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Sulfur crystal from Agrigento, Sicily, Italy

The main obstacle to the mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is often said to be the current range limitations of battery technology. What if the energy density of batteries, and therefore the range of EVs, could be increased by 500 percent? Although we've not heard much about it for some time, a couple recent developments have led us to ponder the possibilities of energy storage with a lithium sulfur (Li-S) battery.

Last week, it was announced that a company often associated with Li-S batteries, Sion Power Corporation, had made a joint development agreement with BASF to accelerate the commercialization of their proprietary battery tech. Sion, who has been working with this chemistry since 2002, not only has their own patents they can exploit but also have a patent license agreement with PolyPlus, another firm with research roots in various battery chemistries. For their part, BASF is known to be working on metal oxides for cathode materials and is part of the HE-Lion effort.

Also involved in research on Li-S batteries are researchers at the University of Waterloo. A team led by Dr. Linda Nazar have developed highly ordered interwoven composites that allow Li-S batteries to approach their theoretical energy density which is about 2600 wH/kg. To put that in perspective, consider that some of the most energy dense battery cells today are in the 200 wH/kg neighborhood. While it still remains best not to count your battery-chickens before they're hatched, it's nice to know that there could be major improvements to energy storage down the road. Check out the Sion Power press release after the break and click here for further explanation of the U of Waterloo work.

[Source: Green Car Congress]

PRESS RELEASE:

BASF and Sion Power Collaborate on New Battery Technology

TUCSON, Ariz. & LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sion Power Corporation, Tucson, Ariz., USA, and BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany, today announced a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) to accelerate the commercialization of Sion Power's proprietary lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery technology, e.g., for the electric vehicle (EV) market and other high-energy applications.

The Sion Power / BASF collaboration targets the development of battery materials to improve Li-S battery life and to increase the energy density and thus extend driving range of future EVs beyond what is currently available with alternative rechargeable battery technologies. Li-S technology already offers significant energy density and weight advantages over those existing technologies.

According to Dr. Dennis Mangino, CEO of Sion Power, "We are proud to be partnered with BASF, the world's leading chemical company, as we accelerate the development and introduction of our high energy, light weight, and transformational battery products. BASF's vast expertise in materials development and manufacturing are important to our success."

"We are excited to join Sion Power in advancing Li-S technology," said Dr. Thomas Weber, CEO of BASF Future Business. "It is clear that Sion's technology offers high potential for significantly longer driving ranges over other technologies currently being considered for electric vehicles. We see a clear need for higher energy densities of the storage devices, and we will join forces with Sion to bring this technology to the market using innovative solutions. In combination with the lithium ion battery consortium 'HE-Lion' that we have formed recently, we further strengthen our efforts to advance battery technology."

Improved battery technology is a fundamental requirement for more efficient use of current and renewable energy sources. The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides for $2 billion for the development and manufacture of advanced automotive batteries. All major automotive manufactures are vigorously pursuing the introduction of electric vehicles that are environmentally friendly yet provide the range and comfort consumers expect in an automobile, features that cannot be obtained with any currently available battery technology.

About Sion Power: Privately held Sion Power Corporation is the global leader in the development of a new generation of high-energy, rechargeable lithium sulfur batteries for portable power and electric vehicle markets. Established initially as Moltech Corporation in 1994, Sion Power has more than 100 U.S. and international patents and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. Further information is available at www.sionpower.com.

About BASF: BASF is the world's leading chemical company: The Chemical Company. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics and performance products to agricultural products, fine chemicals as well as oil and gas. As a reliable partner BASF helps its customers in virtually all industries to be more successful. With its high-value products and intelligent solutions, BASF plays an important role in finding answers to global challenges such as climate protection, energy efficiency, nutrition and mobility. BASF has approximately 97,000 employees and posted sales of more than €62 billion in 2008. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt (BAS), London (BFA) and Zurich (AN). Further information on BASF is available on the Internet at www.basf.com.

