GM seeks to Lower Lithium Battery Prices by Investing in Envia Systems

GM seeks to Lower Lithium Battery Prices by Investing in Envia Systems

Chevy VOLTBy John Addison (2/22/11)

General Motors with its Chevrolet Volt currently has the lead of Nissan, Ford, and others in delivering electric cars. The Volt is the first of many models in GM’s future.  The Voltec Propulsion System will be at the heart of a new GM crossover plug-hybrid SUV, the Opel Ampera in Europe, and probably a pure battery-electric car. Critical to GM’s competitive success will be reducing the cost, size, and weight of lithium battery packs.

To advance its lithium batteries, GM Ventures invested $7 million in Newark, Calif.-based Envia Systems to provide GM’s battery engineering team with access to advanced lithium-ion cathode technology that delivers higher cell energy density and lower cost. In a separate agreement, GM has secured the right to use Envia’s advanced cathode material for future GM electrically driven vehicles.

“Skeptics have suggested it would probably be many years before lithium-ion batteries with significantly lower cost and higher capability are available, potentially limiting sales of electric vehicles for the foreseeable future,” said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures. “In fact, our announcement today demonstrates that major improvements are already on the horizon.”

Other participating investors in Envia are Asahi Kasei and Asahi Glass; as well as current investors Bay Partners, Redpoint and Panagea Ventures. The funding of the investor group totaled $17 million.

“With our high-capacity manganese rich cathode material, Envia is addressing two key issues in the next generation battery cells – higher capability and lower cost,” said Atul Kapadia, founding investor, chairman and CEO of Envia Systems. “We believe our battery materials have taken the technology lead that will help lower price points and unlock the market potential for our customers.”

Envia’s advanced cathode technology uses inexpensive materials that store more energy per unit of mass than current cathode materials. Since the cathode is a key driver for the overall battery cost, the more energy the cathode delivers, the lower the battery cost because fewer cells are needed.

“Our test results on small-format cells show that Envia’s high-capacity composite cathode material can increase the energy density of lithium-ion cells by up to one-third, at an equivalent level of reliability, safety and durability,” said Micky Bly, GM executive director for Electrical and Battery Systems. “We estimate this improvement in cell energy density and less expensive material will drive a substantial reduction in cell cost, leading to lower cost battery packs like the one in the Chevy Volt. Envia’s cathode technology also will offer benefits for other devices and applications where low-cost, high-energy density storage solutions are needed.”

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu stated, “We are once again seeing the benefits for the American people that come with federal investments in science and  technology, originally developed at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, is making its way into the market. By supporting American innovation, commercialization and manufacturing, this partnership is helping to boost U.S. competitiveness and create the jobs of the future.”

Not participating in the Envia investment is LG Chem, the current supplier for the Volt with its manganese spinel lithium-polymer prismatic batteries. Intense competition continues between LG Chem, Panasonic, Sanyo, Samsung-Bosch, NEC-Nissan, GS Yuasa, BYD, EnerDel, and dozens of other major innovators. Competition is intense to lower lithium pack prices down from $1,000/kW 3-years ago to about $500/kW today to $250/kW by 2020. GM and Envia just made the competition hotter and the sale of millions of electric cars more feasible.

You Can Make a Difference – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

You Can Make a Difference – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

By John Addison

Excerpt from the Prologue of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.

You Can Make a Difference

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

-Margaret Mead

You can make a difference. Save Gas, Save the Planet tells the story of two new types of heroes: the “car-light” and the “car-free.” The car-light are the people who have dramatically reduced their gas usage, thereby helping save the planet and increasing their bank accounts. The car-light includes those that drive less, do not always drive solo, and use vehicles that get over 40 miles per gallon. The car-free are the millions of people who do not own a car. They prefer to use public transit, car sharing, bicycles, and walking.

The first chapters of Save Gas, Save the Planet will help you consider what you want in your next car. You may already have one fuel-efficient vehicle. You are debating whether the other vehicle should be replaced with a hybrid, a diesel, a flexfuel vehicle running on ethanol, or possibly a zero-emission alternative. These chapters describe the clean vehicles being driven today including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, biofuel vehicles, electric vehicles, and hydrogen vehicles. Issues are clarified. Myths are dispelled, including ones that suggest that these technologies are in the distant future.

