Plug-in Vehicles Are A Luxury No Nation Can Afford

John Petersen I'm going to apologize up front for revisiting a topic that inevitably draws furious comment from readers who just don't get it, or who refuse to get it. I understand that it's painful to learn that politicians, environmental advocates and the mainstream media have been lying about critical issues, but that doesn't make exposing the lies less important. So I'm going to endure the slings and arrows of the eco-religious one more time and use a new example to show that plug-in vehicles are a luxury no nation can afford. Ener1 (HEV) is a pure-play...

Ener1 Nanotech Unit Prepares to Commercialize Revolutionary Battery Electrodes

ENER1 INC (ENEI) has established and equipped a pilot nanotechnology-based manufacturing facility to fabricate electrodes for high discharge rate, lithium-ion batteries. The company's battery subsidiary, EnerDel, Inc., in which Delphi Corporation holds a 19.5% interest, is in discussions with automotive OEMs regarding evaluation of samples for use in hybrid electric vehicles where the high discharge rate characteristic is viewed as key to performance and cost. EnerDel also plans to explore applications of this technology in other markets.

Arotech Receives Additional Research Funding of $650,000 from U.S. Army

Arotech Corporation (ARTX) announced that its Battery and Power Systems division has received additional funding from the U.S. Army's Communications and Electronics Command, CECOM, for further development of its 4th generation (Gen4) zinc-air cells. The funding covers Phase II of a three-phased research and development program for Gen4 Zinc-Air Cells aimed at the Future Force Warrior project - the U.S. Army's flagship Science and Technology initiative to develop and demonstrate revolutionary capabilities for Future Force soldier systems. Arotech's Gen4 portable battery pack is 12 or 24 Volts and has a total capacity exceeding 400Wh with Battery Energy Density above...

Plug-in Vehicle Subsidies; Taxing Peter To Buy Paul’s New Car

John Petersen Industrial subsidies have been an important feature of the American economic landscape since the late 19th century for one simple reason – they work. After the steam locomotive proved its ability to quickly and cheaply move people and cargo long distances, the government launched a massive effort to span the country with steel rails and bring the benefits of a rapid, safe and reliable national transportation system to all its citizens. After electric lighting proved its merit, the rush was on to build a national infrastructure and bring the benefits to all. After the internal combustion...

Why Energy Storage Stocks Should be an Easy Double for Investors

For several months I’ve been writing about manufactured energy storage devices and the companies that develop and manufacture them. My basic theme has been that these devices are fundamental enabling technologies for cleantech, the sixth industrial revolution. I’ve repeatedly said that profound economic changes were rapidly evolving and that energy storage would be a major investment theme for decades to come, but even my unbridled optimism could not keep pace with the realities. While most investors have been focusing on obvious problems like bad mortgages, tight credit and recessions, immense changes in the energy sector have gone almost...

Lithium-ion Batteries and How Cheap Beat Cool in the Chevy Volt

Since November of last year, I’ve argued that cheap will beat cool when it comes to the commercialization of battery chemistries. As details on the design and construction of the Chevy Volt battery pack emerge and are publicized on sites like Green Car Congress and Popular Science, it’s clear that cheap Li-ion chemistry has already beaten cool Li-ion chemistry and many of the concerns I’ve expressed about using Li-ion batteries in cars have been considered and resolved by thoughtful automotive design engineers. It bodes well for the introduction of PHEVs as long as the tax incentives remain in place,...

What I Learned During Last Week’s Visit With ePower

John Petersen Last week I spent a couple days with ePower Engine Systems working my way through a variety of business and technical due diligence issues. As always happens with new clients, it was a full immersion course in how ePower’s technology works, what the documented performance of the current tractor is, and how that performance is expected to change as ePower: transitions from a four cylinder engine designed for stationary use to an EPA compliant six cylinder engine designed for the trucking industry; automates a new charge control system that will opportunistically charge the batteries in...

First Hybrid Fuel Cell Vehicle Goes on Sale from ZAP

ZAP (ZAPZ) unveiled a hydrogen fuel cell powered pickup as well as a new lithium battery technology at the Consumer Electronics Show. ZAP is forming a new division of the Company to focus on advanced energy technologies alongside its efforts to market advanced transportation. ZAP's fuel cell technology partner, Anuvu Incorporated, converted the Nissan Frontier 4-door pick-up truck on display at CES. An innovative hybrid fuel cell system powers the vehicle on hydrogen and electricity.

Grid-scale Energy Storage: Lux Predicts $113.5 Billion in Global Demand by 2017

John Petersen Last month Lux Research released a bottom-up evaluation of the cost effectiveness of eight energy storage technologies in six grid-scale applications throughout 44 countries, including all 50 U.S. states. Their report titled "Grid Storage under the Microscope: Using Local Knowledge to Forecast Global Demand" predicts that annual global demand for grid-scale energy storage will reach an astounding 185.4 gigawatt-hours (GWh) by 2017 and represent a $113.5 billion incremental revenue opportunity for an industry that currently generates sales of $50 to $60 billion a year. In the grid-scale sector alone, Lux predicts an average...

Lux Research Dissects Lithium-ion Battery Mythology

John Petersen We all know that you can't have a cost-effective electric car without a cost-effective battery. We also know that a small but vocal hodgepodge of ideologues, activists, politicians and dreamers wants everyone to believe that rapid and stunning advances in lithium-ion batteries will finally make the dream a reality after a century of one abject failure after another. I frequently caution readers that it won't be anywhere near as easy as the proponents claim. In a new report titled "Searching for Innovations to Cut Li-ion Battery Costs" Lux Research did a yeoman's...

Separating Sense From Nonsense in Energy Storage Investing

John Petersen For the last few days the green transportation press has been beside itself with breaking news that the battery pack for the Nissan Leaf costs a staggeringly cheap $375 per kWh. They point to the Times of London as their source, but fail to note that the cost figure was buried in a throwaway sentence in the seventeenth paragraph of an April 4th story about a British executive who'd been transferred to Nissan's headquarters in Tokyo to run their green cars program. This isn't proof folks, it's hearsay elevated to nonsense that belongs in...

Stop-Start Idle Elimination – Slashing Fuel Consumption By Up To 17%

John Petersen I've written several articles over the last year that explain why idle elimination is a crucial first step in the global effort to increase fuel efficiency and curb CO2 emissions. For readers who are new to my blog, or confused by a torrent of news stories and analysts reports that wax poetic on the expected benefits, costs and challenges of gee-whiz vehicles that are "coming soon to a showroom near you," altenergymag.com describes stop-start systems, or micro-hybrids, as follows: "These are conventional vehicles powered either by gasoline or diesel engines in which the 12-volt starter...

Plug-in and Hybrid Locomotives; Another Sweet Spot for Axion Power

John Petersen I'm a cynic and a heretic when it comes to plug-in vehicle schemes because most defy the laws of economic gravity and violate a cardinal rule that Ford engineers developed for the EcoStar light delivery vehicle program in the early '90s: – The unloaded weight of a plug-in vehicle should never exceed 70% of its loaded weight. Investors who pay attention to this simple rule can easily distinguish between pipe-dream vehicle electrification schemes that are nothing more than feel-good eco-bling and realistic vehicle electrification projects that make economic sense. For the last...

Lead-acid Batteries and How Cheap Beat Cool at Google

On April 1st CNET News published a story about a previously secret technology that Google (GOOG) has patented and implemented system-wide. The technology, which Ben Jai of Google reportedly described as their "Manhattan Project," builds a 12-volt battery into each server to provide backup power. The point that fascinates me is Google's choice of small format valve regulated lead-acid batteries to keep its servers running. When an ultra-sophisticated company like Google picks cheap over cool for a mission critical function, I think it speaks volumes about the future direction of the energy storage industry. Stephen Shankland of...

Graphite Producers In Production

by Debra Fiakas CFA The series on graphite resource development is completed with a discussion of the companies that are currently in production.  The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 1.2 million metric tons of flake graphite are produced annually.  The vast majority  -  780,000 metric tons  -  are produced in China.  India and Brazil follow with 170,000 metric tons and 80,000 metric tons, respectively.  North America, which seems to show so much promise to the graphite resource developers that have been featured over the past few articles, is currently only contributing 30,000 metric tons per year to the graphite...

Hybrid Locomotives, Vehicle Electrification at Relevant Scale

John Petersen Last month Ricardo PLC (RCDOF.PK) published a report titled "GB Rail Diesel Powertrain Efficiency Improvements" that it prepared for Great Britain's Department for Transport. While most of the fuel efficiency technologies Ricardo evaluated for the report were mechanical systems, its analysis of the fuel efficiency benefits of stop-start and hybrid systems for locomotives offered an intriguing view of a cost-effective vehicle electrification opportunity that can be implemented at relevant scale within a few years. The two types of locomotive systems Ricardo evaluated for the report were simple stop-start idle elimination and full hybridization. The following table...