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Jack Lifton

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  • How PHEVs and EVs Will Sabotage America's Drive for Energy Independence [View article]

    It's time for the engineers, the materials and manufacturing engineers, to be heard. Electrochemical reactions are rate limited by physical and chemical factors. For example, a battery using a liquid electrolyte can only be charged, all other factors being under control, at a rate that will not boil off the electrolyte, because, and, in particular, in a sealed battery this could distort (destroy) the internal geometry. In an "open," unsealed, battery this could, of course, simply boil off the electrolyte's water component rendering the battery, at best, out of service.

    Before the religious among the readers begin to scream of dry electrolyte and sealed batteries let me point out that heat is a destroyer of plastics and a mobilizer of ions.

    A so-called "fast charger" will have to be a device that hooks up to the cooling system of the battery and energizes it simultaneously with the "fast charge." Thus the fast charger will be neither cheap nor cool.

    I ask all of the battery proponents one question: Will you show us your fast charging data that prove that your battery can be fast charged with existing technology in the desert and in the mountains repeatedly over its warranted lifetime without degradation below its minimum effective specifications?

    Also, may I be apprised please of the state of development of the fast charger "machine." Are you going to build enormous numbers of cannon without building new gunpowder factories?

    Electrified power trains are end users of electricity, not net producers of it! These powertrains will have to be serviced and fueled.

    Fast charging is a fuel service function. What companies are in it and where are they in the devlopment or specification of the new fast chargers to make PHEVs practical?
    Aug 28 09:28 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • How PHEVs and EVs Will Sabotage America's Drive for Energy Independence [View article]

    Your comment below on the "purpose" of the new GE battery plant in New York State certainly adds evidence that your arguments are valid and supported by the facts.

    Is GE going to make giant lithium-ion, or nickel metal hydride, or, even lead-acid, batteries? No, I understand it is not. GE is going to manufacture, as I recall, a molten salt battery that is well suited to the application-enormous weight requiring enormous power rapidly delivered and rapidly stopped. Whether or not the battery is a molten salt type the point is that an expensive limited resource, a complex generator, perhaps, if DC, needing rare earth metals, for example, will be replaced by a battery using far cheaper materials, which can be recycled in any case, and reduce the complexity and manufacturing cost of the locomotive.

    It seems to me that GE is betting on diesel-hybrid locomotives as future traction engines for passenger, rail, and ocean freight and is positioning itself to be independent of foreign sources of permanent magnet alloys that are rapidly drying up.

    It seesm to me to not be a stretch to say that at GE locomotive "cheap and available, reliably, beats cool" everytime. Gosh, those GE economists are conservative!

    On Aug 28 03:50 AM John Petersen wrote:

    > drkhrse, I'm all in favor of anything that works and reduces aggregate
    > waste, but since Seeking Alpha is an investment site I'll only talk
    > about storage technologies that are being made or developed by public
    > companies that file regular reports with the SEC.
    > Fred Lin, biofuels are very tough because producers are subject to
    > uncorrelated commodity price risks. I have an interest in a biodiesel
    > producer that was almost crushed in 2005-06 when agricultural commodity
    > prices were rising rapidly and petroleum prices were drifting downward.
    > There's also the ethical question about turning food into fuel. Cellulosic
    > ethanol may overcome part of that problem, but I'm not all that convinced
    > that the energy balance offers much benefit at the end of the day.
    > Anadarkos, all of the lithium-ion battery developers are asserting
    > that their planned products will perform perfectly in HEV applications.
    > I suppose time will tell on that account, but I certainly won't argue
    > that they're not up to the job from a technical perspective.
    > On the rail front, GE is building a new battery plant to make batteries
    > for hybrid locomotives. As I understand it, the plan is to remove
    > one of the three generators and replace it with a monster battery
    > pack that will recover a big chunk of the energy lost in braking
    > and downhill grades. It's probably a great application.
    Aug 28 08:56 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • How PHEVs and EVs Will Sabotage America's Drive for Energy Independence [View article]

    Are your readers aware of the fact that a typical OEM automotive assembly plant today in the USA is only cost effective when it can produce a lot of cars? There are now less than 20 assembly plants operated in North America by the former big three; there were more than double that number at the turn of the century just between GM and Ford.

