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John Petersen is the executive vice president and chief financial officer of ePower Engine Systems, Inc., a Kentucky-based enterprise that has developed, built and demonstrated an engine-dominant diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain for long-haul heavy trucks that promises fuel savings of 25 to 35... More
My company:
Fefer Petersen & Co.
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ipo-law.com
  • Putting Carbon Additives Into Perspective 40 comments
    Nov 26, 2012 3:13 AM

    My materials from the European Lead Battery Conference in Paris arrived late last week and while there weren't many presentation graphs that were simple or clean enough for an investing blog, Norbert Maleschitz, the technical director of Germany's Banner Battery and the winner of the 2012 International Lead Award for lifetime contributions to the lead acid battery industry used this graph to show the dynamic charge acceptance differences between normal lead-pastes and lead pastes with carbon additives.

    (click to enlarge)

    It's unclear whether the batteries were flooded or AGM, but Banner is a primary battery supplier to both BMW and Audi so my best bet is that he was comparing AGM rather than flooded batteries.

    The thing I like most about this graph is that it clearly shows while carbon additives do improve DCA, the gains are unimpressive when you remember that automakers want DCA in the 100+ Amp range for today's heavy micro-hybrids and even higher for their next generation micro-hybrids. It is worth noting that Exide Technologies (XIDE) has hitched its wagon to the carbon additives star.

    In his presentation, Enders Dickenson of Axion Power International (OTCQB:AXPW) reminded delegates that the 2010 test results from Axion and BMW showed stable DCA of 100 Amps through 50,000 cycles. He also reported that Axion's current dual battery system demonstration is using a charge current of 150 Amps for a dual battery system where 91% of the charging load is absorbed by the PbC and 9% is absorbed by the flooded starter battery.

    If the PbC performance lines were superimposed on the Maleschitz graph, the old values would be near the bottom of my first paragraph and the new values would be near the top of my first paragraph.

    Disclosure: I am long OTCQB:AXPW.

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Comments (40)
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  • metroneanderthal
    , contributor
    Comments (1511) | Send Message
     
    John,
    Thanks for the info. Somehow I had missed that Axion's dual battery system is currently using 150 amp charge current. Interesting the DCA decrease reported by Banner and wonder what research they are doing to overcome this, or what strategic plans they may be working on. A quick look at their website seemed to indicate they don't have any li-on products. Are they an Austrian company?
    26 Nov 2012, 06:27 AM Reply Like
  • H. T. Love
    , contributor
    Comments (18058) | Send Message
     
    I was also surprised about the charge current, although it does make sense in retrospect. The nice thing will be that when the SLI battery is fully charged, excess amps can go to the PbC bringing it up to snuff even faster for those times when longer stops are involved and the s/s frequency may be higher. Of course the SLI battery may seldom hit full charge in the second part of that scenario, due to its limitations re DCA.

     

    HardToLove
    26 Nov 2012, 06:34 AM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2127) | Send Message
     
    Thanks for the update. It is apparent that no other lead acid battery manufacturer can accommodate the heavy micro market. What I find interesting is that the heavy micro market is expensive vehicles where the cost of PbC is miniscule. Yet, the technology is still yet unused.
    26 Nov 2012, 06:37 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » When it comes to mission critical components like starter batteries there's nothing more obsessive than an automaker. Customers can forgive a glitch in the electronic mirror adjustments, but they won't forgive a car that won't start when it's time to take Suzy to school.

     

    At ELBC 2010 Renault explained that their standard testing and validation cycle for a flooded LAB from a new supplier was 24 months start to finish. If they spend that much time on a commodity product, then 36 months of in-house and vehicle testing for the PbC, which is unlike any battery they've ever seen, seems pretty darned rapid.

     

    The process seems slow when you compare it to generational shifts in computers, but the last thing an automaker can tolerate is a million vehicle recall because they rushed the process.
    26 Nov 2012, 06:46 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    John, In support of your validation cycle timing. This from an article on Envia which is a start up lithium ion battery company. I could post others but the message is very consistent and clear. When you are building millions of units with the implications of failure being clearly unacceptable the prospective new technology will be put through a well regimented punishing round of testing before it makes it to the customer.

     

    "Kapadia says his biggest problem is that automakers are too slow. “Automotive qualification cycles are long,” he told me. Envia’s components have been in that cycle for two years, “and could be in an automobile in two years.”"

     

    http://bit.ly/Tgc2Q4
    26 Nov 2012, 08:46 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The funny part of that statement is that automakers are easy when it comes to EV battery testing because they know they aren't going to sell significant numbers of vehicles and there's no risk of a massive recall.
    26 Nov 2012, 08:50 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    There is some latitude when you get into lower volume sales as the primary objective of the testing is risk management. Not in the areas of safety but in other areas. If you are building fewer units your risk goes down so you can take some calculated risks. Automakers will often launch new technology on premium motor vehicles or special edition units of main stream vehicles because the volumes are lower and they can afford to take some chances. To some extent this audience will also accept a little more risk of problems because they are looking to stand out with more cutting edge technology. Once you start upping the number of units sold into the hundreds of thousands or millions bullet proof becomes the only acceptable target.
    26 Nov 2012, 09:08 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » It kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy that our baby has officially made it through BMW's artillery range and torture dungeons.
    26 Nov 2012, 09:28 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    John. As you've indicated, and it's so very true, Axion couldn't afford the level of testing that BMW and Norfolk Southern have put their PbC product through. And they are at a stage where they are basically either being fit to test vehicles, being tested at an application specific level to determine how to best integrate the technology with the correct BMS/application support technology or being verified by yet another third party entity as a standard precaution.

     

    The product is through the training and qualification stages and stretching before the many events to follow. It's been tested against the other competitors and it's time for the tech. to make its mark. Will not win all the events but it has it's place at the table for sure. Companies don't spend years and hundreds if not millions of USD's testing things just for the fun of it.

     

    Waiting for the curtain to roll back and see how the show begins. Anticipation!
    26 Nov 2012, 09:55 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » I wish there was some reasonable way to estimate the amount of money Axion's potential customers have collectively invested in testing and validating the PbC over the last three years. From my perspective, every penny a customer spends validating and testing the PbC is a direct cash investment in Axion's technology that never shows up on the financial statements but provides an immense benefit – like giving an Asian OEM the confidence to test for six months instead of three years.

     

    It wouldn't surprise me to learn that customers have collectively spent a couple million dollars a year, if not more.
    26 Nov 2012, 10:05 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    It's hard to estimate and put a direct value on how much this adds to the value of Axion's technology. Some of it is quantifiable but some of it is not because it's really priceless to some extent. The testing is something that only the entity doing the testing could provide because much of their test regiment and the results are proprietary. Some results will be shared with Axion and some not.

     

    While we can't put a direct number on it we know it's huge both in what Axion learns and indirectly from some of what isn't shared. This is a case where what does and doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Working with and for automotive companies is really an almost hellish task. But in the end what you garner from the relationship in huge because the rite of passage will take you just about anywhere. You'll not find a harder door to gain access to (Humming a Frank Sinatra song).
    26 Nov 2012, 10:44 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » So you're saying that getting past automotive testing is a lot like Dan getting past The Captain in Deadwood?

     

    http://bit.ly/UIomKT
    26 Nov 2012, 10:47 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    Actually it's a little worse. It's worse because after you make it past The Captain you have to go to purchasing AGAIN and they still don't want to pay you anything for your 48 rounds in the ring. After all you paid for the privilege of going though The Captain just for the fun of it right?

     

    And yet where ever you go after that people will know what you've been through because everyone knows The Captain!
    26 Nov 2012, 11:21 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Next time somebody approaches me with a battery R&D project I think I'll just beat myself in the head with a ball peen hammer.
    26 Nov 2012, 11:23 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    Well that still leaves you a choice. Flat side or round. LOL

     

    I've been following this industry since long before Vanence built their plant in Ireland without a process. Ugh. I have no excuses.

     

    What's the definition of insanity again?
    26 Nov 2012, 12:07 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Axion's ELBC 2012 presentation is here:

     

    http://bit.ly/UnqLw4

     

    The original test cycle used in 2010 is on Slide 15. The new test cycle for the two battery system is on Slide 26.

     

    It's a fine point, but a 50 Amp charging load for an AGM is a lower amps per amp hour load than the same 50 Amp charging load for a PbC because the PbC will have about 30% less energy capacity than a comparably sized AGM.
    26 Nov 2012, 06:52 AM Reply Like
  • carlosgaviria
    , contributor
    Comments (799) | Send Message
     
    Good Morning Mr. John:
    It is so kind and give me the link of AXION-Instanbul 2010
    Thanks, Carlos
    26 Nov 2012, 07:07 AM Reply Like
  • metroneanderthal
    , contributor
    Comments (1511) | Send Message
     
    I will be interested to see the results of the number of cycles that the PbC can do using 150 charge current in terms of both current acceptance and for how long it can continue a recharge rate of under 25 seconds..
    26 Nov 2012, 07:32 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Carlos>, The entire Istanbul presentation is here:

     

    http://bit.ly/KhkuzF
    26 Nov 2012, 08:42 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    Interesting that in light of the above curves that Exide has chosen to go with graphite for their Surelife AGM batteries. Of course we also know that there are some contributions from the method of manufacture as well so maybe they have something that makes their solution a little better than the samples tested for the above curves. Or maybe not.

