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Li-Ion Battery Developments For EVs Intensify As Gas Prices Skyrocket

June 10, 2008 by Jeff Shepard

With the continuing escalation of oil and gasoline prices having repercussions in national economies across the globe, announcements regarding the development of lithium-ion battery technology for electric vehicles (EVs) continues to intensify. There have been major announcements in the past week from <Superlattice Power Inc. EnerDel in collaboration with Th!nk City, and General Motors.

Superlattice Power announced a successful move toward large scale production of a new cathode material which will be incorporated to a lithium ion polymer battery significantly increasing operating voltage range and energy density. The new battery, with a new reasonably priced cathode material, Superlattice Structure, can now be produced in large scale production. This process will not only be able to produce nano phase pure Superlattice Structure but also any commercial cathode material available worldwide. This new development allows all physical materials to be controlled and produced in large scale at a batch of 100kg each.

Dr. Surajit Sengupta, Director of Battery R&D stated, "This nano sphere Superlattice Structure will reduce the surface area for the same volume compared to faceted nano morphology. This in turn will reduce the use of electronically conductive carboneceous material. The result is the battery will yield more capacity."

Ener1, Inc. reported that its lithium-ion battery subsidiary, EnerDel, has installed and demonstrated a fully functional lithium-ion battery pack in a Th!nk City electric vehicle at its manufacturing facility in Indianapolis. The integration of the battery pack into a Th!nk City EV was completed ahead of the schedule previously announced by EnerDel. The successful completion of this milestone indicates that EnerDel is on schedule to meet the year-end timetable for volume production under its supply agreement with Th!nk Global of Oslo, Norway.

EnerDel delivered three functional 27kWh lithium-ion battery packs to Th!nk Global earlier this year for testing. Both companies are working to meet the scheduled roll-out of pre-production units over the next three months.

"This is a very exciting program to be involved in, with an aggressive time to market schedule," commented EnerDel CEO Ulrik Grape. "Our collaboration with Think to develop a battery solution for the leading electric vehicle worldwide, the Th!nk City, has been rewarding. A lot of work remains both in terms of testing and evaluation, but we anticipate that we will be able to meet the schedule set by our supply agreement to begin production of integrated battery packs by the end of this year."

General Motors announced that the Chevy Volt is closer to the public showroom now that the manufacture of the extended-range electric vehicle has been approved. The funding for production development and tooling, indicates GM believes the technology for the Volt, including its lithium-ion batteries, will be ready for volume production on schedule.

"The Chevy Volt is a go," said CEO Rick Wagoner. "We believe this is the biggest step yet in our industry’s move away from our historic, virtually complete reliance on petroleum to power vehicles. We intend to show a production version of the Chevy Volt publicly in the very near future, and we remain focused on our target of getting the Volt into Chevrolet showrooms by the end of 2010."

According to GM, the Volt will be different than any previous electric vehicle because it will use a lithium-ion battery with a variety of range-extending onboard power sources, including gas and, in some vehicles, E85 ethanol to recharge the battery while driving. The Volt will be designed to use a common 110V household plug. For someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions. For longer trips, Chevy Volt’s range-extending power source kicks in to recharge the lithium-ion battery pack as required and with a predicted range of 640 miles.