    Chrysler's Jeep Toledo plants (2) produced a record 320,000 "units" one year in the early 1990s under the management of a close friend of mine. He then moved to the Windsor, Ontario Chrysler plant at which the minvans and crossovers were made and ramped that plant up to 1,000 units per day (16 hours).

    Imagine how ineffective it is today to run a plant making just 10,000 Chevrolet Volts a year! I understand that such a plant will not be, at first, a "flex' plant; it will make just the one model. This will be a huge costly "beta" site where GM will learn by trial and error.

    The last thing the manager of the Volt plant will think about is "how long will the battery maintain its performance specifications intact?" That will be the repsonsibility of a hugely expensive engineering group carefully maintaining a log on each car made and then following the first few 'thousand" carefully.

    Oh, and did I mention that there will need to be a separate service group writing a mnual, specifying parameters and equipment to measure and repair, sourcing the equipment, financing the equipment for dealers and service shops, training technicians, and monitoring them?

    The cost of this experiment will be in the billions-it has already cost more than one billion! The result is at this time unknown.

    Let's see: If the battery type chosen for initial prodcution doesn't work out it will have to be studied to see if the problem was the chemistry, the manufacturing engineering, or the actual use that made it fail. While all of that is going on another battery will have to be specified and sourced and production will be curtailed until further testing is finished.

    How long do your readers think the above sequences will take just for ONE TYPE OF LITHIUM-ION BATTERY?

    My guess is up to five years, so I think that the electrification of cars will not get to the stage of multiple manufacturers making hundreds of thousands of units per year for perhaps a decade.

    Is this really a horizon for small investors, or, even, for large private investors. No, it is not. The elctrification of the motor car for private personal use can only proceed if it is to be done with new battery technology by massive public financing.

    Did I mention that I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I read about how much simpler to build an electrified car will be than an ICE type? A current ICE car has around 6,000 components. I suppose the electrified ones will only have 5,500 components. That will make no difference at all in the complexity of building a car.

    Engineering minds are a terrible thing to waste and wasted resources of rare metals and oil cannot be recovered or replaced.

    Aug 27 12:50 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • First Solar Sell-Off Is Overdone [View article]

    Tellurium is mostly produced as a byproduct of copper mining and refining, so that China by no means has a stranglehold on tellurium production, although it actually does have one mine that may be called a primary tellurium mine-the only one in the world- and that mine's output is today processed in China to solar grade tellurium, 5x9s. The real company to watch if you like FSLR is China's Apollo Solar, which is now supplying tellurium and other related rare metals in high grades to FSLR. Apollo is now traded in the US as a bulletin board stock, but it has applied to the NASDAQ for listing there.

    I am going to China next week, and I will be speaking on materials for solar energy conversion at two conferences there. I will report my findings when I return after Sep.8.

    On Aug 26 07:31 PM yellowhoard wrote:

    > FSLR depends on cheap tellurium to manufacture it's panels.
    > The Chinese have a stranglehold on tellurium.
    > If the Chinese want to own the solar energy business, they have the
    > power to control their own destiny.
    Aug 26 10:02 PM | 7 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is China Planning to Restrict or Eliminate Export of 'Heavy' Rare Earth Metals? [View article]

    Thjere is a company out there looking at producing hydrogen from ammonia economically for fueling hydrogen powered internal combustion engines. ;there is so much ammonia produced and distributed in the agricultural areas of the USA for fertilizer manufacturing that this is actually a very good idea. Unfortunately the US government doesn't see it that way.

    On Aug 25 04:06 PM kentpaul wrote:

    > PS I saw Matt Simmons is working on a mega size offshore wind farmthat
    > will electrolyse sea water to generate liquid ammondia - NH3 and
    > which works in combustion engines.
    Aug 26 05:13 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Debunking PHEV Mythology [View article]

    -The free market car industry could build a universal small fuel efficient car easily, and it could even be profitable after an intial subsidy driven period, but its use would have to be mandated by taxes or restricitve laws on size and fuel consumption.

    Such a movement-into cars like that-would not necessarily be a regressive move into socialism but could be seen as the only way to failry distribute resources. I think this will happen first in Asia, and i think it will happen by the middle of this century.

