La carrera por nuevas baterías de iones de litio

El consorcio alemán “HE-Lion” pretende desarrollar nuevas y mejores baterías de iones de litio en los próximos años, que posibiliten automóviles eléctricos o híbridos enchufables con mayor autonomía.

El objetivo es obtener baterías con una densidad energética mayor (de dos a cinco veces más) y más seguras, para que la autonomía de los vehículos eléctricos pase de 50 a 200 kilómetros entre recargas.

BASF piensa que el objetivo se conseguirá a través de la mejora del cátodo de la batería, gracias a nuevos materiales.

Sin duda una iniciativa importante, que se une a otras muchas, y cabe esperar que España acometa también alguna iniciativa en esta dirección, si queremos que nuestro país tenga un papel importante en este nuevo sector, y no sólo como consumidor de lo que fabrican otros.


The race is on for new lithium ion batteries

Battery consortium headed by BASF receives € 21 million sponsorship from German Ministry of Education and Research
26 Mar 2009 : Financial sponsorship running into millions has opened the way for the development of new generations of high energy batteries for use in plug-in hybrid automobiles and the electric powered vehicles of the future. Under the guidance of BASF Future Business GmbH, eighteen partners from industry and science have combined into the cross-sector consortium “HE-Lion” to develop and bring to market efficient, higher-performing and safer lithium ion batteries over the next four to six years. The German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the HE-Lion project with €21 million as part of the “Lithium Ion Battery LIB 2015” alliance for innovation. The partners in the consortium will be contributing the same amount directly from their own financial resources.

“This alliance is an essential contribution to strengthening Germany as a heartland of innovation. In research, we must make the decisive breakthrough with new battery materials as soon as possible. Only then can we make electromobility affordable and free it from its niche existence,” emphasizes Dr. Andreas Kreimeyer, Member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF and Research Executive Director.

The BMBF initiative LIB 2015 with a total sponsorship volume of €60 million for several consortia aims to bring to market by 2015 higher performing, safer and above all affordable lithium ion batteries for future propulsion systems such as plug-in hybrid automobiles. A plug-in hybrid is a powered vehicle with a hybrid propulsion system with a battery that can also be charged externally from the mains supply. Equipped with an internal combustion engine, electrical drive system and a battery, it can be driven both with gasoline and electricity.

With companies of the chemical industry, battery industry, the automotive and energy sector and numerous partners from universities and institutes, HE-Lion is the largest consortium in LIB 2015. As energy stores of the future, lithium ion batteries are a key technology for a climate friendly energy supply. For BASF, climate protection is a long-term strategic issue to which its commitment in this project is also contributing.

While the existing first and second generation of lithium ion batteries are already being used in laptops, smartphones or cameras, a newer and more stable system has to be developed for the third and fourth generations. Key factors for the success of the new batteries are high safety, high effectiveness and an affordable price. The aim is to achieve two to five times more energy density compared to previous battery systems. This will ensure that plug-in hybrids and electrically powered vehicles can reach acceptable driving ranges. Based on existing series production models, in future they should only need to recharge after 200 kilometers instead of 50 km at present.

This will mean having to improve mainly the cathode of the battery. BASF experts are developing a portfolio of innovative cathode materials, special metal oxides, that are produced by high-temperature synthesis. These activities include the conceptual design of the materials, laboratory synthesis and scale-up, i.e. transfer to the production scale. At present the materials still account for more than 50 percent of the cost of lithium ion batteries.

“With representatives of all technological disciplines, we now have the opportunity to reinvent the battery in the truest sense of the word. With a globally competitive technology, our partners will be positioning themselves as leading worldwide suppliers of materials, components, cells and batteries,” says Dr. Thomas Weber, Managing Director of BASF Future Business GmbH. Until the innovative battery can be tested in a VW Golf in a few years from now, however, the inventors will have to carry out more than 10,000 different tests. By today’s standards, a lithium ion battery for a Golf would be as expensive as the vehicle itself. Modern production processes are needed to assure high quality and environmentally friendly manufacture and to significantly reduce costs. To achieve these goals, materials research experts are needed as much as system developers.

The industrial consortium covers a broad range of activities extending from material research to system integration. BASF, Freudenberg Vliesstoffe and SGL Carbon are responsible for material manufacture. Prototype development and cell technology are provided by Fraunhofer Institute Itzehoe and the companies Gaia, Leclanché and Bosch. Implementation in the vehicle is being undertaken by Volkswagen, and the EnBW energy company will develop models for integrating the high-energy batteries into a new power supply concept for load balancing. In fundamental research, cooperative projects are ongoing with the universities of Berlin, Bonn, Clausthal, Darmstadt, Giessen, Hannover, Münster, the Paul-Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and the Leibniz Institute of Dresden. The consortium partners see their competitive advantage in the unique constellation of this venture.

 GM’s Volt & Lithium Batteries
Posted on: March 27th, 2009 by Ed Ring

In a briefing last week General Motors reaffirmed their commitment to the launch of the Chevy Volt by late 2010. The primary purpose of this briefing was to discuss the benefits of lithium battery technology as well as the reasons for their choice of LG Chem to produce the first generation of batteries for the Volt. Several points are worth noting:

GM is completing what will be the largest automotive battery lab in the U.S., and they intend to maintain in-house the manufacturing capacity to integrate the battery cells into modules and complete battery systems. This gives GM more flexibility to choose cell suppliers for their 2nd and 3rd generation extended range electric vehicles, and lets them have complete control over how the battery interacts with the power management system of the vehicle. The fact GM is keeping 100% of the battery integration in-house illustrates the centrality of the battery in electric vehicles.

Another interesting point made was the reusability of the battery cells. Apparently these batteries, which are designed to last the life of the vehicle, can be reprocessed and recycled for use in a new battery in a new vehicle. One question not answered during this briefing was whether or not lithium resources globally are sufficient to supply these batteries for a global automotive fleet. So we did some digging:

According to a 2006 study by William Tahil of Meridian International Resource entitled “The Trouble With Lithium,” there are 13.4 million tons of lithium extractable from various raw minerals, primarily lithium carbonate. According to R. Keith Evans, in a March 2008 study entitled “Lithium Abundance – World Lithium Reserves,” there are 28.4 million tons of lithium extractable from known reserves worldwide. In the Wikipedia entry on Lithium, 30.0 million tons of lithium are apparently currently available.

To determine how many vehicles these varying quantities of lithium might supply battery materials, it is necessary to determine how many kilograms of lithium are required per kilowatt-hour of storage, as well as how many kilowatt-hours the average electric vehicle’s battery will require.

According to Tahil’s report, about .3 kg of lithium are required per kWh of battery storage. In an interesting 2009 battery discussion on Seeking Alpha, about .26 kg of lithium are required per kWh or storage. In terms of kWh required per vehicle, it depends – the Volt, which is an extended range electric vehicle (containing an onboard gasoline powered generator to supply additional electricity to the motor), only requires a 16 kWh battery. The Tesla Roadster, by contrast, has no backup power system, and requires a 53 kWh battery. Given the Tesla Roadster is a lightweight, two seat vehicle, a larger EV without backup power might require an even larger battery, or live with shorter range. Complicating this further is the possibility of battery swapping stations, meaning that for every EV on the road, a supply of available charged batteries will also need to be present.

Nonetheless, interesting conclusions can be drawn using these various figures. Assume there are 20 million tons of lithium that can be extracted from known reserves, and assume, based on a mixture of extended range EVs requiring smaller batteries alongside EVs depended purely on larger batteries – i.e., assume an average battery storage per EV of 30 kilowatt-hours. Finally, assume .275 kilograms of lithium are required for each kilowatt-hour of storage. If you run these numbers, we can build 2.42 billion EVs before we run out of known lithium reserves.

Not only is this a reassuring calculation for those of us who are enthusiastic about the electrification of the automobile, but it is a static projection, which like all static extrapolations, completely fails to take into account the future potential of humans to adapt and innovate. Should supplies of lithium falter, there are alternative battery chemistries already being developed. Alternatively, the extended range vehicles could become the dominant engineering solution for vehicles, meaning the average battery size could be much smaller. There should never be enduring shortages of any fundamental human need, energy, water, food, shelter, or transportation, because our capacity to invent new solutions always exceeds the rate at which we deplete resources necessary for existing solutions.