The tech and electric vehicle industries are always searching for ways to make batteries more efficient, longer-lasting, and cheaper.
Lithium-ion batteries have figured strongly in the electric car revolution – they last much longer and can take a car further than any lead-acid battery ever could.
But they are expensive. They can cost between $500 and $600 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and even as high as $750 per kWh.
And that brings up the price of electric vehicles. They don't get too much lower than $30,000.
Lead-acid batteries, meanwhile, cost much less. They aren't very powerful, can't last all that long, and really haven't had many technological improvements since 1915.
But in the problem lies the solution, says energy entrepreneur Subhash Dhar.
Dhar has worked in prominent positions at ECD-Ovonics (PINK: ENERQ), Ener1, and Envia Systems. He was involved in developing the nickel-metal-hydride battery, and he recently opened his own company, Energy Power Systems (EPS), in Troy, Michigan.
EPS's goal is to reduce the price of electric vehicle batteries. The company aims to reduce the cost by as much as three quarters – but not by reconfiguring lithium-ion batteries.
Instead, they will focus on lead-acid batteries.
Dhar told Plugin Cars:
“Look, the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) was formed in 1991, and its early grants helped ECD-Ovonics to commercialize nickel-metal-hydride technology. ABCD's aim was to get lithium-ion down to $150 per kilowatt-hour, and it was supposed to have been achieved by 1998. The energy density has improved, but we are still hard-pressed to find li-ion batteries today that are any less than $800 per kilowatt-hour. The fundamental problem is that the industry always goes for the glamor of watt-hours per kilogram, with not nearly as much attention paid to the cost of materials used in the technology.”
Dhar envisions a combination of the two technologies – the performance of a lithium-ion with the price of lead-acid.
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The lead-acid battery has been around for a very long time, he says, but new technology hasn't bothered with it. Instead, companies are working hard to improve upon the already-efficient lithium-ion battery, which is not really decreasing in price.
The lead-acid battery can't reach the sort of efficiency necessary on its own, but a sort of hybrid battery could. If they applied the innovation efforts being used on the lithium-ion battery to the lead-acid battery, EPS could accomplish a whole new technology.
Ken Baker, who was involved with General Motors' EV1, and David Cole, founder of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), are both on the EPS board.
David Cole is positive about the idea of improving the lead-acid battery. He told Plugin Cars:
“The key things are that the EPS battery will be about twice as energy dense as current lead/acid batteries. The company's batteries have low internal resistance, which makes them far better for taking power out and adding it back in than with lithium batteries. I think it is a great compliment to current technology.”
Lithium-ion batteries will remain the EV norm for a while. EPS's lead-acid battery improvements will not happen overnight.
But if lithium-ion battery prices still refuse to budge, and if the EPS battery does what the company hopes, the company could change the EV battery industry.
That's all for now,
Energy & Capital's modern energy guru, Brianna digs deep into the industry with accurate and insightful updates into the biggest energy companies and events. She stays up to date with the latest market moves and industry finds, bringing readers a unique view of current energy trends. For more on Brianna, see her editor's page.