Issue: Mar 2011


Focus on battery power



by John Knox

Advanced Automotive Batteries will be holding its second European Advanced Automotive Battery Conference (AABC) in Germany in June 2011. The focus will be on the ability of various energy storage technologies under development to capture the rapidly expanding European battery and EC capacitor market for automotive applications. The conference will be held from June 6 to10 in Mainz, Germany, at the Rheingoldhalle Congress Centrum.

AABC provides a forum to survey the direction of automotive power system technology. The chairman of Advanced Automotive Batteries and founder of Total Battery Consulting, Dr. Menahem Anderman, founded the company in 2000 to provide up-to-date technology and market studies in the field of energy storage for advanced automotive applications. AAB has positioned itself as the key information source for the advanced automotive battery industry, and offers conferences, industry reports and expert consulting. 

The first AAB conference in 2011 was held in Pasadena, California from January 24 to 28. Nearly 900 people from six continents attended, and 440 companies were present for the 11th Advanced Automotive Batteries Conference. At the conference, Anderman spoke on what he termed “a poor value proposition for electric vehicles,” citing several limitations compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. The unsubsidized breakeven business case for EVs and a series PHEV (Chevy Volt) in the US, Anderman believes, is a fuel price of over US$7 per gallon.

“In the U.S., the market share of EVs is small and mainly driven by California's CARB. PHEVs manage to secure a slightly bigger share but the motivating factors are government subsidies and the CARB mandate, applied beyond California's borders. In general, the federal government's EV and PHEV policies and incentives will play a key role in the promotion of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. A second key factor that will have a considerable commercial impact is battery life and the level of end-of-life performance that will be required of batteries to guarantee CARB credits,” he said.
Anderman pointed out that the European electric mobility market was somewhat less challenging than in the U.S, thanks to higher fuel costs, the tendency to drive smaller cars, and a higher proportion of city driving. The European Union is furthermore issuing ever stricter regulations on CO2 emissions, and some member states are pushing the EV agenda. However, history has shown that political will is not always enough. Nonetheless, European automakers are developing a full array of electrified vehicles from micro-hybrids to full electric vehicles.

“In the EV market in China, the government holds the key to market development. EVs are easier to produce for Chinese car makers than HEVs. Also the lower reliability threshold in the Chinese market represents a short-term advantage, although reliability and durability of electric vehicles are paramount for their uptake in the medium to long-term. Another clear advantage is the possibility for the central government to simply mandate the large-scale integration of EVs in public fleets,” said Anderman.

AAB’s industry reports play an important role in educating the industry in key aspects of electrified vehicle technology and market challenges. The company’s most recent multi-client industry report, the 2010 EV-PHEV Opportunity Report, is an assessment of the technological and commercial challenges to vehicle electrification, based on an in-depth analysis of advanced automotive battery technology. The report includes forecasts for each significant automaker and battery producer, based on onsite interviews with all four tiers of the supply chain.

The 12th AABS in Germany in June will host a symposium on advanced automotive battery technology, applications and markets that will examine energy storage solutions for micro-hybrids and mild hybrids; battery technology for plug-in and strong hybrids, and electric vehicle battery technology and infrastructure.

Another symposium will focus on large lithium-ion battery technology and application that will look at the advances in lithium-ion battery materials, high energy electrochemical storage systems, lithium-ion cell manufacturing and specialty applications for large lithium-ion batteries. A symposium on large EC capacitor technology and applications will look at advances in EC capacitor materials and cell design, new EC capacitor products and business development and EC capacitor storage system applications. 

Automotive Industries asked Anderman about some of the advances being made in HEV, EV, PHEV battery technology.

Anderman: In the HEV market we are seeing a transition from NIMH to Li-Ion by most (but not all) car makers. Utilization of Li-Ion batteries by EV and PHEV battery developers is just at its inception. There are multiple chemistries and cell designs that are being commercialized and time will tell which (if any) of the current designs will win in the market place.  

AI: How will these translate in making these vehicles more popular?

Anderman: The popularity of PHEVs and EVs will predominantly depend on levels of government subsidies. Nevertheless, the vehicles that will provide a reliable experience will be better received. Battery reliability will play a key role in vehicle reliability.

AI: What are some of the challenges facing providers of Europe’s energy storage solutions for the automotive sector?

Anderman: There are no mass producers of Li-Ion cells in Europe; so at least initially most cells will come from Asia. The Europeans will have a hard time catching up with high-volume cell production. On the other hand, Europeans are developing pack technology including cooling and battery management – an area where they have the engineering expertise to make strides.

AI: How do these issues differ from the challenges in the US?

Anderman: The US government has invested over $2 billion in the last two years to establish cell manufacturing capacity in the country, predominantly in Michigan. There should be some return on that investment as some of the new cell plants become players in the marketplace. However, the US auto industry is not as powerful as the German. As a result, it is highly dependent on government support, with the exception of Ford. This support is given at this time but is not guaranteed in the future as the political map in the US changes. 

AI: You have said that China is moving ahead in making EVs popular – how can other Asian countries emulate this model?

Anderman: The Chinese have pro-EV policies at the moment, but it is not clear to me how it will develop. It is hard to envision what the Chinese will do if they experience safety incidents and/or if battery life turns out to be shorter than four to five years. The question regarding the other Asian countries is would they want to emulate the model? For most of them the answer is probably not. One particular issue is that if the electric grid is not stable and if the source of electricity is coal, as is the case in many Asian countries, EVs do not make much sense at this time.

AI: What are some of the challenges in energy storage solutions in emerging markets?

Anderman: They are not substantially different than in the developed countries. Cost, life and reliability, energy density (range), operating temperature, life at elevated temperature, power at low temperature are the average problems.



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