• Apr 23rd 2010 at 10:58AM
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Battery breakthroughs seem to pop up almost every day. There's always a new idea, different material or unique design that makes the battery better. Some manufacturers make outlandish claims that can't be true while other companies string us out for years awaiting amazing products. This time around, Hitachi makes a bold claim for its breakthrough-tech, but it's believable and has already been put through preliminary tests.
The company developed a new manganese-based cathode material for use in lithium-ion batteries and testing shows it could double the life of the batteries. After performing repeated tests on prototype units, Hitachi also thinks that battery size could be cut in half through use of the new cathode material.

The new batteries will see use in hybrid and electric vehicles as well as in cell phones and laptops. Best of all, manganese is abundant, unlike the current cathode material cobalt, which some consider a scarce resource. The readily available manganese could reduce costs and assure a continued supply of material for li-ion batteries. Now, this breakthrough seems both reasonable and achievable. There are no outlandish claims here and Hitachi has tests to back its claims up. We get excited thinking about the possibilities of a battery with twice the life and half the size of today's packs. Due to its small size, this power source could literally go where no battery has gone before.

[Source: Green Car Advisor]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm always glad to read about battery tech breakthroughs. This literally affects every aspect of everyones lives, and even small steps make a big difference. It will be interesting to see how good batteries are in 5 or 10 years.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hitachi is talking about operational lifetime, not capacity here.

      'Hitachi says it has already developed and evaluated prototype cells using the new cathode material, and has discovered that reductions in battery capacity can be roughly cut in half compared to existing units.

      Using the new material, Hitachi says it expects to be able to achieve battery life of 10 years or more, which is about twice the life of current lithium-ion batteries with manganese-based cathode materials.'

      The 2nd paragraph makes it obvious. No battery takes 10 years to run down, they are talking about operational life (time until the battery will no longer accept the rated charge capacity).

      The 1st paragraph is saying that this halves the loss in capacity over time. So if it took 1 year to lose 2% capacity, now it'll take 2 years to lose 2% capacity.

      Batteries are usually sized so that when they fall below 85% of initial capacity they are out of rating and thus at end of life. So Hitachi seems to think they can make a battery that is still at 85% of initial capacity after 10 years (instead of after 5).

      This doesn't mean twice the capacity, so it doesn't mean half the battery size for the same charge.

      Finally, this is all when compared to existing Hitachi-developed batteries. There is no guarantee that someone else had already developed a battery with this expected lifetime. You might even be already using such a battery, in which case you'd see no improvement from this.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Agree, but still a helpful breakthrough, and it might lead to some reductions in pack size as well, as you will be able to tradeoff some of that additional operational lifetime by using more of the capacity of the battery.

        Like where the current Volt only uses about 8KWh of the 16KWh pack to extend it's operational lifetime. Maybe you could now use 8KWh of a 12KWh pack and achieve the same operational lifespan.

        • 8 Months Ago
        Totally agree. More importantly, as you pointed out it states:

        "which is about twice the life of current lithium-ion batteries with manganese-based cathode materials.'"

        The bad news I hate to break to everyone is that manganese based cathodes (often referred to as manganese spinel) have exceptionally poor cycle times as compared to other Li-ion cathode materials such as NMC. Thus, doubling the MANGANESE cathode cyle life brings it up to par with most general Li-ion cathode materials (but probably still short of things like A123's nano phosphate).

        Sorry to burst the bubbles. This is simply a breakthrough for that chemistry, which while good (means less expensive Li-Ion batteries will be on par with the more expensive flavors, all other things assumed equal), is not huge leap in achievements. Baby steps folks, it's all about baby steps.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This looks to be a promising new battery development. Which Japanese carmaker has dibs on it? Probably any and all worldwide carmakers have inroads if their grabbing price is adequate.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is where it's at. Battery efficiency doubling every year and costs declining every year. This will really make the EV compelling. There is no way the cost of designing and manufacturing ICE vehicles is going to decline much, but EVs are pretty simple devices and costs are going to slide downhill for the forseeable future. I see the Cost/value evolution being similar to what we have seen in computers.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Yeah, i don't think the progress will be *that* dramatic, but the progress is definitely on overdrive lately and it's awesome to see... after a 1 + 1/2 decades of nearly no movement

        I too am psyched about the simplicity of electric cars and desperately want one that offers good speed and range at a decent price. Emissions equipment is making the ICE car ridiculous. When i look under the hood of a modern car, i am grateful for my mid 90's OBD2a car. Hell, you could practically stand in the engine bay of a 1.5 '95 Civic. Nowadays it's like... 'i'm sure there's a motor buried in there somewhere'

        Seriously.. 2 catalytic convertors and 3 oxygen sensors per exhaust bank and a mess of vacuum hoses only a mother could love. I'll pass on a modern ICE car, thankyouverymuch.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Batteries have been improving at a rate of approximately 8% / year - far from the double you are claiming. Slow, but steady progress.
      • 5 Years Ago
      KenZ; You're right, that's true of the spinel Manganese Oxide but the layered Manganese Oxide is much more resilient and maintains it's capacity much better during cycling.

      See http://batteryblog.ca/?p=506
        • 8 Months Ago

        Thanks! Didn't know that. Guess I'm a year or two out of date...

      • 5 Years Ago
      Nissan already uses a Manganese cathode for the LEAF.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Hitachi also thinks that battery capacity – and size – could be cut in half through use of the new cathode material."

      Cutting the size in half should child's play when you the capacity in half also. :)
      • 5 Years Ago
      For more information on cathode materials and batteries in general check out my last blog post on "Lithium Ion Cathode Materials" at battery blog.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Manganese is indeed common, we have several city water wells that produce it in abundant quantity. We could be the Saudi Arabia of Manganese.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Battery material is not "consumed"... Nobody will be the "Saudi Arabia" of any battery component.
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