     

    I'll have to go back and see how graphite compares to some of the other carbon additives in the recently published report from East Penn and Sandia.

     

    http://bit.ly/KK6ZGz

     

    Any way you slice it we can understand why Exide has chosen to do some development work with Maxwell. We'll know how that works out for them in a few years.
    26 Nov 2012, 08:57 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » If you "click to enlarge" the Banner graph, you'll notice that the red curve is expanded graphite alone and the green is a mix of expanded graphite and activated carbon.

     

    For the record, I don't believe for a minute that Exide is any more competent than Banner when it comes to carbon additives.

     

    The problem with mixing batteries with supercapacitors is that the system gets the problem backwards. The supercapacitor assures a flawless engine restart with no voltage sag, but the engine restart load is only 9% of the problem. The hotel loads that represent 91% of the problem are still laid at the doorstep of the AGM battery with poor DCA.

     

    In their Q-2-11 conference call, a little less than a year after Maxwell launched the dual device system with Continental, David Schramm said that the supercapacitor (1) allowed Peugeot to downsize their battery enough to fit it under the hood and (2) added about 30% to the life of the AGM battery.

     

    http://seekingalpha.co...
    26 Nov 2012, 09:11 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    Oops, My mistake. East Penn and Sandia didn't test graphite only in their testing. Darn!

     

    http://1.usa.gov/T3ldSo

     

    PS Rude of me. Thanks so much for the data and as always your perspective. People can debate your stance and they should. But they should never doubt how invaluable your contribution is when it comes to sharing the spoils, in the form of documents, from your time spent going to various events in the industry. We're fortunate to have you share your findings for sure.
    26 Nov 2012, 10:11 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » One of the things that surprised me in the Banner presentation was that they used the DKE EN-50342-6 duty cycle which is particularly hard on batteries. Most of the tests I've seen, including the report from East Penn and Sandia, go for gentler cycling regimes and more complete battery recovery.
    26 Nov 2012, 10:22 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    The test cycles really need to closely mimic the intended use. If you rely on similar testing, even if it's more harsh, you might miss certain failure modes that occur as a result of the intended use. That's why it takes the automotive companies so darn long to test possible solutions. They start out in a lab beating the hell out of a number of possible solutions to get rid of the weak ASAP because the testing is so expensive. Then they move the technology in limited numbers to environments that mimic the final use but are at extremes. Maybe a test mule in a city environment, one in extreme cold and one in extreme heat. Then when they finish all the testing they can think of to make sure they have something they fully understand that will meet their needs they give everything to an independent certified expert resource to review their findings and make sure they didn't make any mistakes. This is all in anticipation of the final step which is to move a higher number of test units into extreme field trials for final verification. Statistically relevant sample sizes if you will. A final test where everything coming out on future vehicle platforms come together and are verified as complete systems.

     

    Axion is in the external certification stage. A huge achievement. They have to be half bald and out of breath but the picture coming into view is sweet indeed. Sooooooo close you can taste it. But it's not soup yet! lol
    26 Nov 2012, 11:05 AM Reply Like
  • D Lane
    , contributor
    Comments (1375) | Send Message
     
    Given that Exide has hitched itself to the carbon additives wagon, are they still strongly undervalued by the market at this point?
    26 Nov 2012, 11:21 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » I think Exide made a grave mistake with Axion because they really had an advantageous position. Even if we assume that the PbC will ultimately dominate the stop-start market, Exide and JCI are going to be the big first beneficiaries of the shift to better batteries because they're the only companies that can make batteries in meaningful volumes.

     

    It goes back to the point I made in my ELBC presentation. The most important word in the phrase "best available technology" is AVAILABLE, which implies relevant scale and reasonable cost.

     

    The PbC cost is still high because production volumes are very low and Axion is at the upper left hand corner of the manufacturing learning curve. More importantly, until Axion can make electrodes for several million cars a year the technology won't be considered available.

     

    Today, the best available technology is probably flooded batteries because that's where the production capacity is.

