Archive for the ‘Batteries – Lithium Ion’ Category

Kamala: “End dependence on oil tyrants … get an EV”

March 9, 2022

The rub: Our EV future is dependent on batteries from Asia … mostly CHINA!

According to an SNE Research analysis channeled by Statista

At present, the ten manufacturers with the highest market share in terms of battery capacity are all headquartered in Asian countries, mainly China, South Korea and Japan.

The top five manufacturers – CATL, LG, Panasonic, BYD and Samsung – together account for over 80 percent of global automotive battery production.

The Chinese company Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) alone controls about 1/3 of the market.

Infographic: Asian Batteries Power Global EV Fleet | Statista

If that isn’t scary enough, consider that about 97% of lithium is currently refined in China. Source

Ditching Russian energy is a great idea … but putting our eggs in China’s basket strikes me as jumping from the pan into the fire.


Holy Solyndra: Battery maker A123 Systems goes Chinese … ouch!

August 10, 2012

A123 Systems was supposed to be one the U.S. companies to propel the green energy revolution … by designing, making, and supplying batteries to hybrids and electric cars (think Volts).

A123 received more than $200 million from venture investors before raising $378 million in a 2009 initial public offering.

Also in 2009, it was awarded a $249 million green-technology grant under the Obama administration’s $2.4 billion Electric Drive Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative.


But, things haven’t been going so good for electric cars and A123.

A123 said second-quarter revenue fell 53 percent to $17 million … the company’s  second-quarter loss of was $82.9 million … and cash dwindled to the point that the company can only fund its operations for the next four to five months.

So, according Auto News, China’s largest automotive parts supplier is now poised to take control of A123.

China’s Wanxiang Group Corp. plans to invest up to $450 million in A123 Systems, taking an 80 percent stake in A123.

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Ken’s Take: So much for energy independence and government venture capitalism.

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Why didn’t they just name it Edsel ?

August 3, 2010

Punch line: The Chevy (oops, I meant to say Chevrolet) Volt will have a  $41,000 sticker price while offering the performance and interior space of a $15,000 economy car.

Maybe nobody will notice …

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Excerpted from NYT: G.M.’s Electric Lemon, July 29, 2010

GM introduced America to the Chevrolet Volt at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show as a low-slung concept car that would someday be the future of motorized transportation. It would go 40 miles on battery power alone, after which it would create its own electricity with a gas engine.


For starters, G.M.’s vision turned into a car that costs $41,000 before relevant tax breaks (projected to be about $7,500 per car). Tthe Volt’s main competition, the Nissan Leaf ends up costing $8,000 less as a result.

And instead of a sleek coupe , the Volt looks suspiciously similar to a Toyota Prius.

It also requires premium gasoline, seats only four people (the battery runs down the center of the car, preventing a rear bench) and has less head and leg room than the $17,000 Chevrolet Cruze, which is more or less the non-electric version of the Volt.

In short, the Volt appears to be exactly the kind of green-at-all-costs car that some opponents of the bailout feared the government might order G.M. to build.

Though President Obama’s task force reported in 2009 that the Volt “will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful in the short term,” it didn’t cancel the project.

So the future of General Motors (and the $50 billion taxpayer investment in it) now depends on a vehicle that costs $41,000 but offers the performance and interior space of a $15,000 economy car.

If G.M. were honest, it would market the car as a personal donation for, and vote of confidence in, the auto bailout. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of cross-branding that will make the Volt a runaway success.

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Your green neighbor wants an electric car … get out your wallet!

May 14, 2010

This week I was again struck by the irony: the US Feds – who have no money and are deeply in debt — are going to borrow still more money from China to bail out the Greeks – who are deeply in debt.  That’s nuts.

And, the few remaining US taxpayers are going to asked (make that ‘told’) that they (and the Chinese lenders) subsidize their neighbors new green rides. 

And incumbents wonder why voters are dispatching them one after another …

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Excerpted from WSJ: Welfare Wagons The new electric cars are powered by taxpayer credits, May 12, 2010

Congratulations. You’re about to buy a fancy new Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt . . . for someone else.

The all electric  Nissan Leaf is a car for a wealthy hobbyist — good for a trip of 100 miles after which it becomes an inert lump at the end of your driveway (or behind a tow truck) for the many hours it will take to recharge. 

The Leaf will roll out in December with a surprisingly modest price of $25,280. That’s after a $7,500 federal tax credit is counted.

Buyers will also have to spring for a $2,200 charging station, but another tax credit ($1,100) cuts the cost in half.

Some states – e.g. bankrupt California, Georgia and Tennessee — will chip in additional consumer tax credits as high as $5,000.

  • Note: total tax credits = $13,600

By pricing low and going for volume, Nissan is making a calculated grab for the lion’s share of the available tax dollars — and also pressuring Washington to extend the program when the money runs out.

iPad lust applies to cars too, and early adopters can be expected to line up around the block.

But it is insane to subsidize these vehicles with taxpayer dollars.

Tax handouts for electric vehicles are emblematic of an alarmingly childish refusal to take account that the U.S. government is deeply in debt. Running up more debt to subsidize electric runabouts for suburbanites is not such a sign.

