ALTAIR Develops Nano-Powered Batteries for Electric And Hybrid Vehicles

May 22, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. (NASDAQ: ALTI) announced it has completed a safety testing cycle for lithium ion battery products that represents a significant step forward in the effort to develop lithium ion batteries that are safe enough to be used in electric-powered automobiles. Although lithium ion batteries are the predominant power source for cell phones, laptop computers and many other small electronic devices, safety concerns related to the potential for explosion, typically caused by charging malfunctions or extremes of temperature, have so far proved to be a vexing obstacle to using lithium ion batteries to power electric and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

In order to address these safety concerns and, by doing so, help to speed the deployment of powerful, efficient electric vehicles (EVs) and HEVs for mass usage, Altairnano has invented and developed a nano-structured negative electrode material called nano Lithium Titanium Oxide, or nLTO, that replaces the graphite used in "standard" lithium ion batteries with safe, nanomaterials. Via a rigorous course of extreme safety tests conducted over the past few months, Altairnano's nLTO demonstrated absolute safety under conditions where standard graphite-based cells typically smoke, vent and explode.

To put nLTO to the test, Altairnano performed "hot box" exercises on its batteries at temperatures up to 240° C — which is more than 100° C above the temperature at which graphite-based batteries can explode — with zero explosions or safety concerns. In addition, Altairnano performed high-rate overcharge, puncture, crush, drop and other comparative tests alongside a wide range of graphite-based battery cells with, again, no malfunctions, explosions or safety concerns exhibited by the nano-structured Altairnano nLTO cells. In comparison, the graphite cells, put to the same tests, routinely smoked, caught fire and exploded.

In addition to the safety enhancements achieved via nLTO, Altairnano's new battery technology offers improvements, as compared to graphite- based lithium ion cells, to certain measures of cell performance important in the HEV and EV market. For example, battery cells using nLTO can be charged in as little as one minute, while graphite containing cells take between one and two hours to charge and, even then, can pose significant safety concerns. Furthermore, the battery life cycle of nLTO is unprecedented. Altairnano has performed tests demonstrating more than 9,000 use cycles at charge/discharge rates at which other battery types simply cannot function, let alone charge. Altairnano nLTO-based batteries can operate at temperatures as low as -50° C and as high as 75°C — again, with no unsafe characteristics.

"The safety testing cycle that Altairnano has just completed on nano Lithium Titanium Oxide (nLTO)-enabled batteries is a significant milestone in the continued development of HEVs and EVs for mass usage, as well as for a diverse range of other applications," Altair Nanotechnologies CEO and President Alan J. Gotcher, PhD said. "We put nLTO to a rigorous and uncompromising set of tests and the results were extremely compelling, in terms of safety, performance and lifespan. It is clear that nLTO is a safe common-sense material for enabling EV and HEV mass usage."