    Thanks for letting me travel down memory lane.

    On Aug 24 09:22 AM William Taylor wrote:

    > And those expensive batteries will be punished by the necessity of
    > heating cars in the winter.
    > Anyway, what kind of solution is it to subsidize batteries??
    > A subsidy is just shifting costs elsewhere. We still have to pay!
    > Common sense say build a little car that gets 70 MPG or better and
    > chug along at 45MPH.
    > It is my belief that all cars should be the same exterior size and
    > shape year after year so that you could replace a bumper or engine
    > or parts cheaply as they would be standardized year after year, (no
    > complicated wasted inventory of thousands of parts). The cars would
    > all be the same small size and the spirit of competition would mean
    > fancier and safer interiors. Since all cars would be small, road
    > traffic and parking would be easier.
    Aug 24 10:14 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Debunking PHEV Mythology [View article]
    When I first began going to Romania in 1983 they had in place a basic version of the system you propose. The Dacia was based on a Renault design; they made a million of them over the next 15 years without changing the body style (There were variants such, as a pickup truck called, by the Romanian, a Chinese limousine).

    Interestingly enough the most common small business-of the very few allowed to be private-was the Auto Parts shop. Romanians would go from one to anothetr haggling for whatever they needed such as a radiator or an engine mount. Hundreds of small shops were refurbishing such parts and the prices were always cheaper than those of "new Parts" from the parts factory called the Automotive Subassemblies Company.

    The Dacia was a very crude car, but it could be repaired with a screwdriver and pliers-which were half of the tool kit supplied with the car!

    Of all of the states of the former Soviet Empire that made their own cars I think the Romanians and the Poles were the most successful in the sense of mass production.

    Note that the Dacia was intended to run until it disintegrated and even then its components, with any remaining life at all, would go into the organ donor program.

    Dacia models only changed after the fall of communism, and the first replacement car was called the Dacia Nova.

    The states of the former Soviet Empire have all anadoned the one unchanging model version of a universal car, but it is in fact worth another look. The free market car industry could build

    On Aug 24 09:22 AM William Taylor wrote:

    > And those expensive batteries will be punished by the necessity of
    > heating cars in the winter.
    > Anyway, what kind of solution is it to subsidize batteries??
    > A subsidy is just shifting costs elsewhere. We still have to pay!
    > Common sense say build a little car that gets 70 MPG or better and
    > chug along at 45MPH.
    > It is my belief that all cars should be the same exterior size and
    > shape year after year so that you could replace a bumper or engine
    > or parts cheaply as they would be standardized year after year, (no
    > complicated wasted inventory of thousands of parts). The cars would
    > all be the same small size and the spirit of competition would mean
    > fancier and safer interiors. Since all cars would be small, road
    > traffic and parking would be easier.
    Aug 24 10:09 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Debunking PHEV Mythology [View article]

    Once again your comments are definitive; there is really nothing more to say, among the rational that is.

    Keep at it, please.

    Aug 21 08:26 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • A123 Powering Forward on Its Planned IPO [View article]

    Can you point me to who in the US Federal Government made the decision on the allocation of funds under the battery development
    section of the A.R.R.A? I certainly hope that none of those ladies or gentlemen has any conflict of interest that would be created by their ownership, legally or beneficially, of a stock such as A123. How are the "insider trading" statutes interpreted if, or in the case that, the insider knowledge is attributed to these deciders of critical funding???

    Aug 20 09:45 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is China Planning to Restrict or Eliminate Export of 'Heavy' Rare Earth Metals? [View article]
    Other popular promises include:

    1. The check's in the mail,
    2. I'll still respect you afterwards, and
    3. I'll gadly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today.

    I agree with you on your investment choices for the long term.

