• Jan 8, 2011
General Motors, LG Chem and the Argonne National Lab have shared a bit more information about their new advanced battery technology licensing deal, including why it could make future GM electric cars better, safer and cheaper.

The main potential benefit of this technology is new batteries with up to two times more energy stored per weight than existing technology. This still doesn't make batteries as energy dense as gasoline, but it's another "important step" in the process, said Cathy Zoi, Acting Under Secretary of Energy and Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE.

The licensing agreement works this way: ... just kidding. No one was willing to discuss the exact fee structure, so that part remains a mystery, but since Argonne is a taxpayer-funded project, the patents are not exclusive and Argonne has similar battery technology licenses with other companies at this time. Also, other automakers and battery companies can license the same technology. This deal concerns a broad suite of patents that LG Chem and GM have licensed and that will allow them to develop the technology further. These are U.S.-only patents, and LG Chem has been able to work on the technology in Korea before licensing it for the U.S.

What is the technology that GM and LG Chem have licensed? A patented composite cathode material (cathodes are one of the three important parts for battery chemistries, along with anodes and electrolytes) that allows the cells to reach a higher voltage, and thus store and extract a higher level of energy. Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures, which made the $5 million investment, said, "What we're licensing is really advanced cathode material. This is the most capable cathode material that we have seen. Will take some years for us to develop it, but we wanted to get it on the road." He also said that GM is expecting significant – more than single digit percentage – cost decrease in lithium-ion batteries thanks to this technology. With cheaper batteries, plug-in cars will be cheaper "and that's what we're all striving for," Zoi said.

The exact technology that GM licensed is not in the Chevy Volt today, but some of Argonne's components are in LG Chem's cell structure already. One way future Volts could benefit from the technology, aside from longer range, is a higher operating temperature. Argonne's data says that batteries using this technology could run at the higher temperature, but that's not the goal. Instead, this ability means the pack can be safer overall.

Not everyone at Argonne is blindly in favor of battery electric vehicles (as you can read here) and the lab is testing a lot of other technologies, like an omnivorous engine and more propane powerplants.

[Source: Argonne, GM]


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  • 24 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Energy density increase 2x, so charging time increases 2x?
        • 4 Years Ago
        That depends.

        If density is 2X, so you are able to build a battery half as large in order to get the same range as the old pack, then no. In that case, the charge time remains the same.

        If you build a battery pack that can go 2X the miles, then yes, charge time doubles. Unless you built it so it can sustain faster charging without damaging the battery. Then charging time might even be shorter.

        We won't know until we know.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This technology should enable 10 years / 150k miles warranty to qualify for AT-PZEV.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Energy density increase 2x, so charging time increases 2x?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Charging time is a function of how much energy needs to be added (partial charge takes less time), and how fast the energy flows (the maximum power capacity of the battery and charging outlet). Maximum charge time depends on the battery energy storage capacity, not the energy density, a higher energy density could be used to make a lighter battery of the same capacity, or a higher capacity battery of the same weight.

        Upshot - increased energy density would only increase charging time if it reduced the maximum power capacity of the battery, or was used to increase the battery energy storage capacity.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, not necessarily. It doesn't always work that way.

        Charging time is a function of the battery chemistry type itself, not the size of the battery.

        So a 50aH battery would charge in the same time as a 500ah battery, it would however take 10 times more amperage to do so. The limiting factor of charge time would be your household wiring then!

        But for these cells, they are not increasing the capacity as in aH, they are increasing the voltage at which the cells charge and discharge. This doesn't mean more capacity, this means a smaller form factor, lighter weight, and most likely lower cost. These factors could contribute to the automakers' decision to put in more capacity into said car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, that's not necessarily true.
        Charging time has to do with the design and chemistry of the battery.

        This is why a cell phone takes 1 hour to fully charge.. and so does a laptop..

        The amount of amps per hour that you can pump into a battery depends on it's chemistry, and the more AH the battery can take, the higher the amp rating you can dump into it.