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Even if you believe saving gasoline is a holy cause, subsidizing electric cars simply is not a substitute for politicians finding the courage to jack up gas prices.

Think about it this way:

  • You can double the fuel efficiency of any car by putting a second person in it.
  • You can increase its fuel efficiency to infinity by refraining from frivolous trips.

These are the incentives that flow from a higher gas price.

Exactly the opposite incentives flow from mandatory investment in higher-mileage vehicles. If you paid a lot for a car that costs very little to operate, why not operate it? Why bother to car pool? Why not drive across town for a jar of mayonnaise?

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A123’s Systems’ IPO is a big deal … here’s why.

September 28, 2009

Ken’s Take: A123’s Systems’ IPO is a big deal for 2 reasons:

(1) A successful IPO has to be a good sign for the market

(2) Virtually all batteries for hybrid and electric cars are made outside the U.S. — mostly in Japan and Korea.  So, a shift to hybrids would still make the U.S. dependent on foreign sources for the cars’ power supply.  Domestic sources of batteries is critical for energy independence.

But note: lithium — the primary component of most rechargeable batteries — is almost entirely mined outside the U.S.   For more details, see the February 26, 2009 HomaFiles post “Batteries are the key weapon in the battle for energy independence … too bad we’re losing the weapons race.”

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MarketWatch, A123 Systems jolts IPO market,  Sept. 24, 2009

Lithium ion battery maker draws strong interest

A123 Systems’ newly minted shares jumped 50% in their stock market debut as Wall Street placed its bets behind the government-subsidized maker of lithium-ion batteries for the growing electric car market. On Aug. 6, A123 won $249 million in federal stimulus funds, which the company plans to use to build factories for making batteries.

A123 drew interest from IPO investors as a way to tap into new technology. The company raised $378 million in its debut on the Nasdaq.

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A123 Systems, an eight-year-old battery builder launched by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has yet to turn a profit. The company reported a loss of $40.7 million on revenue of $42.9 million in the six months ended June 30.

The company carries marquee investors in its list of principal shareholders, including General Electric , Qualcomm Inc. , Motorola Inc. and North Bridge Venture Partners.

Not only a provider for electric cars, A123 Systems develops and manufactures advanced lithium-ion batteries and battery systems for the electric grid services and consumer markets as well.

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A123 said in its IPO filing that the number of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid and electric cars is expected to grow from 19 models in 2009 at an annual production rate of at least 20,000 vehicles to more than 150 models in 2014 and more than 200 models in 2019.

A.T. Kearney projects the market will grow to about $21.8 billion by 2015 and $74.1 billion by 2020, stoked by governmental regulation, emerging powertrain technology and rising consumer demand.

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Full article:

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The “Li-ion’s” Share of the Battery Business

March 11, 2009

Excerpted from Strategy & Business, “The Future Is Lithium”, by William J. Holstein, February 3, 2009

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The lithium ion battery, which is already widely used in consumer products, is viewed by the auto industry as the next great hope to power future-generation, energy-conscious extended-range electric cars and hybrids. Automakers and their suppliers on three continents are gearing up to determine who will dominate what could be a US$150 billion a year industry by 2030

Companies in Europe, Japan, South Korea, and China have clear leads in perfecting the battery, which can hold far more power for longer periods of time than the nickel metal hydride batteries now in use in hybrids. Whether the United States stays in the race largely depends on the future of the General Motors Corporation and its Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle. If GM, already on life support from the federal government, is forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy or liquidation, U.S. prospects for securing a piece of the lithium ion industry could fall by the wayside.

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Toyota and GM are eyeing each other’s lithium ion intentions warily. GM was stung by Toyota’s success in the late 1990s with the Prius and is determined to leapfrog that generation of battery technology with a six-foot long, 400-pound lithium ion battery built to last 10 years.

As recently as a year ago, Toyota argued that it was too soon to consider using lithium ion because it was an unproven technology. Some experts believe that Toyota’s conclusion was in part motivated by its huge investment in three factories in Japan that made nickel batteries. “There is only one company that has a stranded cost in nickel and that’s Toyota.”

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Lithium ion industry advocates say that the U.S. government could play a pivotal role in determining how much of the battery business will be domestic by allocating to lithium suppliers a chunk of the $25 billion Congress approved for automobile alternative energy research and development. 

However, if the Obama administration spreads the $25 billion throughout the auto industry to the dozens of companies currently involved in alternative propulsion projects, “there’s the potential for the [money] to be so diffused that it wouldn’t do that much good in any one area. As large as that sum sounds, it could become ineffective.”

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Of course, any U.S. hopes for securing a chunk of the lithium ion industry would be dashed if GM’s Volt project were to fizzle out because of the automaker’s financial problems.

But even if the Americans don’t make the train, a future with more and more powerful lithium ion batteries is inevitable; after all, the rest of the world is already on board.

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Batteries are the key weapon in the battle for energy independence … too bad we’re losing the weapons race.