    On Aug 19 04:28 PM jimp wrote:

    > Lynas Corp has adamantly expressed that it has maintained multiple
    > contracts outside of China, presently and in the future. It also
    > made clear that the Chinese state owned partner of Lynas Corp, CNMC,
    > currently under review by the Australian govt., is solely interested
    > in making a profit. Not to direct rare earths direct to China.<br/>
    > I would think owning Lynas Corp and Avalon Rare metals AVL would
    > make a great long term investment.
    Aug 20 04:43 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • 8 Energy Storage Stocks that Can Expect Explosive Growth [View article]

    Some data and thoughts:

    I spoke at length to Better Place last Sunday, and they are focused only on well defined geographical areas that they can cover, on an economic and practical level, with recharging and battery swap stations, such as Copenhagen, San Francisco Bay, and Israel. I believe that the "Paris" plan is independent of Better Place even though I was told that there will be a Better Place car, designed and to be produced by Renault, with an easily accessed battery compartment introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show next month. If you consider that Better Place was created in Israel and funded initially by a large grant from the Israeli national utility company you can see that many concepts can be accomodated in the EV world.

    One of the biggest problems for recharging and swapping batteries is scale. Unless you can harmonize batteries not only by size and shape but also by electrochemistry you face the a market killing problem of the Beta/VHS type.

    It seems to me that recharging stations can be versatile in their availability of sockets, plugs, and power delivery much more cheaply than battery makers and coach builders can, or will want to be, be versatile even with their geometries and sockets. I'm one of those who laughs out loud each time a movie space explorer simply plugs his "tricorder" into an alien or ancient "computer" and gets the data immediately. Imagine what battery technologies and chemistries may look like in just a generation and then try and convince yourself to raise the money to build recharging and swap stations in a standard pattern.
    Aug 19 03:41 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Vinod Khosla's Stance on the Future of Lithium-ion Batteries [View article]
    It sure is fun watching you young-uns play in the sand box of technological history...Yesiree, it sure is.

    Again, I worked on the molten alkali salt storage battery at Ford Scientific Laboratories some 45 years ago.

    It was an excellent system, but it was impractical for cars, so the mandate from the laboratory director, Dr. Jacob Goldman, who came to Ford from Xerox (Xerox in the glory days of the development of Carlson's concept to a practical machine) was to extrapolate and see of we could devise a system operating at a lower temperature while maintaining its high storage capacity.

    I see now that the end-use has changed, and the storage system may become cost efficient in this "new" use.

    John, I looked at a company (in Texas) as an analyst last year that was producing lithium-ion batteries for military and civilian off-grid storage. It was working with Panasonic on supplying remote locations in Japan, and I was told that this is a very unreported market. This was not a molten salt system. I think that a lot of good may come from mass storage and diurnal smoothing storage research into lithium and its salts as an electrochemical storage base.

    Do you have data on who is developing such storage electrochemistry? How is lead-acid impacted in that market by other technologies today?

    Aug 18 10:44 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Is the Chevy Volt Only a Fair Weather Car? [View article]

    Keep in mind when you speak of a storage battery freezing solid that such a device is a mixture of manmade materials, electrodes of graphite or titanates, liquid electrolytes or semi-solid ones (electrolytes to work in the real world must have high throughput of ions, so that even so-called "polymer electrolytes" are not rigid solids where ions exchange by susbstitution but are pathways with minimal need for free liquids), and outer cases in which the battery's constituents are placed in sharply defined relationships to one another. Don't forget the parts and channels for the battery's internal temperature maintenance system. Valves for these systems can be irrepairably damaged by freezing.

    When such a system as a lithium-ion or nickel metal hydride battery storage battery "freezes" mechanical motion occurs which has random elements so that upon returning to "operating" temperature the best that can be hoped for is that the structural integrity of the "system' has survived; the spatial relationships will not have.

    Such a battery, once frozen, is ruined, and if it has ruptured, may inflict damge on the mechanical components of the power train. If such a battery has been used for SLI purposes then the vehicle's ICE will not be able to resume functioning even when returned to operating temperature for normal starting.

    A frozen Volt battery will surely mean that the Volt has become a large wind break and certainly not a means of transportation.

    At what point in the Volt battery system's discharge do you think the energy remaining above minimum capacity will be devoted to the heating/coolong system? It would be nice to know.
    Aug 15 11:10 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • GM to Invest $43M in Chevy Volt Battery Plant [View article]
    In the middle ages it was "How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?" The answer was infinitely many, because the wonders of God were unbounded. But now as to how many miles can be obtained from the use of gasoline as a supplementary fuel in an extended range plug-in hybrid the answer is not so clear although the answers being given trend towards infinity.