     

    Within a couple years, AGM will probably become the best available as production capacity ramps.

     

    Five years from now my outlook for Exide may be very different, but for the next couple years it should perform very well.
    26 Nov 2012, 11:35 AM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (9575) | Send Message
     
    D Lane, Large companies hitch themselves to many wagons. Just because Exide has chosen an additive for one offering it does not exclude them from also taking other paths as well ( Axion? Maxwell?). While things appear not to be progressing in an Axion/Exide relationship this could change ( Although a reconciliation would be more cautious I'm sure).

     

    One of the good things about AGM, AGM with additives and PbC is that they can all be built on the same battery lines with little change. So really, it's up to the final end user to set the percentages of where these technologies best apply. If the market shifts, the relationships and capacity utilization will adjust accordingly. The task for the various entities to manage as this rolls out is to make sure they adjust the relationships that complement their individual business paths the best.

     

    Exide thus far is not doing so well because they can't seem to show Mr. Market that their restructuring efforts are behind them. They have a pretty long history of not showing that they can be most often repetitive in their march in a positive direction.
    26 Nov 2012, 11:59 AM Reply Like
  • D Lane
    , contributor
    Comments (1375) | Send Message
     
    Thanks, JP and iindelco! The tendency I have is to get ahead of the market and you are setting me straight again.
    26 Nov 2012, 12:06 PM Reply Like
  • DRich
    , contributor
    Comments (4673) | Send Message
     
    On a technology basis, the only thing Exide passed on was the privilege of claiming some "first to market" and possibly some "exclusivity" time in market by mishandling its relationship with Axion. Axion has never struck me as a group that would cut off their nose to spite their face when/if a business opportunity of any scale might present itself.

     

    I would think that all 3 of the major battery manufacturers, Enersys (ENS), Johnson Controls (http://bit.ly/JX5yEz) & Exide (http://bit.ly/Qem9C8) have test samples of the PbC or UltraBattery in their lab for reference. I've never heard or seen any evidence but if they don't then I'd shocked and seriously doubt they even had research departments. The only evidence that this might be is that Axion evaluated a battery for JCI a few years back. Whatever meets the barest of operational requirement at lowest cost is what interests them. This is a group where cheap beats cool every time but are really focused on cheapest. Exide might come around again.
    26 Nov 2012, 12:33 PM Reply Like
  • carlosgaviria
    , contributor
    Comments (799) | Send Message
     
    DRich:

     

    ...the only thing Exide passed on was the privilege of claiming some "first to market" and possibly some "exclusivity" time in market by mishandling its relationship with Axion.

     

    "It may even be the first: Write a check for $ 32M and turn it into AXION POWER PbC Tech".

     

    Have a nice day-Carlos
    27 Nov 2012, 06:40 AM Reply Like
  • ARGE
    , contributor
    Comments (722) | Send Message
     
    I guess that answers that question!!!! (see yahoo message board)
    What I can't get is why they PcB is not the starter battery as well. Just seems to me that Suzy is going to get to school on time more often then not with a battery that can start 100,000 times, moreso if the hotel battery can be accessed as a backup...unless the "airport" drain rate is too fast.
    26 Nov 2012, 11:29 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » I gave up on Brand X because there aren't any stockholder discussions and discussing anything with professional trolls is a profound waste of time.

     

    Tom has made a couple references to a potential single battery PbC solution for micro-hybrids, so I think it's too early to assume that a single battery won't work. Axion is promoting the dual battery solution because it does a better job of serving the needs of today's heavy micro-hybrids and the second generation micro-hybrids the automakers are planning for the future.

     

    In a dual battery system, the small flooded starter battery doesn't do anything except power the starter and it's always kept at a 100% state of charge, which is optimal for flooded lead acid.

     

    The PbC battery for hotel loads is always kept at an 80% state of charge which is dreadfully hard on flooded or AGM batteries because a partial state of charge increases the sulfation rate.

     

    When you keep a hotel load battery at an 80% SOC and then factor in two or three weeks of self-discharge at an airport, you get uncomfortably close to the reliability edge.

     

    My best guess is that a single battery system would be maintained at a higher SOC to leave a bit more "rubber."
    26 Nov 2012, 11:47 AM Reply Like
  • siliconhillbilly
    , contributor
    Comments (2215) | Send Message
     
    >Arge: It has to do with the highly conservative nature of making changes to the auto product that could leave the car "dead" in a parking lot or along-side of the road. The flooded SLI is well understood for starting use and it feels SAFE to the automotive engineers.