February 26, 2009

Ken’s Take: Lithium ion batteries are the projected heart of future hybrids electric cars.  Currently, the U.S. has no significant manufacturers of even small scale lithium ion batteries, and is behind in the R&D chase to develop auto-capable sizes. And, oh yeah, lithium is mined mostly in Argentina, Boliva, & Chile … not in the U.S.  This is a big deal

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Excerpted from Business Week, “Electric Car Battery Wars”, Feb 12, 2009

President Barack Obama has set a target of 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2012. That will require about $40 billion worth of domestically produced batteries. Most experts agree that lithium ion, which can be used to create batteries that weigh far less and store more power than those in today’s hybrids, will be the dominant technology.

The big question is whether any U.S. battery maker will be a major player by the time a mass market develops for electric cars. The field is already crowded.

Some U.S. companies claim to have prototypes that work. They include A123 Systems, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spin-off, and Franco-American venture Johnson Controls-Saft, which has snared contracts with Ford Motor, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz (DAI). But the Americans face Asian rivals with deeper pockets and far more lithium-ion experience.

The Asians can also better afford the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to build large, state-of-the-art factories. U.S. investors are unwilling to risk such sums for startups—especially now that the recession and cheap oil have dimmed the future of hybrid cars. After surging this fall, Ener1’s stock has fallen by half since mid- December, to around 4.

Should Uncle Sam provide billions in loans and grants to a promising but unproven business? Or should the government wait for the market to sort things out before it backs a U.S. company? The risk is that by then another major industry could go the way of memory chips, digital displays, the first solar panels, and the original lithium-ion batteries used in notebook PCs and cell phones. American scientists, funded by federal dollars, were at the forefront of each of those. Yet the industries—and the high-paying manufacturing jobs that go with them—quickly ended up in Asia. U.S. labor costs and taxes drove many operations abroad, but often industries fled simply because Asian governments, banks, and companies were more willing than Americans to risk big capital investments.

Battery makers are expected to get some of the $25 billion set aside last year under Washington’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program to speed the commercialization of green cars.  Under the $790 billion stimulus package under debate in Congress, U.S. lithium-ion makers also could compete for $2 billion in grants to fund research and development and manufacturing.

Lithium ion is regarded as a core enabling technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles, which, unlike most current hybrids, can be recharged with normal household current and run much longer on electricity before a gas-powered engine takes over. Lithium-ion cells can store up to three times more juice and generate twice the power of the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in today’s hybrids.

General Motors and Ford both assert that a domestic lithium-ion industry is vital if the U.S. is to be a major player in green cars. Otherwise, Detroit’s fate would be in the hands of suppliers half a world away.

China has more than 10 manufacturers—Beijing has declared lithium ion a strategic industry.

Analysts say no U.S. or Asian contender has solved all of the challenges of producing lithium-ion car batteries that are safe, reliable, and affordable: Questions linger over the battery’s ability to last long enough to satisfy car buyers, for example.

The U.S. is still in the race. The Energy Dept. has poured some $600 million into lithium-ion research.

The strongest U.S. player right now is Johnson Controls. Its French partner Saft has a cell plant, while Johnson’s big edge is its supply and design relationships with the world’s top automakers. But lithium-ion technology is vastly more complex than that of lead-acid batteries.

Skeptics counsel caution. Some doubt there will be a mass market for electric cars within a decade. When gas cost $4 a gallon last summer, consumers who shelled out the extra $3,000 for a hybrid like the Prius, with nickel-metal hydride batteries, were close to breaking even. But next-generation lithium-ion batteries will add at least $8,000 to the price of a plug-in when all the electronics are included. For drivers to save money on the Volt, Anderman calculates production will have to reach 1million cars a year, and gas will have to pass $5 a gallon.

Lithium-ion car batteries are an exciting technology. Whether they will generate an exciting U.S. industry is anyone’s guess.

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The Players

Although a mainstream market for electric cars may be a decade or more away, governments and companies worldwide are spending massive amounts of money to gain an edge in supplying batteries for them. Here are some key players

A123 (U.S.)
This MIT spin-off has $250 million in venture capital. It supplies small quantities of batteries to Daimler, Volvo, and Chrysler and wants $1.8 billion in federal aid to build plants in the U.S.

AESC (Japan)
This joint venture between Nissan and NEC may have the deepest pockets. It plans to invest $275 million in facilities to produce lithium-ion cells for a wide range of vehicles.

BYD AUTO (China)
One of the world’s top battery makers, BYD already offers a $22,000 plug-in hybrid in China and hopes to sell cars in the U.S. soon. Warren Buffett owns 10%.

Once part of Delphi, EnerDel has invested $200 million in an Indiana plant. Its biggest customer is struggling Norwegian hybrid carmaker Think. EnerDel wants $480 million in U.S. loans.

This joint venture has a factory in France and has deals with Mercedes, BMW, and Ford. Johnson Controls’ edge: It’s already a top supplier of conventional car batteries.

LG CHEM (Korea)
A leading maker of lithium-ion batteries for cell phones, LG outflanked U.S. rivals to win a deal to supply GM’s Chevy Volt plug-in. GM plans to assemble LG batteries in Michigan.

After buying Sanyo’s lithium-ion business, Panasonic may be the company to beat since it’s allied with mighty Toyota, which is planning an electric car for 2012.

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