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energy storage technology

Olympic cable car ultracapacitors

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

The London 2012 cable car carrying passengers over the Thames cost US$70 million, making it the most expensive built.
The cabins, built by Swiss CWA, will use Maxwell Technologies’ ultracapacitors for the power supply and energy management on board. The cars only charge at the end of the line, so this must be done in seconds.  Two 48V ultracapacitor-modules units mounted on top of each car power the five-minute journey.

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.


Not looking so bright at A123

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

Things are looking gloomy for Massachusetts-based A123 Systems Inc as the money is close to running out.

Share prices have plummeted following the recall of hundreds of defective battery packs from one of its Michigan plants and now the company is trying to sell more shares to rescue itself from financial ruin.  This setback cost the company US$51.6 million last quarter, as it had to recall and replace the faulty batteries.  This blow was preceded by one of A123’s major customers cutting its order for batteries after saying it would be building less electric vehicles. 

A123 lost US$125 million in the first quarter of 2012 and has yet to turn a profit since it first sold stock publicly in 2009.  In 2009 shares peaked at US$25 a share but are now just over one. A123 must sell a lot of shares to stay afloat and cover its operating costs.

This comes just weeks after the firm announced plans to unveil a new technology, which they claim would allow batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles to operate at extreme temperatures.  The batteries, called Nanophosphate EXT, would cut the cost of production and reduce costs.

The idea is to eliminate the need for separate heating and cooling systems in lithium-ion batteries.  Chief executive David Vieau called it a "game changer" for the electric vehicle and telecommunications markets.  Production of Nanophosphate EXT is planned to start in 2013 to cover orders put in by a German automaker.

Researchers at Ohio State University said the batteries performed impressively at high temperature without losing storage and power generating capabilities. The testing has shown the battery can retain more than 90% of its initial capacity at 45 and deliver starting power at -30°C. 

The announcement of this development led to an upsurge in A123 shares which had been struggling around the US$1 mark for weeks, rose to US$1.58 last month.

This July the price is back down.  Vieau’s promise to “power through it” may sound hollow in the face of plummeting share prices but he is determined to help A123 ride out the storm.  His plan is to raise funds selling stocks and warrants while trying to attract customers to buy A123’s products, unfortunately for Vieau this market is looking saturated.

Hot stuff from W-Scope

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

Tokyo-based W-Scope Corporation has developed a separator for lithium-ion batteries that can withstand higher temperatures without damage, increasing safety by reducing the risk of battery fires.

The new separator material can withstand temperatures of 200°C for one minute without damage. In comparison, other separators can only withstand temperatures up to around 160°C, according to W-Scope.

The company has begun shipping samples and plans to begin mass production of the new separator in the second half of the year, offering versions in thicknesses ranging from 0.03 mm to less than 0.01 mm.

W-Scope predicts around 10 firms will begin using its new separators during 2013, and that by 2015 these value-added products will account for roughly 30% of its overall separator shipments.

SAFT go photovoltaic

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

Saft is producing lithium-ion cells for Schuco’s photovoltaic energy storage system available this year. 
The system determines if energy is stored, consumed or sold back to the grid.  The system control unit detects how much self-generated electricity is available and combines this information with external data.  Electricity is only exported when production exceeds storage capacity.

New York battery plans to expand

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

General Electric Co said it will invest $70 million in its Schenectady battery plant in New York to double production and create 100 jobs there.  This will take the plant’s workforce 450 at full capacity.
The factory manufactures GE's Durathon batteries, which are half the size of conventional lead-acid batteries but last ten times longer.

BASF entering electric vehicle market

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

Europe’s lone wolf in cathode material provisions, Umicore, is to have competition in the form of German chemical maker BASF.  BASF will invest heavily to become a leading supplier in automotive battery materials based on market predictions for developments in the EV market to develop vehicles with a range of 250km in the next five years.

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