     

    I predict that after 5 or less years of in-car use, the larger voltage variation of the PbC over varying SOC will be fully compensated by design improvements in auto electronics. Then the flooded SLI will be removed to save money. The improved electronics/instrument costs will be small compared to that savings.

     

    IMO, naturally
    26 Nov 2012, 12:34 PM Reply Like
  • ARGE
    , contributor
    Comments (722) | Send Message
     
    Omy! If you are not going to the message board anymore then how are you going to know what country you live in? ;-)
    As a share holder, next time you talk to Tom tell him to keep his mouth shut about a single battery Micro-Hybrid, we want a system with two PcBs!
    Heck I want a PcB for my car, having pushed it thru a Walmart* parking lot while on vacation last month.
    *(that's a big chain store here in the states for those of you in Switzerland)
    26 Nov 2012, 02:38 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The harder part will be not understanding what I do for a living.

     

    I vaguely remember the name WalMart. Isn't that the outfit that Sam Walton started? I only remember because of an interview he gave after the '87 crash. The reporter asked what it felt like to lose a billion dollars in a day and old Sam just grinned and said "I haven't lost anything because I still own every share."
    26 Nov 2012, 02:40 PM Reply Like
  • malesch
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
     
    Hello John

     

    Thanks for your comments - please note that Banner is an Austrian Company and not a German one. Could you please correct this in your notes. Thanks and have a prosperous 2013. Best Regards - Norbert Maleschitz (Banner GmbH)
    2 Jan 2013, 05:35 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » I'm sorry for the mistake Norbert. I won't make it again. Please accept my best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2013.
    2 Jan 2013, 05:40 AM Reply Like
  • Mr Investor
    , contributor
    Comments (2802) | Send Message
     
    Just reread this article, JP. Still excellent stuff, especially in light of Kia's stated intention to use lead-carbon batteries in their 48v concept presented at the Geneva Auto Show recently.

     

    Things that make you go hmmmm...
    19 Mar, 11:01 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30232) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Unless there's been some earth-shattering advance that I haven't heard about in the last year and a half I don't see how KIA can take the risk of using feeble batteries in a first in class 48-volt electrical system. That tells me they'll either have to delay the launch date or upgrade the batteries.
    19 Mar, 11:12 AM Reply Like
  • froggey77
    , contributor
    Comments (2770) | Send Message
     
    JP wrote a post about this information on a APH concentrator that I thought was appropriate here.
    Concentrator here:
    http://seekingalpha.co...

     

    His specific comment here:

     

    http://seekingalpha.co...

     

    "2012 ELBC in Paris it's my opinion that carbon paste additives ARE NOT APPROPRIATE FOR ANY micro-hybrid applications. Pull up the graph in another window and lets run through the numbers.

     

    http://bit.ly/QkCOK0

     

    During a one-minute engine off cycle a Gen1 micro-hybrid uses 600 watt-minutes of energy for the hotel loads. It makes no difference whether the system operates at 12-volts and 50 amps or 48-vollts and 12.5 amps. 600 watt-minutes of energy is 600 watt-minutes of energy.

     

    The Banner graph shows that AGM batteries with carbon paste additives cannot handle more than 15 amps of charge current after a few thousand engine-off cycles (miles). A 15 amp charging current on a 12 volt system is 180 watts. Since the energy delivered by a battery cannot exceed the energy accepted by the battery, a Gen1 micro-hybrid with a carbon paste battery must have at least 3 minutes and 20 seconds of engine run time for every minute of engine off time.

     

    If KIA planned to use 4 AGM batteries with carbon paste additives for a Gen1 micro-hybrid the numbers would probably balance. Each of the four batteries would accept 180 watt-minutes per minute of engine run time (720 watt-minutes total) and that would be enough to handle an engine off load of 600 watt-minutes per mile.

     

    When you get to a Gen3 system the hotel loads rocket upwards for (a) electric power steering, brakes and air conditioning during engine off rolling periods, (b) larger accessory hotel loads for longer engine off periods. Even though the BSG is able to deliver more charge current to the four batteries, those batteries cannot accept more than 720 watt-minutes per minute of recharging time.

     

    The lead-acid battery industry is pounding the table on the wonders of carbon additives because that's all they have to offer. It's like the record industry pounding the table on the wonders of vinyl when CDs first emerged and then pounding the table on the wonders of CDs when MP3 emerged. Legacy technologies never give up without a fight, but absent a miracle, carbon paste additives simply can't do the work. "
    19 Mar, 02:35 PM Reply Like
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