You will find a number of ideas for improving your lifestyle in the middle chapters of Save Gas, Save the Planet. Millions reduce driving by participating in flexible work programs. People commute together and share rides. Many employers pay for these commute programs. There are many ways to reduce miles and improve fuel economy with your current car.

Each chapter concludes with suggested action that you can take as an individual and steps you can take to help save the planet. Your actions and your words will influence more people than you expect. Supported with the facts and examples in the pages that follow, you may inspire children, sway friends, and improve employer commute programs. You might even persuade your community to improve transportation.

Some of the 94 solutions contained in Save Gas, Save the Planet are free and simple. Other solutions require more thoughtful approaches to work, commuting, sharing vehicles, or making the best choice when buying a new vehicle. You may gain free hours and reduce stress by participating in flexible work programs, using a home office, and replacing some drives with bike rides and walks. None of these are all-or-nothing ideas. Consider realistic improvements for yourself, your family, your friends, and your community.

Be inspired by how people are living better and making a difference. Enjoy the journey.

Visit Amazon for free look inside or discount on paperback and kindle ebook.

© 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.

Cracking the Carbon Code: The Key to Sustainable Profits in the New Economy

Cracking the Carbon Code: The Key to Sustainable Profits in the New Economy

Carbon Code BookBook Review by John Addison (2/18/11)

In his new book, Terry Tamminen shows us how a sustainable future is being created.  He gives us an inside look based on his strategic meetings with President Obama, governors of red and blue states, and even the formation of the next five year plan for China. Tamminen removes the mystery of Cracking the Carbon Code in one fascinating story after another as we follow the actions of corporate, government, and NGO leaders from California to China and from the United States to the UK.

Arnold Schwarzenegger for whom Terry Tamminen served as the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency forewards the book.  During his service in government, Tamminen was responsible for environmental progress in including California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This law was recently attacked by oil companies, then strongly supported by 61 percent of California voters last November, and is now creating market incentives that reward cleantech innovation, energy efficiency, and improved transportation.

I particularly enjoyed the book, because I know that Terry Tamminen walks the talk. I included him in my book, Save Gas, Save the Planet, as an earlier driver of one of our most advanced zero-emission vehicles, the Honda FCX Clarity. I would recommend this book to leaders of governments, corporations, NGOs, and all stakeholders in a sustainable future.

Cracking the Carbon Code: The Key to Sustainable Profits in the New Economy (Palgrave Macmillan) by Terry Tamminen.

Oil Price Soars – Electric Car Sales Zoom

Oil Price Soars – Electric Car Sales Zoom

Egypt CelebratesBy John Addison (2/15/11)

People dance in the streets of Cairo. A dictator has fallen. For a few months, Constitutional rights are suspended, but a new election is promised. In recent weeks, a world dependent on oil has watched to see if a cascade of Mideast unrest would stop the flow of petroleum necessary for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Barron’s interviewed long-time oil analyst, Charles Maxwell, to gain insight into the future of petroleum. The article was titled “Whatever Happens in Egypt, Oil Will Hit $300 by 2020.”  Maxwell based his forecast on long-term supply and demand forces. Oil production is peaking; demand is not. From today’s $85-plus per barrel, Maxwell forecasts $95 by 2012, $115 by 2013, $140 by 2014, $180 by 2015, and $300 by 2020.

The United States is the world’s largest consumer of oil. Over 95 percent of our transportation depends on oil. Over 80 percent of our U.S. transportation spending makes us more dependent with taxpayer money focused on widening highways and airports. Shifting more dollars to electric transit connected with electric high-speed rail would greatly reduce our oil dependency. Yet the same members of Congress that encourage subsidies to oil companies block improved transportation. If some members of the U.S. Congress get their way, they will either shutdown the EPA, or they will shutdown our government by refusing the increase the debt ceiling.