    Please explain to me just how far the Volt will go if the battery charge is being "maintained" by the ICE and the movement of the car is only from the excess current (above the minimum needed to maintain the battery at its irreducible minimum state of charge) being delivered to the electric drive motor connected to the wheels??

    By the way if the situation of a low battery occurs on a blstering hot or bobe-chilling cold day does not the diversion of generator power to the heating/colling system of the battery less the range?

    I also want to know how fast the car will go in that situation, so that I know my margin of safety.

    When I ask questions such as the above the modern scholastics of the cult of lithium accuse me of being a nonbeliever. Nonetheless I say verily that I will not ever consider buying a Chevrolet Volt, and neither should you, untill all of my questions are answered so that I may compare oranges with oranges OPERATIONALLY rather than oranges with lemons.
    Aug 15 10:46 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Vinod Khosla's Stance on the Future of Lithium-ion Batteries [View article]

    You've finally arrived at a key point of understanding. It is, indeed, the internal wiring that is the issue, but it's not that of any battery chemistry it is, rather, of our own brains and endocrine systems.

    John is correct: Cheap beats cool every time, because the American way is instant gratification and to do that one needs new adultolescent toys regularly even as net worth declines. The marketing of the lithium-ion battery is the same as of a music "album" or the ticket to a concert; if you don't have one, and if you don't have the prospect of having one you're (GASP) uncool.

    In a world of limited resources and increasingly limited resources it is simply foolish to the point of jejeune (reasoning unleavened by experience as with a child or a new CEO) to squander resources of time and money just to be cool.

    But that's what we're doing in the field of storage batteries.

    Does anyone who is actually an adult believe that the next two generations of mankind will spend an ocean of treasure and tie up the intelects of thousands of the dwindling class of men and women who dedicate a quarter of their lives to learning engineering and science just to have a cool "anything."

    Our civilization is evolving to where the standard of living of billions, not just of a few hundred million who live among, but are not themselves, the gifted in the sciences and engineering, or the dedicated in either, must now rise if the world is to continue at peace.

    The Japanese, the Chinese, the Indians, and the Koreans see the future as one of limitations of extra-territorial ambitions as solutions to domestic problems. This means that they must grow their domestic economies rapidly to avoid the poison of envy.

    We are giving them very good reasons not to envy us any more.

    While they develop the underpinnings of a strong economy of manufacturing and energy we simply give them the means to grow by paying for their growth until they can utilize it internally and no longer require our money or our doestic markets.

    Korea has announced that it will dedicate itself to controlling or owning 40% of its needed strategic resources by 2020. Japan has a higher goal, and China's goal is 100%. This means that sometime in the next decade free market capitalism as a driver for increased supplies of resources will cease to function in the United States.

    The money we send to Japan and China for affordable (no longer "cheap") cars, clothes, and electronic toys that dissipate irreplacable resources comes back our way to buy natural resources not shares in American lithium-ion battery R&D startups masked as manufacturing ventures ready to build factories with public handouts.

    China now says that it will begin to reduce its emissions of "greenhouse" gases in 2050 if its goals for domestic growth have then been met. America says it will begin to reduce its emissions of such gases now and then decide if it has any set goals for domestic growth.

    If China meets her goals for domestic growth by 2050 it will mean that the US no longer has access openly to natural resources at a level necessary to sustain the 2007 standard of living.

    China has already closed off the adult toy box of cheap manufacturing for foreign consumption. Now China is closing off America's access to rare earth metals, metals for solar energy conversion, and metals, such as tungsten, for specialty steels. China is doing nothing secret or underhanded; it is buying control even of what dwindling remaining production of those resources that we have but not to invest in our producers but rather to move the resources into China's domestic economy. The Japanese have now awakened to this and are adopting the Chinese strategy.

    North America is still a treasure house of natural resources, but if we don't expand our production of them for our own use then we are headed for the position of a mediocre future economy.

    For those of you who will live in the America of the future I am warning you that natural resources are finite as is the creation of wealth. Stop squandering both on dreams of cool positional (status) personal goods.

    Aug 15 08:58 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment