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Neil Energy

Neil Energy
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  • Axion Power Reports Impressive Performance Test Results; Significant Upside Potential [View article]
    If the final solution moves towards a two battery solution, then the battery plus ultracap solution starts to become competitive, as one of the arguments against the ultracap solution is the extra complexity of managing two energy sources. I know the white paper shows how it should be simple to manage two batteries, but in my mind, the goal should be either an awesome PbC battery that can handle the start/stop as well as the accessories, or go the other direction and milk the ultracaps for all you can. Use them to protect the battery, use them for starting the engine, and also for some regenerative braking, since they can take a huge amount of current as 5,000 pounds comes to a stop.

    I'd love to see what can be done with ultracaps on heavier vehicles. I bet there are all kinds of clever algorithms that could be implemented. If the vehicle is traveling at a decent rate of speed and the ultracap has a lot of energy in it, you could charge the battery at a nice smooth rate, almost emptying the ultracap because you know when the vehicle starts to slow, energy will be recaptured by the ultracap and can be used for the next start event.
    Nov 30 09:43 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Axion Power Reports Impressive Performance Test Results; Significant Upside Potential [View article]
    The Exide presentation makes it very clear that the DOE-funded project is entirely using Exide's own carbon enhancement technology, and that there are no outside partners.

    Is it correct that the Exide project (scheduled to conclude with final manufacturing equipment in place by 2012) is entirely independent of Axion Power?

    I still don't understand how Exide and Axion are or are not working together. If Exide is going all-out with their own technology, won't they have a very strong inertia to use their technology instead of Axion's, even if the Exide technology is slightly inferior? If Exide can meet the needs of the automotive OE, might that be enough, and Axion's superior technology will not be needed by Exide?
    Nov 28 10:57 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Axion Power Reports Impressive Performance Test Results; Significant Upside Potential [View article]
    Thanks for the link John to the East Penn presentation and the slide showing the distinction between a traditional lead-acid battery and the Ultrabattery.

    Based on it's physical configuration however, it seems to me that the Ultrabattery may have the same negative characteristics/problems of a traditional lead-acid battery. It only goes part way. Is that enough to make it acceptable for new applications? Who knows.

    Is there any information on a comparison between the Ultrabattery and Axion's PbC battery?
    Nov 28 10:46 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Axion Power Reports Impressive Performance Test Results; Significant Upside Potential [View article]
    In terms of shortening the life of a lead-acid battery, including the improved versions of them like AGM, I wonder if it's the higher-current engine start events or the 60 second accessory load events that cause the most damage. Is it possible that by using an ultracap to take the engine start events will significantly improve the life of the battery (and prolongs it's charge acceptance lifetime)? It would seem that the recently announced Continental (with Maxwell inside) start/stop system is taking this approach.

    I wish there was better data explaining which type of charge/discharge events are the most damaging. Anybody know anything about this?

    P.S. I agree with John that a PbC/ultracap combination would be overkill. The carbon electrode on a PbC battery is essentially acting like an ultracap anyway. Automakers are going to favor a simpler solution with fewer parts whenever they can.

    My guess is that the ultracap will be more useful on heavier vehicles that attempt to capture more of the regenerative braking energy. Also for vehicles that have very frequent stops, since the round trip efficiency for the ultracap is around 95% compared to the 85% of the PbC battery. Finally, I wonder if low-temp starting will be another reason for a small amount of ultracaps in the system as well.
    Nov 25 03:42 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Maxwell Technologies: Important Stop-Start Design Win [View article]

    I've seen you make many good, constructive comments on this message board, so if I didn't know better, I'd think you had an agenda against ultracaps.

    Looking at the spec sheet for Maxwell's 125 Volt module, they claim 1,000,000 cycles, a lifespan of 100,000 hours (11.4 years), and have specs for capacitance and internal resistance changes after 10 years.

    Here's the spec sheet I was looking at:

    I admit I am taking Maxwell's claims at face value, and assume that the automotive manufacturers would not use an ultracap with a 1.5 to 2 year lifetime. Since I have never used an ultracap, and it looks like you might have extensive experience with them, could you provide any other experiences that would alert us to the risks and potential failures that ultracaps will face? They've been used in wind turbines for years and in hybrid buses for a few years now, so it seems they are proving themselves in real-world applications.

    Please educate us further, lest we believe ultracaps will perform as advertised.

    Oct 28 02:39 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Maxwell Technologies: Important Stop-Start Design Win [View article]
    Maxwell is claiming more than a million cycles on their ultracaps, and heavy duty bus manufacturers seem to believe them. Are you saying Maxwell's duty cycle claims are false?
    Oct 23 03:47 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Maxwell Technologies: Important Stop-Start Design Win [View article]
    In the following press release from Continental, there was an interesting few sentences:

    "The electronic controls in this module known as an E-booster controls recharging super capacitors during the recuperative phase. This is the time during which the vehicle recuperates energy with the generator acting as an engine brake, when the driver lifts his foot from the accelerator or brakes"

    This means the system is not simply a start/stop system, but also does a little bit of regenerative braking. This is very nice, as I don't know to what extent other start/stop systems are attempting this.

