Li-Ion Battery Producers Compete for PHEV Future
Automotive battery technology is getting better, but will it be ready to meet the growing demand for alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel? The Economist reports that the vehicle battery market will soon be worth $2.3b. At the moment, lithium-ion is the go-to technology. While lithium is a light, relatively inexpensive metal that maintains charge capacity well, lithium batteries can overheat and explode. Battery developers are experimenting with a variety of materials and blends for the positive electrode: cobalt oxide, manganese-nickel-cobalt, nickel-cobalt-aluminum oxide, and iron phosphate doped with aluminum, niobium and zirconium. As demand soars, expectations mount. General Motors, for one, needs a safe, dependable Li-ion battery for their Volt plug-in hybrid. And they need it now– if they're going to meet the [most recent] late 2010 deadline. "It's either going to be a tremendous victory, or a terrible defeat," says James George, a battery expert based in New Hampshire. The clock is ticking.