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Lithium Ion Battery Technology PDF Print E-mail
Written by Greg Allen   
Monday, 15 September 2008
There is been quite a bit of focus lately on lithium ion batteries.  As Michael C pointed out here in the last article, lithium is a limited supply and cannot sustain us for the long-term. Charging / Discharging a batteryBesides being a limited supply, a challenge to full production lithium ion batteries in vehicles is the cost and delivery of more power.

You can have a lot of energy with a battery. but you need both energy and power. Think of a golf cart and going up a hill.. as the golf cart is pulling the energy from the battery the golf cart starts to lag and moves more slowly.  You are sitting there.. going slower up the small hill… not as fast as you expect or prefer.  (Shameless plug: This exact spot is a great place for an ultracapacitor).  This type of drain on the battery is what shortens the life of the battery.  What remains to be seen is the lithium ion battery that can deliver more power at a reasonable cost.

The Department of Energy has a 2016 goal of an electric vehicle that can go 40 miles.  Lithium batteries is one option.  Currently there are around 1.5 million hybrids on the road.  Toyota expects to increase the sales of their hybrids to 1 million by 2020 (The Prius has been a tremendous seller ).  Chevy will be launching the Volt which is a plug in hybrid which will use both gasoline and battery.  In the Volt, the gas engine will provide backup electricity to the battery.

Until the all powerful new super battery appears, I believe using an ultracapacitor with batteries (ultrabattery?) will be what most manufactures gravitate towards.  By using ultracapacitors, the life of the battery will be extended because the ultracap is handling the peak loads that a battery cannot withstand.

Charge it up!


 Also.. the Ultracapacitor Forum is picking up and has some great post. Check it out.. get involved.

Readers have left 8 comments.
 No.1  You dont need lithium
I think the long term battery will be the sodium iron phosphate battery. Better performance, more cycles, and when you are done with it is fertilizer.

Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-09-16 13:33:16
 No.2  More lithium than you think
Lithium carbonate (the common raw material form) costs $22-32/kg when extracted from seawater (i.e., a virtually limitless resource) using a first-generation method. While that's notably more expensive than traditional extraction, which just costs a few dollars per kilogram, it's still dirt cheap. If your batteries were made entirely up of it, going with a typical automotive li-ion energy density of 100Wh/kg, that'd be ~$0.22-$0.32/Wh. However, they're not made entirely of lithium; lithium is actually one of the smaller fractions in li-ion batteries.

Furthermore, there's absolutely no reason why we'd have to go to seawater anytime soon. I did the math once on just a single lithium mine that's being developed in the Kings Valley in Nevada -- one that's generally not considered in world "reserves" calculations, since the lithium cost from there is slightly more expensive than what it currently goes for -- and they expect to produce enough lithium carbonate there to make enough batteries for about 700 million Apteras. That's the thing about reserves: the more you're willing to pay, the more comes online -- and not just a little more, but orders of magnitude more. The best deposits of any resource are far rarer than the next best, and so on down the line. And, at the same time, advancing technology serves to reduce costs. So, in short, prices are constantly a battle between technology and ease of access, with the "game" biased way in favor of technology due to the exponential resource scaling. Which, ultimately, is why Simon won.

As Kert notes, cobalt is actually the expensive element of traditional li-ion -- it makes up about 60% of the total costs -- more than even capital costs. The phosphates and spinels ditch the cobalt. $0.20/Wh in 10 years is a perfectly achievable price point. They may even be able to achieve it in 5.
Billl Berggren (Unregistered) • 2008-09-16 13:42:46
 No.3  to Bill
Great comment and very good information. Thanks for posting and allowing me to read.

Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-09-16 22:01:14
 No.4  What about wear?
What about Lithium batteries wearing out? After several hundred charges they don't hold a charge very well.

Of course, we'll need all those batteries in 2 years. GM needs them, Ford needs them, Chrysler needs them, all the Japanese auto manufacturers need them and every other car maker that will make electric based cars.
Michael C (Author) • 2008-09-24 10:18:05
 No.5  Untitled
Michael.. great thoughts. GM and Ford do need to use these more in their designs and get away from the normal combustion engine.
LarryJ (Unregistered) • 2008-09-25 20:17:17
 No.6  Untitled

What about recyclability of Lithium cells? Anyone know? And what about disposal?
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-11-01 09:15:33
 No.7  Untitled
Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries can achieve more cycles, are cheaper and most importantly are safer than traditional Li Ion technology. Wikipedia has a reasonable article on them.
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-11-09 07:36:10
 No.8  LI ion capacitor?
I keep running across references to Li ion capacitors but little on details A battery with a lot of capacitance? Just saw them again at:
Antonm (Registered) • 2008-11-09 16:30:11
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