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U.S. regulators will reportedly hold a forum next month on lithium-ion batteries, nearly a year...

U.S. regulators will reportedly hold a forum next month on lithium-ion batteries, nearly a year after a fire emanating from a crash test of a Chevrolet Volt threw a bright spotlight on safety in the sector. EV-related plays: F, GM, TSLA, NSANY.PK, AVAV,ECTY, GACR.PK, KNDI, NRG, ZAAP.OB, AONE.
Comments (5)
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (3445) | Send Message
     
    As I understood it the fires in the Volt were due to coolant from the battery case leaking and dripping onto a 12V circuit board, which shorted out the 12V bus and produced the fire.

     

    It had nothing to do with the lithium-ion battery itself, other than it has a liquid cooling containment vessel and system that could, in theory, leak in a severe crash. Chevy moved the circuit board so it would not be affected by future coolant leaks.
    20 Apr 2012, 02:24 PM Reply Like
  • TK Shih
    , contributor
    Comments (2) | Send Message
     
    If that is the findings why is GM considering redesigning the battery pack? Any ideal why they have stop production of the Volt for 5 weeks? Is it merely due to slow sales? Any ideal why there is virtually no news from Better Place and their EV launch?
    21 Apr 2012, 07:13 AM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (3445) | Send Message
     
    Lithium battery cells and packs these days are a lot like smart phones, computers, televisions, and software. As soon as you buy the latest state-of-the-art version, it is out of date. Also as a result of the coolant leaks after crashes, GM strengthened the battery case with shields to make it less likely to rupture in a severe crash.

     

    High voltage lithium ion battery cells and packs are developing at an extremely rapid pace right now, and there is fierce competition among several suppliers to make them more powerful, longer lasting, faster charging, less expensive, and more efficient with less heat generated, etc.

     

    Some auto companies have actually changed battery suppliers and pack designs several times during development, to try to get the very best possible installed performance at launch. Battery companies are happy to show the advantages of their latest cell chemistry and performance specifications, with the disadvantages of their competitor's designs, and the auto makers are gobbling it up.

     

    You should expect to see redesigned battery packs and upgraded performance in practically every model year or two, as automakers frantically try to update their system to the latest advances, and maybe even some "running changes", to try to get a few more miles of range per charge, and to speed up the charging process, and, especially, to cut costs. With battery packs running into the $15,000 range, even a few percent in savings is significant in hitting a price point to be competitive.

     

    As for the production halt, at the end of the 2011 GM reported having something like 5 months supply of Volts stored on dealer lots and elsewhere, partly due to public discomfort over the botched crash test that produced the botched reporting on supposed "battery fires" that proved to be utterly false. Volt sales picked up rapidly in the 1Q, and that 5-month supply suddenly turned into a 1-month supply, and GM quickly resumed production ahead of the original schedule to meet assumed peak demand during the spring-summer, as fuel prices presumably rise and peak.
    21 Apr 2012, 08:39 AM Reply Like
  • Seti03
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
     
    Great post Tdot. ..personally, i cannot understand the propaganda pushback against the fledgling EV market. I guess some out there would dearly miss the fresh smell of gasoline on a hot summers day.
    27 May 2012, 10:52 PM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (3445) | Send Message
     
    "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
    - attributed to Henry Ford

     

    It's not that they are wrong or stupid. They are being cautious, and are using their best understanding of risks, to judge.

     

    Most people inherently and instinctively don't like revolutionary change - because it can be dangerous. They have seen, over and over again, the results of poorly engineered and executed changes, and often times there have been fatalities.

     

    There are a small minority of open-minded adventurous types who are willing to pioneer into the frontiers, expand the boundaries, look with fresh eyes, challenge the paradigms, and (fill in your favorite clich├ęs here). These are the sort who are willing to look and see if an EV can actually work for them, not necessarily as a primary family-adventure vehicle, but for routine daily personal transportation.

     

    Folks that have a commute of under 50 miles, with the possibility of charging at each end (at home and at work), or for evening and weekend chores with possible quick charging at various stops on the way (drugstore, shopping mall, library, restaurant, etc.) can probably find a good fit in an affordable, short range (~75 mile / 120 km) EV. The EV is not really meant for cross-country adventures, or for hauling heavy loads and families, but neither is a sports car or roadster.

     

    There are also possibilities involving inductive range-extending charging en-route, with electromagnetic elements imbedded in the freeway to power and charge electric vehicles on commutes.

     

    Society is in the midst of an energy revolution of sorts, as petroleum prices rise, and inexpensive alternatives are sought. There are millions upon millions of petroleum-burning commuter cars that could be replaced with EVs, saving potentially billions of barrels of oil, maybe $1T a year or more in petroleum imports.

     

    Of course that would need to be offset with a large investment in electrical infrastructure (more electrical power plants, grid upgrades) to supply all those EVs with on-peak charging during normal business hours. But if the energy can be locally sourced (eg: coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, solar, even North American petroleum reserves), then it could be a very good trade.
    28 May 2012, 09:40 AM Reply Like
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