German Battery, German Electric Car?

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"German Battery, German Electric Car?"

An Agence France Presse report has produced a small flurry of articles this past week, here and here, for example, that has a German company developing Lithium batteries that would be suitable for electric cars. Li-tec is said to be working in cooperation with Bosch and Volkswagen, which has heightened interest.

One can only hope, despite scant evidence, that the fierce grip of internal combustion on the German automakers might loosen. German Greens have bought into hydrogen hype as much as California regulators. BMW is pushing hydrogen gas into the most complicated engine ever and dousing the American airwaves and celebrities with this unavailable $500,000 diversion.

The country has admirably pushed renewable electricity generation, offering subsidies and incentives greater than most any other nation. Their insatiable appetite for solar panels has kept the world price high and supply low. But somehow, the increasingly low-carbon grid has not enticed either automakers to manufacture or policy makers to create incentives for grid connected cars. Do the Germans actually intend to make a green grid, only to throw away 75% of the energy to the losses involved in hydrogen production?

Of late, the French, Irish and Finns are creating feebate structures that could push electric cars. The Norwegians have a host of EV positive initiatives. But the Germans, for all their green reputation, remain laggards. The German government has opposed the strictest CO2 emission proposals in the EU, in order to protect their domestic, comparatively more polluting, auto industry.

Perhaps a German battery will propel interest. An electric VW, say a Plug-in UP!, might bring boomers back to the car that brought them to their first Earth Day rally.

— Marc G.

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9 Responses to German Battery, German Electric Car?

  1. kent beuchert says:

    Anyone familiar with the technology knows that batery-only electric cars
    are not viable alternatives until a practical batttery is produced – I guarantee that these press releases, which mention absolutely nothing about the supposed advancement represented by this mystery battery,
    are nothingmore than self-serving press releases. If this company actually had a really advanced battery, they would be describing its advanced characteristics to the heavens. Get real, media , and quit hyping technologies you don’t even have a clue about.

  2. Michael says:

    Marc,
    Yes, this is an interesting question…why one of the key nations in the boom in green technologies has not yet developed battery electric vehicles. As someone who has followed the German green and alternative movement for a long time, I have no good explanation except for the fact that German automakers have been well satisfied with building large, powerful cars for export and don’t have the incentive of a Citroen or Peugeot to find new profitable niches. Also the Autobahns and driving fast are still the third rail of German politics and perhaps of German auto marketing. The Tesla when it is released would probably sell pretty well in Germany…though they would probably prefer their own homegrown variety.

    Kent or “Kent”,
    You seem to be referring to hydrogen…not battery technology…your comment would make sense if every mention of “battery” in it were replaced with “hydrogen”.

  3. Earl Killian says:

    kent beuchert writes “Anyone familiar with the technology knows that batery-only electric cars are not viable alternatives until a practical batttery is produced”. Funny, I have years of familiarity with technology, and I know that 1990s batteries were already sufficiently practical for battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Since the 1990s, batteries have gotten better (e.g. even higher cycle count and capacity batteries by A123 and Altairnano have been introduced) and 10 minute charging has been demonstrated in an actual vehicle.

    My family has two BEVs. We have put 75,000 miles on our RAV4-EV since we purchased it in 2002. The original NiMH battery pack remains strong. It has been remarkably trouble free; it is a real workhorse of a vehicle. Southern California Edison, which has data on a large fleet of RAV4-EVs since 1998-1999 and reports “Of the almost 14,000 NiMH battery modules powering these EVs only a little less than 0.5% had to be replaced!” (http://plugsandcars.blogspot.com/2007/12/menahem-anderman-enough-already.html)

    It is perhaps to be expected that our BEV has been so reliable:
    * no muffler
    * no catalytic converter
    * no radiator
    * no gas tank
    * no gasoline
    * no internal combustion engine
    * no alternator
    * no oil, oil filter
    * no air filter
    * no transmission
    * no belts

  4. We are at a place where batteries are practical for most urban auto use. Volkswagen has a virtual 65 mile plug in already. Well the batteries lug around a useless fuel cell. If Bali goals are going to be realized, we are going to have to ration gasoline. Gas rationing will be the quickest way to get consumers into plug in hybrids, and the quickest way to motivate them to actually plug them in. We need to think about batteries for urban trucking too. And of course greens are going to have to give up their silly anti-nuclear superstition. Carbon free electrical energy is not going to come from renewables. We need to start building lots of Nuks.

  5. Jay Alt says:

    Interesting that the companies announced their research project Nov 5, less than 6 weeks ago. The note below says the consortium formed Sept 12.

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/11/german-companie.html

    Whichever date you pick, that’s quick results! Has Li-Tech has made a very efficient and light electrode? And everyone else is jumped in to manufacture actual cells and batteries, which of course need to be tested over time.

    Hmm, following a story link back to a 17 Jan 2006 story at the same site says the SEPARION membrane technology was being offered by the firm Degussa at that time. So perhaps and electrode improvement is the main reason for the weight savings and power/weight ratio increase.

  6. Science News is reporting what appears to be a major battery breakthrough: http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/1217/2

    By using whiskerlike wires of silicon, battery makers may be able to manufacture lithium ion batteries capable of holding 10 times the charge of batteries built with current techonolgies. This development may open the door to batteries capable of providing enough electricity to drive hundreds of miles before needing recharge.

  7. Joe says:

    Not a breakthrough:

    “It’s a really nice proof of concept,” says Gerbrand Ceder, a materials scientist and battery expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Making lithium ion batteries capable of holding 10 times the charge of conventional versions still requires a cathode that holds 10 times the charge, too, Ceder says. However, he adds, incorporating a silicon nanowire-based anode could allow batterymakers to reduce the weight and volume of the anode and add more cathode material in its place, which could give lithium batteries a power boost. That could make life a little easier for all of us.

  8. Jim Prall says:

    For tons of up-to-date details on everything E.V., from test drives to photos to analyses of competing battery and ultracapacitor claims, my go-to source is EV World at

    http://www.evworld.com

    There is a “premium” section that I gladly pay for, but much of the site is freely accessible.

    Years ago I attending a meeting or two of an E.V. builders’ club here in Toronto, and already back then owner-builders were frustrated with recurring claims that a BEV “couldn’t work” in our winters — while several of them had working vehicles on the road proving otherwise. Another big struggle for EVs is the public perception that they will perform like a golf cart. To counter this, the EV movement includes some serious drag racing (electric motors give full torque at very low RPM, so you can truly burn rubber) and there are proof-of-concept EV speedsters that give fighter-jet style acceleration – take for instance the Eliica http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliica

    It will of course be a wrenching transition to get the huge gasoline car industry retooled for the electric drive future, but there are plenty of signposts showing how we could get around in the future when either peak oil and/or international cooperation take us beyond the Age of Oil.

  9. Ronald says:

    thanks for the evworld website