        If more capacity meant longer charge time, your cell phone would take 1 hour and your electric car would take 1 year to charge.

        It doesn't work that way. A cell phone charges at about a watt, a laptop charges at about 20-100 watts, a car is going to charge at many kilowatts, and the home wiring is really the limit, because a car could charge quicker on a 220v outlet with the right chemistry, but the onboard charger is designed specifically to not brown out the neighborhood electricity grid ;)

        My guess is that a car with lipo batteries ( the LG ones used in the Volt and Focus Electric ) could charge in 2 hours, but the house wiring is the limiting factor, OR they are using a slower charge to ( hopefully ) extend the life of the battery.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Does anybody know if the Nissan Leaf will take better batteries when they become available?

      Computers are designed with modular parts so that you can upgrade any part when something better is available.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hope this doesn't become a GM-only technology.
      Like NiMH where they bought the patents and locked them up.

      I have heard of other companies looking to increase the nominal voltage from 3.2v/3.7v up to 4.2-4.7v... hence you need less cells to do the same job... hence battery packs get cheaper and lighter.

      This would be a big breakthrough. They had better not pull any patenting crap again.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's a licensing deal, I'm sure that they will license it to anyone that wants it, for a cost.

        Also this gives the lab more money to spend making new technologies, which then they can license again. Even if this never went in to any other car but a GM car, it's moving things forward.

        It's why GM making the first Volt is a good thing, it will allow them to make a better car next time, which this article proves they are interested in doing, why else pay money for this technology?
        • 4 Years Ago
        But guys, remember how the Ovonics thing went down. They bought a majority stake, then bought the patent rights after some power moves. Then they sold those patent rights to Texaco, and suddenly nobody can make electric cars with the good NiMH batteries.

        GM has shown that they don't want to make a pure electric car for the USDM market. I think the potential for this to happen once again is somewhat real.
        • 4 Years Ago
        GM may have made those decisions in the past, however this isn't a majority stake, it's a licensing deal. Two very different things.

        I'm not a big fan of GM, at all, but I don't see this as a bad thing.

        @Tom
        I'm not the biggest fan of capitalism, so no argument here.
        • 4 Years Ago
        All large corps. will tie up patents as a way of recouping their R&D. It's why they take risks. The fact that they are taking risks in EV technology after decades of fighting CAFE and airbags and are now embracing these things gives me a better feeling about the future.
        P.S. I've owned two of GM's "unsafe at any speed " Corvairs in my younger days.
      • 4 Years Ago
      For those who think that GM will use this technology to increase the electric-only range of the Volt, think again.

      The Volt's range is ~40 miles because that is what GM sees as the "sweet spot" for a commuter PHEV. Now of course, they'll be tracking the driving habits of Volt owners in the real world, but it's still unlikely that the next generation of the car will see a significant increase in AER, it might even be possible that it will be smaller.

      Any advancements in battery technology will be used to lower the cost of the car which is critical to success, as well as make it lighter and to open up more interior space (3rd back seat!), at least if GM is going to be smart.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nothing like going bankrupt to change the corporate "vision".
      It looks like a competition developing amongst the big players which I hope will end the need for incentives, because if GM markets their EV's during football games as the next "must haves" and the others follow suit, the day when SUV's are no longer cool can't be far behind. Am I dreaming?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Geronimo, Neodymium "Although classed as a "rare earth" it is no more rare than cobalt, nickel or copper, and is widely distributed in the Earth's crust. "

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neodymium
        • 4 Years Ago
        yes you are dreaming. GM hasn't changed. the EV efforts you see is like a criminal with some light on him. he wont act up when everybody is watching but he's still ready to do evil when opportunity presents itself. they aren't doing it because they believe in it they are schizo about it because they feel pressured to do it.
        they are still in california fighting lawsuits to try to make green laws go away. Bob Lutz the putz said global warming was a crock. he was in charge of the Volt program. he was the green guy at GM.
        I don't know how it's possible but it seems the US midwest has some sort of bubble that completely insulates them from any intellectual matters. GM folks are unbelievably ignorant and violently defending that ignorance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @mylexicon

        First of all, that electricity costs will rise significantly due to plug-in vehicle adoption is, to put it midly, unlikely. For one, both the US and the EU have significant excess off-peak capacity in their electrical grids, but more importantly the electricity market doesn't depend on just a single increasingly hard-to-get resource like the oil industry, which makes it a lot less volatile and prone to manipulation by cartels like OPEC.

