Should the Petro-Automotive Complex Be Concerned About the Lithium Battery Revolution?

Lithium battery technology is currently focused on developing improvements in several areas. The quest often involves implementing advances in nanotechnology and micro-structures. For example:

* Increasing cycle life and performance (decreasing internal resistance and increasing output power) by changing the composition of the material used in the anode and cathode, along with increasing the effective surface area of the electrodes and changing materials used in the electrolyte.
* Improving capacity by improving the structure to incorporate more active materials.
* Improving the safety of lithium-ion batteries.

We should see big advances in efficiency and power in the near future. In 2006, a group of scientists at MIT announced a process which uses viruses to form nano-sized wires. These can be used to build ultra-thin lithium-ion batteries with three times the normal energy density. In 2009 a report in New Scientist claimed that MIT had succeeded in producing the first full virus-based 3-volt lithium-ion battery. Later in 2009, engineers at the University of Dayton Research Institute developed the world’s first solid-state, rechargeable lithium air battery which was designed to address the fire and explosion risk of other lithium rechargeable batteries and make way for development of large-size lithium rechargeables for a number of industry applications, including hybrid and electric cars!

Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries have quickly become the most widely utilized battery chemistry in today’s portable electronic devices such as laptops, cell phones, and PDAs. Due to high energy density, the lightweight, and the construction flexibility, Li-ion and Li-ion polymer batteries have replaced nickel rechargeable batteries! All top battery manufacturers have introduced next generation Li-ion cells. Lithium-ion batteries will power the hybrid and electric car revolution. And revolution is not too strong a word for it.

The Energy Independence and Security Act toughened up fuel efficiency standards to 35 mpg by 2020. Obama stiffened the standards even more in May, raising fuel economy standards to 39 mpg for cars and 27 mpg for trucks.
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The deadline was moved up four years to 2016. The new rules guarantee the lithium-ion battery is the only way car makers can meet the new standards. Since a vehicle battery requires 100 times more lithium carbonate than a laptop battery, there is a need to build large-scale manufacturing facilities. The Energy Department just announced $8 billion in low-cost loans to Ford, Nissan and Tesla to build new battery factories. Metal Miner reports, “Johnson Controls and Saft of France are building a battery production facility in Michigan supported by $220 million of state aid.” The government has committed $25 billion via the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to nurture the emerging Lithium Battery industry.

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