January 17, 2006 12:37 PM PST

Better batteries for hybrid cars?

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Powering a new generation of cars

September 2, 2005
Lithium ion batteries, found today inside notebooks and cell phones, may power hybrid cars in five to 10 years if research at Sandia National Laboratories pays off.

As part of the Department of Energy's FreedomCAR program, the laboratory is trying to figure out how to get the battery technology--which provides better power than conventional batteries but presents safety issues--inside hybrid car engines.

Lithium ion batteries have two to three times the energy density of nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries (hybrids use nickel-metal hydride batteries) and four times the energy density of lead-acid batteries. Higher energy-density would translate to longer battery life, leading to better gas mileage on hybrid cars.

PHOTOS
Tomorrow's cars
A central theme at the 2005 edition of the Tokyo Motor Show was alternative engine technology.

Lithium ion batteries for hybrids might also cost less, according to Sandia. The catch is that the chemical reactions, which allow these batteries to produce electricity, are somewhat violent, and battery flaw or failure can result in extensive damage.

In cell phones, lithium ion batteries can overheat because of a short circuit. If the temperature rises too slowly, the battery case may melt. If it rises too rapidly, however, enough pressure may be generated to create a small explosion in a lithium ion battery. Consumers have suffered severe burns as a result of these failures.

Sandia's research will largely revolve around how well various experimental lithium ion batteries endure nearby heat- and gas-generating reactions and other abuses found in cars. Ideally, the battery will be able to withstand the environmental factors and degrade harmlessly if damaged.

"Current hybrid vehicles use nickel-metal hydride batteries, but a safe lithium ion battery will be a much better option for the hybrids," Dan Doughty, manager of Sandia's Advanced Power Sources Research and Development, said in a statement. "Fixing the problem will come from informed choices on improved cell materials, additives and cell design, as well as good engineering practices."

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Sandia National Laboratories, hybrid car, battery, cell phone

2 comments

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Phosphate-based Cathode Materials
Sandia is not the only one working on alternative battery
designs for hybrid battery packs.

Some Prius owners have been adding large battery packs to
their cars to extend range by converting them to "plug-in
hybrid" operation.

The most-promising currently available technology being
used in this effort is the Saphion battery developed by
Valence Technologies that uses phosphate-based cathode
materials instead of the cobalt-oxide materials used in
traditional lithium-ion batteries.

In additional to eliminating the overheating and explosion
hazards of the cobalt-oxide batteries, the phosphate-
based Saphion batteries also provide larger capacity with
less weight, faster charge and discharge rates, long cycle
life, and long service life.

The "plug-in hybrid" Prius owners have been using Saphion
models designed specifically for motive power uses.
Valence makes these batteries in a variety of configurations
for different industrial and utility applications.
Posted by caveman1952 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Safe Lithium-Ion=Valence safion
Very safe Lithium batteries are already being made in Austin Texas. The Valence company <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.valence.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.valence.com/</a> makes the saphion batteries. They EVen make large ones for Electric Vehicles.
Jim
Posted by jstack6 (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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