It will be the American people, not Congress, that free us from oil dependency. We survived oil prices peaking at $147 per barrel in July 2008. It is argued that the shock waves are still rippling through our economy. When consumers are stretched, the demand for oil is elastic. Vehicle miles traveled have peaked. Americans reduced their car ownership by 3.5 million vehicles. We are at record use of flexible work, car-pooling, car sharing, and transit use. More fuel-efficient cars are bought. The success of hybrid-electric cars is paving the way for electric cars.

Fortunately, as oil prices rise, lithium battery prices fall. Ford forecasts that by 2020, ten to 25 percent of its car sales will include lithium batteries and electric motors. Ten to 25 percent will be hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric cars. Next year, Ford may be the first car company to sell 100,000 lithium battery packs as it brings out new hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electrics all using lithium battery packs. Or the first to sell 100,000 may be Nissan or General Motors. As demand increases, better chemistry and volume manufacturing have lowered the price of automotive lithium battery packs from $1,000 per kilowatt-hour to $500.

Prospects for electric vehicles are boosted by efficiency. A gasoline engine drive system is only about 15 percent efficient. Using natural gas a bit less. Using E85 ethanol, even less. A diesel engine drive is often about 20 percent efficient. A hybrid drive system can be 25 or 30 percent efficient. An electric drive, 80 percent efficient.

Although electric cars currently are more expensive than the average gasoline car, that may change in this decade. Many automakers project that when battery packs fall to $250 per kilowatt-hour electric cars will be less expensive than gasoline cars to own and operate. The precise tipping point depends on the price of oil. If Mr. Maxwell’s forecast is correct, EVs will be the winner in this decade.

Keep your eye on the ratio of battery pack kW price to gasoline price. The current ratio is around 500/3 = 166:1. In two years, it might be $400 kW packs and $4 gasoline at the pump for a 400/4 =100:1 ratio. $250 packs and $5 gasoline is 250/5 = 50:1 ratio. Be on the watch for a 50:1 ratio as the tipping point where electric car sales begin to dominate.

Breakthrough innovation may also accelerate the tipping point. Next generation biofuels could fuel hybrids. More efficient inductive electric motors could be free of rare earths like neodymium and dysprosium. Electric cars could have their range extended with fuel cells, solid-state batteries, ultracaps, or new battery chemistries.

As oil becomes more challenging to extract from troubled regions, deep oceans, and frozen tar sands, we see increased use of natural gas power plants, renewable energy, and efficient hybrid and electric vehicles. Welcome to our electric future.

Honda Fit Hybrid Challenges Toyota Prius Leadership

Honda Fit Hybrid Challenges Toyota Prius Leadership

Honda Fit Shuttle HybridBy John Addison (updated 2/22/11; original 2/9//11)

Honda Fit Outsells Prius

In January, the Honda Fit outsold the Prius in Japan. Prius had been the number one selling car in Japan for 20 months. Half of the Fits sold were the new Fit Hybrid, which delivers 71 miles per gallon (MPG) using the Japanese JC08 test cycle. In 2012, both the Fit Hybrid and new Fit EV are expected to start selling in the U.S.

The Honda Fit has been a popular small hatchback, with over 3.5 million sold globally. With five doors, seating for five, and flexible cargo space it is big enough for most, yet small enough to fit in those precious city parking spaces. Drivers like the sport fill and handling. Starting at around $15,000, the Honda Fit delivers 31 mpg, the mileage of many hybrids.

Honda Fit Hybrid 71 MPG

The Fit Hybrid removes pain at the pump with the 71 mpg in the Japanese test cycle which emphasises slow city driving at 16 mpg; by comparison the Prius is 77 mpg. Power is delivered from the IMA electric motor and from an efficient 1.3-liter i-VTEC engine. The battery for the hybrid system is located under the rear cargo and enables the Fit to share the same flexible seating configurations as the rest of the lineup without sacrificing interior comfort that is unique to Fit.

The Fit offers more room than outward appearances suggest. It has a B-segment exterior, but a larger C-segment interior. In the back is 20.6 cubic feet of cargo, but drop the back seat and you have 50.7 cubic feet. If that still is not enough for your ladder, home project, or surfboard, then you can flatten the front seat for added feet. In Japan, the passenger seat can even rotate for easy in-and-out or socializing with others.

