Why Advanced Lithium Ion Batteries Won’t Be Recycled

John Petersen One of the most pervasive and enduring myths in the energy storage sector is that a robust recycling infrastructure for used lithium-ion batteries will be built before the wonder-batteries that are being manufactured today for the first generation of plug-in vehicles reach the end of their useful lives. In the worst case scenario, advocates suggest used lithium-ion batteries will be stockpiled until there are enough used batteries to justify the build-out of recycling infrastructure. The numbers tell a very different story. For several years the single minded obsession of all lithium-ion battery developers...

Batteries for HEVs, Batteries for EVs

I'm a longtime fan of electric vehicles (EVs) as well as Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), in all their variations.  When it comes to investing, I think the best way to invest  in on the growth of electric transportation is batteries, partly because pure play battery companies exist (although my top battery pick, Electro Energy (EEEID) , has been one of my poorest performers, in a classic case of a cheaply priced company getting even cheaper. Given these interests, I was speaking to the President of Porous Power Technologies, a private battery components firm a couple weeks ago...

Vanadium Flow Battery Stocks: Barely A Dribble

by Debra Fiakas CFA   The previous post “Investing With The Flow Battery” introduced a series of articles on flow batteries for grid-scale energy storage.  Investors focused on renewable investments should at least consider the implications of storage requirements in evaluating renewable energy technologies even if storage developers are not considered portfolio-worthy.  Owners of grid-connected solar and wind power systems must design a network that can meet the highest peak load of the year even if a large part of the generating capacity sits idle for extended periods.  Storage technologies convert electrical power into chemical or mechanical energy...

Energy Storage: A Bloody Q3 is Creating a Great Buying Opportunity

John Petersen Tom Lehrer is frequently credited with a quip that perfectly summarizes my feeling about the financial markets in the third quarter, "Apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" During the quarter we were given box seats to classic political opera in two acts. Act One was set in Washington DC while Act Two moved to Europe so we could hear the same tortured songs of woe in a different language. We all know the opera has to end with the immensely popular "Kick the Can Chorus," but we suspended disbelief, bought into...

EVs, Lithium-ion Batteries and Liars Poker

John Petersen Last week I stumbled across a link that led to a 2010 report from the National Research Council titled "Hidden Costs of Energy, Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use." This free 506-page book takes a life-cycle approach – from fuel extraction to energy production, distribution, and use to disposal of waste products – and attempts to quantify the health, climate and other unpriced damages that arise from the use of various energy sources for electricity, transportation and heat. After studying the NRC's discussion of the unpriced health effects, other nonclimate damages and greenhouse gas...

ETS Interview: The Will the Real Transportation Fuel of the Future Step Forward

For macro reasons, I think that the next generation liquid fuels may be cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel or renewable diesel from algae.  But those fuels will increasingly be sharing the roads with the long term transportation fuel of the future: electricity from renewable sources, especially wind.  Wind will be important for electric transportation and electric transportation will be important for wind because, when you're already going to be charging batteries, you may as well do it when the electricity is cheap, which will be when the wind is blowing..   Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) neatly solve the main barrier...

DOE Reports That Lithium-ion Batteries Are Not Ready for Prime Time

by John Petersen Last month the DOE released its 2008 Annual Progress Report for the Energy Storage Research and Development Vehicle Technologies Program. This report is a frank and relatively upbeat assessment of the current status of Li-ion battery research and development that also provides a stark wake-up call for investors in energy storage stocks. The reality check has been done and the DOE’s verdict is clear: Lithium-ion batteries are not ready for prime time. In its description of ongoing research efforts to develop high-power batteries for HEVs, the DOE said: “High-power energy storage devices...

Grid-based Energy Storage: Widely Misunderstood Challenges and Opportunities

John Petersen The most widely misunderstood subject in the field of energy storage is the potential for grid-based applications. They fire the imagination because the grid is so pervasive and the need is so great. They also present immense challenges to storage technology developers because the fundamental economic value per unit of grid-based energy storage is very low. While the subject of grid-based storage provides rich fodder for media reports and political posturing, the reality bears little relation to the perception. On March 9th, Lux Research published a sorely needed reality check in a new report titled "Grid...