About BASF Future Business GmbH: BASF Future Business GmbH, a 100 percent subsidiary of BASF SE, was founded in April 2001. It aims to open up business areas with above-average growth rates that lie outside BASF's mainstream activities. The company focuses on chemistry-based new materials, technologies and system solutions. BASF Future Business GmbH commissions research from BASF's R&D units but also cooperates with startup companies, industrial partners, universities and potential customers. Other alternatives include the acquisition of direct stakes, joint ventures with partner companies or provision of venture capital via the subsidiary BASF Venture Capital GmbH. Further information on BASF Future Business is available on the Internet at www.basf-fb.de
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  • 14 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think folks need to open their minds when it comes to batteries. They do not need to be analogous to what you put in your 1970's flashlight. They do not need to be a box of hazardous chemicals. All a battery is is a devise that stores energy, like the spring in a windup wristwatch or the alcohol in your aftershave.

      The best battery might actually be a carbon fiber air tank. It's light weight, recharging is very quick, self-discharge very low, so on and so forth. Now I'm in no way saying it is or will ever be the holy grail, just trying to get people to think beyond the usual.

      Another is a fuel cell. It is a electrochemical battery and it can be recharged/refilled with sustainable carbon neutral biofuels and we have a great infrastructure for dealing with similar liquids.

      Cheers!

      • 6 Years Ago
      If they can bring these batteries to market at a reasonable price per Kwh stored, then it would be all over for gassers, diesels, and H2. At 2 Kwh per Kg, an 80 Kwh battery pack with a range of about 300 miles would weight only 40 Kg (88 lbs.) - hey, you could double that and it would weigh about the same as the average adult passenger! Subdivide the battery into 10 Kg modules, and battery swapping could be done by hand, if necessary.

      But as great as Li-S batteries could be, it isn't the ultimate for chemical battery energy storage. Li-Air cells could conceivably reach even higher energy densities because it wouldn't have to carry the oxidizer within it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Li S is very good, cycle life is terrible thou. They should keep on doing the R&D, however I am not holding my breath for a product soon. PolyPlus...lol I know this guys for 8 years now, first time they made the news. Li metal cells...that'd be a fun project ;).
      • 6 Years Ago
      two stories from the same website about new 10x improvements in batteries

      http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/05/stair-20090518.html#more
      • 6 Years Ago
      regardless if this is the holy grail or not, it goes to show what assured research can give us, yes we saw the h fuel cell advance a good deal in its time in the limelight, but we also got 300mi range electrics with almost not investments on a federal level. i would expect the advances to come fast and furious now that there is investment.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Lithium technology certainly looks exciting with Lithium Sulfur chemistry
      at 2,600wh/kg.
      Lithium Air (oxygen) chemistry
      at 11,500wh/kg.
      Goodbye ICE, in fact even at 500wh/kg a car would no longer need an ICE.

      If any of these chemistries take off 500-1,000 miles/charge would be very do-able.

      Fuel cells;
      Hydrogen is a non-starter due to the horrendous energy efficiency losses on the supply and distribution side.

      The "Direct Ethanol Fuel Cell" however, using cellulosic ethanol looks like a great technology and IMO is where most of the fuel cell research should be focused.


      • 5 Years Ago
      It's worth noting that common explosives like TNT come in around 1400 Wh/kg. It takes serious engineering effort to create compounds with that energy density that also not susceptible to catastrophic run-away reactions.

      I'm not saying it won't happen. I'm just saying be realistic about what you're talking about.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Lithium-based batteries with the capacity to power vehicles are still expensive.

      Even with volume production the best case for the first-gen Volt battery is $500/kWh.

      And GM has said the priority for future generations of the battery is reducing the price, not the size or weight.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I love BASF. Their slogan is "We don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better." That cracks me up... don't know why. Oh, and yey better batteries. Make some already, will ya!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Another chemistry that might improve and accelerate the arrival of the Electrification of Ground Transport. i expect over time for progress to made in some or all of them.

      You really need to realize that the Feds did an awful lot to stimulate automotive battery progress with the US Autoamiotive Battery Consortium, USABC. That has allowed accelerated progress that might have taken a couple of decades to accomplish otherwise.

      It has been a long 36 year search for a suitable oil substitute for Transport, but eventually mankinds ingenuity and adaptability has succeeded. The answer is emerging.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds like a mad scramble to claim some of the $2 Billion advanced battery funding in the stimulus package as much as anything else. There did not seem to be any technical announcement contained in this press release.
      • 5 Years Ago
      they need to make a battery with longer life cycle, and avoid polluting when disposing of them

      www.pierreb.ca
        • 5 Years Ago
        Making them lighter would help too.
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