        "Rare earth scarcity" is a myth. These elements aren't actually rare, quite the opposite in fact. China currently dominates the market only because they can undercut anyone else, because they don't care about pesky profit-reducing things like human rights or environmental conservation. Secondly, rare earth metals aren't required to manufacture an EV any more so than for ICE cars.

        Driving a fuel-efficient car for commuting may be a viable path for those who can't afford a plug-in yet, but doesn't protect you from rising gas prices indefinitely. All it does is cut your losses somewhat and delay the inevitable . You're still at the whim of a volatile market that tries to milk maximum profit out of a dwindling resource.

        You really want to be free from "government and megacorporation shenanigans", get a bicycle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, definitely dreaming.

        It is unlikely that auto manufacturers will market fuel-efficient hybrids, imo. It's more likely that they will market PHEV land yachts or possibly even BEV land yachts as "fuel efficient" b/c they make 30/30 or they return a modest electrical efficiency rating. This will cause an entirely new problem, of course, as congestion continues to rise and scarcity of rare earth materials drive up prices for everyone. Gas excise will merely encourage the reckless use of batteries.

        The answer is simple. It's called a small cheap ICE commuting car. You use it for 80% of your driving. You are protected from rising electricity rates and rare earth scarcity. You are reasonably well protected from gasoline prices; especially if large quantities of consumers also buy small commuting cars. The upfront cost of kei and compact cars is small. Once you are protected from the shenanigans of governments, mega-corps, and cartels around the world, then you can start to invest in alternative transportation.

        No, no. That's much too simple and way too boring. We need to bet the farm. Gas excise = $3. LET IT RIDE. Something's gotta happen now.
        • 4 Years Ago
        > "Bob Lutz the putz said global warming was a crock. "

        So what! Does not mean he does not support electric cars. Maybe he likes to breathe clean air, or does not want the US to send huge sums of money to other countries for their oil.

        I don't agree with all claims being made about global warming, but I certainly do favor advances in wind energy, solar, hydro, and nuclear, and having electric cars getting their power from them.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ DasBoese:
        It may have slipped your memory but modern and highly efficient electric motors do not used wound armatures on the rotor anymore; these have been replaced with permanent magnets with an essential component, NEODYMIUM. Per chance, I happen to know that neodymium belongs to the rare earths.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Geronimo

        Neither do all "modern" EVs use or require permanent magnet motors (The Tesla Roadster and the Nissan Leaf being the most prominent examples) nor is Neodymium actually rare. "Rare earth" is a historical term, they're actually quite a bit more abundant than, say, platinum or gold.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Then, conclusion, don't buy any volts because they said themself that the battery is problematic, inneficient, costly and need to be improve so why buying and owning a battery that is not good and actually sold by gm.

      also they sale the volt without small, efficient, electrical generation apperatus to recharge without doing nothing the battery like for exemple a solar panel fix to the roof , trunk and hood. With their system you pay tax even if you don't buy a volt and the volt is build like old cars where you pay for problematic energy costs like polluting and costly gasoline and restricted electricity, hard to get especially where running the car or parked to a paying 110 volts or 220 volts outlet for hours. All that amount to 41 000$ plus state taxation for approx no value because a used car converted to natural gas while keeping the gasoline tank cost less to fuel, go faster and better and cost less then 1000$ to convert and pollute les then the volt.
      • 4 Years Ago
      @ neevers1
      capitalism doing the right thing can be like harnessing the power of a bull!
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