List of Battery Stocks

Battery stocks are publicly traded companies whose business involves the manufacture of batteries, battery components, or battery management systems used to store electricity through electrochemical means. Advanced Battery Technologies Inc (ABAT) Albermarle Corp (ALB) Axion Power International (AXPW) BioSolar, Inc. (BSRC) BYD Company, Ltd. (BYDDY) China BAK Battery (CBAK) Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (300750.SZ) Eguana Technologies Inc. (EGT.V) Electrovaya, Inc. (EFL.TO) EnerSys (ENS) EnSync, Inc. (ESNC) Flux Power Holdings, Inc (FLUX) Global X Lithium ETF (LIT) Highpower International (HPJ) Johnson Controls (JCI) Lithium Technology Corporation (LTHUQ) mPhase Technologies (XDSL) NGK Insulators Ltd. (NGKIF) OM Group (OMG) Powin Energy Corp. (PWON) Redflow Limited (RFX.AX) Saft Group (SGPEF) Ultralife Batteries Inc (ULBI) Umicore S.A. (UMI.BR, UMICY, UMICF) Vendum Batteries, Inc. (VNDB) If you know of any...

Electric Vehicles and the Natural Resource Cliff

John Petersen We all love to whine and complain about oil prices because we buy gasoline regularly and that makes the price changes obvious. To solve this overwhelming problem, myopic visionaries with rose colored glasses propose a simple solution – convert personal transportation from vehicles powered by oil to vehicles powered by clean, free and renewable electricity from the wind and sun. Like most fairy tales, it can't happen in real life which means it won't. This is not a technology issue. It's a raw materials issue and electric vehicles cannot solve the problem. In the first...

Plug-in Vehicles, Unconscionable Waste and Pollution Masquerading as Conservation

John Petersen For eighteen months I've been blogging about the energy storage sector and discussing the current and potential markets for batteries and other manufactured energy storage devices. A recurring theme that I've discussed many times is the unrecognized but undeniable truth that while plug-in vehicles masquerade as conservation measures at an individual level, they're incredibly wasteful at a societal level. The conclusion is counter-intuitive and my articles on the subject invariably draw heated criticism from self-anointed defenders of the faith. Their arguments, however, do not change the inescapable truth that plug-in vehicles are one of the most...

Viva the Cleantech Revolution

It’s official! Cleantech, the sixth industrial revolution, has arrived on time and in the midst of extraordinary crisis. Like every good revolution, blood is flowing in the streets; the guillotine is en route to Wall Street and the mob is so busy plotting retribution for the excesses of the past that most have no time to consider the future. But as yesterday’s dynasties decay, crumble and fall, a new generation of visionaries is already building on the wreckage of the past. These are indeed troubled times that bear an eerie resemblance to the opening sentence from A Tale of...
BMW i3 uses batteries with silicon in the anode

The Race For Silicon Anodes

Graphite is the most widely used material for battery anodes.  The anode is the positively charged electron collector in a battery.  It collects and accelerates the electronics emitted by the battery’s cathode.  Graphite gets the anode job because it is has excellent electric conductivity and resists heat and corrosion.  Plus it is light weight, soft and malleable. As satisfied as manufacturers might be with graphite anodes, none would balk at an alternative material that boosts battery performance or reduces cost.  Scientists believe battery capacity can be increased as much as ten times by using silicon for anodes.  It requires six atoms of carbon to bind one...

The Alternative Energy Fallacy

John Petersen In 2009, the world produced some 13.2 billion metric tons of hydrocarbons, or about 4,200 pounds for every man, woman and child on the planet. Burning those hydrocarbons poured roughly 31.3 billion metric tons of CO2 into our atmosphere. The basic premise of alternative energy is that widespread deployments of wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles will slash hydrocarbon consumption, reduce CO2 emissions and give us a cleaner, greener and healthier planet. That premise, however, is fatally flawed because our planet cannot produce enough non-ferrous industrial metals to make a meaningful difference and the prices...

Energy Storage on the Smart Grid Will Be 99.45% Cheap and 0.55% Cool

7.17.09 Storage Week John Petersen Infocast’s Storage Week was all I had hoped it would be, and more. While I thoroughly enjoyed serving on three discussion panels and was warmly received by roughly 250 attendees, including executives of companies that I've occasionally criticized, the most important value for me came from the opportunity to hear four days of high-level presentations by industry executives, national thought leaders and policymakers who repeatedly stressed that: From a utility perspective grid-based energy storage is the functional equivalent of an instantly...

Why Long Range EVs Can Never Be Cost Effective

by John Petersen America’s love affair with the automobile has always been based on the freedom of the road and the ability to hop in the car and drive wherever we want to go; be it to the corner store to buy a loaf of bread or out to the lake for a long weekend. Even though most of our trips are short, people invariably want the flexibility to go for a long drive when the open road beckons. Unfortunately, that mentality is disastrous when it comes to EV economics. I’ve been writing about energy...