    Furthermore, the ultracaps should have a much better chance of capturing the braking energy compared to batteries.

    John: do you think this is unusual for a start/stop system or will all start/stop systems attempt to do a bit of regenerative braking? Have your heard anything about what percent of the braking energy can be recaptured by different storage technologies? I've heard that even the Prius only captures a small portion of the braking energy to avoid charging the battery too fast.

    Thanks again for the great articles and the great follow-up discussion!

    Oct 23 01:57 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Plug-in Vehicles: Toyota Tells the Unvarnished Truth [View article]
    Toyota is doing the smart thing with a short-range PHEV. They know that consumers will pay a "reasonable" premium for a high-mileage HEV, and maybe a bit more for a PHEV. But if the battery gets too large (and expensive), even those with disposable income won't buy it. For the right customer, with the right drive cycle, a short-range PHEV will make sense.

    A family that makes many short trips to school, lessons, sports events, church, the grocery store, etc., might benefit. I've found that my Prius gets 45 to 50 mpg only when my trips are 10 miles or longer or the car has not had a chance to cool down. Short trips of just a few miles get around 25 mpg because of the warm-up cycle for the catalytic converter. So the mpg gain that you get on the short, all-electric trips is actually more helpful than it would seem at first, not just because electricity is cheaper, but because you avoid the short trips that kill your mpg. This approach also gives you a big bang for the buck in terms of reducing emissions, since you can eliminate a lot of engine starts.

    You have to be making a lot of short trips spread out throughout the day, which only makes sense for a small number of drivers. That's why I think we'll end up with a variety of ICE, micro, mild and full HEVs as well as micro, mild and heavy PHEVs, all suited for different drive cylcles. Full BEVs will remain low volume due to the very high cost and limited range.
    Jul 11 11:32 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Tesla Is Unlikely to Succeed [View article]
    I'm waiting for my 7 year 100,000 mile extended warranty to expire and then I'm going to do the modification to let me run in all-electric mode. It will make perfect sense for the 2 mile round trip to drop my kids off at school, all at less than 40 mph. At that point the battery will be low, but 30 minutes later, I might drive to work (10 miles), which will charge the battery back up.
    Jun 23 02:40 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Tesla Is Unlikely to Succeed [View article]
    I'm looking forward to a slightly beefed up HEV or maybe a PHEV-5, with a battery only big enough (and cheap enough) to support short frequent short errands like driving the kids to school, going to a nearby restaurant, etc. For many people a 5 mile electric range would hardly be worth it, but for a family like ours with kids at schools only 1 to 2 miles away and neighbors and friends and church similarly close, many of our frequent trips would be all electric.

    One of the annoying things about our Prius is that the engine always kicks in 6 seconds after starting it, even if you're only moving the car 100 feet. Even a slight all-electric range would be nice.

    On our current 5,500 mile road trip (almost home!), one thing I have appreciated about our Prius is that when we stop, we seldom turn the car off. We can fuel up or a few of us can run into the bathroom while the A/C is still running and keeping the car reasonably cool (while useful, it seems a but weaker than when driving). Beefing up the battery a little bit will allow the A/C to keep us more comfortable for a bit longer.

    Finally, the continued electrification of the vehicle (like transitioning from hydraulic brakes, hydraulic power steering and belt-driven water pumps to electric equivalents) will simplify maintenance and repair costs associated with such systems. This can all be done on a regular HEV, even without a plug.

    I thought I heard that the 2010 Prius has gone completely belt-free, meaning there is no parasitic load on the engine from the normally bevy of accessories that are driven off the serpentine belt.

    In my mind, it's all about the continued, year by year improvements that clearly pay for themselves or make the consumer more comfortable. Running the A/C while parked (or continually pulling outside fresh air into the vehicle while parked on a 120 degree parking lot) are features consumers will pay for! Can you tell I'm from Texas?

    Thanks John for your great articles and for the great discussions that they foster.
    Jun 21 04:18 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Stop-Start Idle Elimination Technology: 5 Companies With First Mover Advantage [View article]
    Thanks John again for your insight on the batteries vs ultracaps question. I think you're right that at this point, the savings are so compelling, that several different solutions based on advanced batteries and/or ultracaps will come to market, and only after a several year vetting will the automakers converge on the very lowest cost solution, and that may still vary based on the class, size and type of hybrid vehicle.

    It's no surprise that transit buses (especially in China) are already adopting ultracaps in a big way. 25% improvement in fuel economy and 90% reduction in emissions for these buses is what they are seeing.

    May 31 11:08 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Stop-Start Idle Elimination Technology: 5 Companies With First Mover Advantage [View article]
    Batteries or Ultracapacitors for Start/Stop?