Bigger and Better – Honda Fit Shuttle versus Toyota Prius

Toyota has no intention of letting Honda hold the number one spot in Japan, the U.S., or anywhere else. Toyota has expanded the popular Prius into a family of four models:

* 2011 Prius – world’s best selling hybrid
* 2012 Prius v –midsized wagon with 40 mpg goes on sale Summer 2011
* 2012 Prius c Concept – city car hybrid goes on sale by Summer 2012
* 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid – best mileage of any Prius goes on sale by Summer 2012

If you’ve been looking for great mileage from an SUV, crossover, or wagon, take a look at the new Prius v. It will share the current generation Prius’ platform and Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. Featuring a compact exterior yet spacious interior, the Prius v will feature over 50-percent more interior cargo space than the current Prius, while being almost as aerodynamic. The Prius v will compete with new crossover hybrids like the Ford C-MAX Hybrid. The Prius v will use NiMH batteries, just as the 2011 Prius. Next year, Ford will start delivering lithium batteries in all hybrids and electric cars.

Honda has countered by unveiling a longer Honda Fit Shuttle available with the current efficient ICE drive system and the new hybrid drive system. This compact wagon can be examined on Honda’s new Fit Shuttle Japanese website.  The wagon is expected to be unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show next month. Unfortunately, Honda is unlikely to offer this larger Fit in the U.S., at least for now.

Honda Fit EV

Honda unveiled the all-new Fit EV Concept electric vehicle at the LA Auto Show in November. In 2011 the Fit EV will be in fleet trials at at Google, Stanford University, and possibly others. In 2012, the car will no longer be a concept as customers go to dealers and buy the Fit EV. The Fit EV will compete with the larger Nissan LEAF, the Ford Focus Electric, and the Toyota FT-EV.

The Fit EV is designed to meet the daily driving needs of the average metropolitan commuter and utilizes the same 5-passenger layout found in the popular Fit hatchback. When the Fit EV production model is introduced, it will be powered by a lithium-ion battery and coaxial electric motor.

The high-density motor, derived from the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, delivers excellent efficiency and power while remaining quiet at high speeds. The Fit EV will have a top speed of 90 mph.

The Fit EV will achieve an estimated 100-mile driving range per charge using the US EPA LA4* city cycle (70 miles when applying EPA’s adjustment factor). Driving range can be maximized by use of an innovative 3-mode electric drive system, adapted from the 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid. The system allows the driver to select between Econ, Normal, and Sport to instantly and seamlessly change the driving experience to maximize efficiency or improve acceleration. While in Econ mode, practical driving range can increase by as much as 17 percent compared to driving in Normal mode, and up to 25 percent compared to driving in Sport mode. Acceleration improves significantly when in Sport mode, generating performance similar to a vehicle equipped with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine.

Hybrid and Electric Car Battle with Toyota and Ford

In their battle for hybrid and electric car leadership, both Honda and Toyota are learning a lesson from Ford – price matters and therefore manufacturing cost matters. Ford is offering 10 to 14 new models on a global C-car platform  with many chassis and components being common across a range of cars, SUVs, and crossovers. Ford will lower manufacturing costs, use high-volume common parts, and improve efficiency. Ford will increasingly enable customers to select a vehicle, such as the Focus, with powertrain options ranging from efficient engine to hybrid to plug-in hybrid to pure battery electric.

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of 10 to 14 new models that Ford will launch around the world based on its new global C-car platform – Ford’s first truly global One Ford platform. Ford’s new generation of C-segment vehicles will be sold in more than 120 markets and will account for more than 2 million units annually. The C-segment accounts for one in four cars sold worldwide today and, in conjunction with the B-segment, Ford expects it to rise to 50 percent of all cars sold globally by 2013.

Honda is wise to expand its popular Fit into a family that includes a larger wagon, Honda’s best mpg hybrid, and an exciting electric car with the potential to become the EV price leader. In a growing battle for fuel-efficient family offerings with Toyota and Ford there will be one clear winner – the customer.