350,000 tons per year to conserve scarce resources and protect the environment.  This has led to other countries stock-piling their reserves.  The EU, US and Japan have brought a complaint to the World Trade Organisation alleging China is restricting the exports to maximize domestic use and thus distort the global economy.

Professor Itaru Honma of Tohoku University's Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Advanced Materials has succeeded in replacing these metals with organic substances. As a result, costs of materials for the positive electrode have been slashed to less than one-fifth what they were before.

Professor Honma made a button-sized lithium-ion battery for testing. This prototype achieved an energy density of 200 watt-hours per kilogram -- roughly double that of current lithium-ion batteries. Tests confirmed that the button-sized battery could withstand at least 100 charge-discharge cycles.

The next step will be to look further for organic materials that more efficiently store power and boost the battery's capacity, with a goal of developing a secondary battery for electric vehicles.

Japan losing out in the supply chain game

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

Japan is losing out to Chinese and South Korean competitors in supplying lithium-ion battery components around the world. In the 2011 financial year Japan supplied less than half of these key parts.

Global shipments of cathode and anode materials, separators and electrolytes are estimated to have grown 11.2% to US$70.2 million last fiscal year. Japanese firms' share fell 5.7% points to 46.6%, dipping below the 50% mark for the first time since 2008.

The Japanese Yano Research Institute believes Japan’s dominance was weakened following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that halted the supply of some essential parts around the country. This, combined with the strong yen cutting into Japan’s competitiveness, meant a demand for cheaper materials grew.  Another factor is the shift in South Korean battery manufacturers to use domestically made parts over imports.

 

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