    John and the rest of the commentors: I'd love to hear your thoughts on ultracaps as either 1.) an alternative to advanced batteries or 2.) as a supplement to AGM or other current generation lead-acid batteries being used already in start/stop systems.

    Maxwell Technologies touts the fact that several European automakers are planning to use their ultracaps in start/stop systems starting this year and ramping up over the next few.

    Here are some of the tradeoffs I can think of, and would appreciate comments on which ones you think will influence the adoption of advanced lead-acid batteries or ultracaps.

    Ultracaps will last the life of the vehicle. This inspires confidence in the start/stop system, but the up-front cost of ultracaps will probably be higher. With ultracaps, the car still needs a lead-acid battery (although it could be smaller). An advanced lead-acid battery might last 4 years, and subsequent battery replacements would fall on the owner, keeping the up-front cost of the vehicle down.

    If ultracaps are paired with a current-generation lead-acid battery, will the ultracaps protect the battery enough from heavy charge/discharge events to make the system viable?

    Due to cost, will ultracaps be relegated to the mild and full hybrids, where they can add value in regenerative braking and acceleration assist? What else could the ultracaps do in a start/stop only configuration? Perhaps allow for electric power steering and other functions that have high pulse power requirements?

    Bottom line: I'm wondering if ultracaps are mutually exclusive with advanced batteries that can take a high charge/discharge? I know ultracaps can extend the life of even an advanced battery (says the research done by Argonne National Lab), but I wonder about the cost tradeoffs of having an engine, ultracaps AND advanced batteries all in one vehicle. It seems something is going to be optimized out.

    Thanks again John for your excellent articles. Not only is your content insightful and relevant, but you also draw a great readership, whose comments I also learn from.

    May 30 07:24 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Stop-Start Idle Elimination Technology: 5 Companies With First Mover Advantage [View article]
    Great article as always John!

    Clearly the start/stop is low-hanging fruit in terms of efficiency gains, but it also looks like regenerative braking is low hanging fruit as well. At 45% of all energy consumption after the drivetrain (aerodynamic resistance, rolling resistance and kinetic/braking), it seems that a solution that truly captures most of the braking energy could also be a very big winner. Saving 45% of the energy after the drivetrain would work it's way back up through the drivetrain and to the engine, requiring the engine to use less energy in the first place.

    That said, I think the reason start-stop makes more sense now is that recapturing braking energy requires electric motors and ultracaps (since batteries can't accept such a fast charge), both of which can be avoided by a start/stop solution. So true regenerative braking will probably have to be deferred to full hybrids and PHEVs and HEVs. And they'll still probably need ultracaps to fully capture all of the braking energy.

    John, with driveline losses being pretty significant, have you heard of any compelling advances in that area?

    Thanks again for your wonderful articles. I have learned much, and it has affected my investing decisions. I've been a shareholder of Active Power since 1992 (see my lengthy notes from the recent annual meeting on the Yahoo message board). I've also been a shareholder of Maxwell for 5 years or so, and am excited about their potential. I also hold Beacon, Captstone Turbine and Westport, and continue to watch fuel cells as a long-term possibility for niche applications.
    May 30 11:17 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Recovery Inc: Pure Play for Water Desalinization [View article]
    Excellent summary of ERII and where they are at. I've owned and followed them for a few years now, and believe that their business will pick up quickly if the various world ecomomies start spending again.

    One thing that I found really interesting: The cost of SWRO has come down so much, that it is now cheaper to build a SWRO plant near the ocean than to pump water from a fresh water source that is more than x miles away (I think it was 100 or 200 miles). One way or the other, you use electricity to run pumps. Plus pipes and right of way, etc. etc.

    I think this change in the cost tradeoff between fresh and salt water and the final goal of producing potable water will change the way cities and states look at the traditional method of pumping water great distances.

    Apr 19 01:50 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The Obama Fast Track for Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) [View article]
    Another major benefit of the lower-cost hybrids is that you get significant reductions in emissions for a relatively low cost. Mild and micro help a bit by turning off the engine, but the full HEV, with acceleration assist, can really make a difference. Of course a PHEV or pure EV will give you VERY high reductions in emissions, but for the same cost, you could reduce emissions significantly for many "ordinary" vehicles

    Hybrid passenger buses, using batteries and Maxwell ultracapitors for regenerative braking and acceleration not only get 40% fuel savings - they also have something like 70% reductions due to the acceleration being handled by the ultracapitors. Great stuff!

    Maxwell has been emphasizing on their conference calls lately that European auto manufacturers are pursuing micro hybrids in a big way, mostly because of the regulations regarding carbon emissions. Allowed grams of CO2 per mile in the EU are being racheted down pretty agressively, and the cheapest way to reduce CO2 emissions right now are with a micro hybrid start-stop system. Fuel economy improves as well, but I thought it was interesting that it's the CO2 target that is driving this business.

    May 25 01:37 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment