Stanford Ovshinsky, the inventor of the nickel-hydride (NiMH) battery that is widely used in many non-plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, among other amazing things, died October 17 at the age of 89 from complications due to cancer.

Ovshinsky, who didn't go to college, had hundreds of patents to his credit, and a 2006 Financial Express article went so far as to compare Ovshinsky to Thomas Edison. It wasn't the only outlet to do that. Ovshinsky's discoveries, which date back to the late 1950s, helped further the development of such widely used products such as flat-panel displays, solar panels and rewritable compact discs. In 1960, he founded ECD Ovonics (first called Energy Conversion Devices), which was named a top 20 green company by Plenty magazine in 2007. An extensive obituary can be found in the New York Times here.


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  • 17 Comments
      Marco Polo
      • 7 Months Ago
      @ 2 Wheeled Menace' Hmm..., obviously it's more difficult than I thought to dispel a strongly held myth. Q) '" why would the folks who could make these NiMH batteries repeatedly refuse to sell them, if not for basically locking up the patent?" The orders that were received, were just to small to warrant the cost of manufacture, and servicing the batteries to make a profit. In the meantime, advances Lithium technology made any further investment in NiMH technology, uneconomic. Q) Oil companies would be intentionally not selling ...... ultimately undercut their core business." A) Oil companies sell fuel oil to over 3 billion engines. Do you really imagine that the prospect of a handful of unsalable EV's are of concern ? Even today with huge technical advances, EV represent less than 0.0000000001% of vehicle sales ! The problem for Oil companies is finding enough oil to maintain supply, not selling more oil ! Q) Are you so sure it wasn't a patent troll type situation? A) What powered the Vectrix VX1 ? A Goldpeak NiMH battery ! What powers the Toyota Hybrid ? NiMH ! If NiMH batteries were 'locked away' , where did these batteries come from ? Chevron has invested over 70 million to develop Geo-thermal electricity generation. Who is a potential customer ? Not V8 owners, but EV drivers. Why isn't Chevron suppressing Geo-thermal technology ? Last but not least, you should read the rules and regulations about patent rights, and you would understand that your conspiracy theory, doesn't work !
      Scambuster
      • 2 Years Ago
      GM's first EV used his NiMH battery and proved that the modern EV is feasible and a game-changer. GM paid Ovvinsky tens of millions for his patent and his promise to shut-up and not reveal to the public about his NiMH battery break-through. After thousands of GM EVs began cruising around the nation's hwy, Big Oil got concern. To secure Ovinsky patent from GM, Big Oil offered GM an irresistable price at a time when GM saw its market share dwindling. Under the terms, GM had to shut-up about the whole deal, just like Ovinsky. Afterward, the Big Oil firm from Texas rested in peace ... with its billion dollar investment in black gold.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Scambuster
        Not sure why you got downrated - that's basically how it went down. What happened was public record. I think that the selling off of the technology had more to do with California cancelling their ZEV program in the early 2000's.. the big 3 did not want to make electric cars at all back then. Back then they were making all their money on the SUV craze.
        Spec
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Scambuster
        I hate these silly conspiracy theories. Use some simple logic. Li-Ions are better than NiMH and Li-Ion EVs are struggling against gas cars at nearly $4/gallon. There is no way that NiMH cars had a chance against $2/gallon gas in previous decades. Just stop with the conspiracy theories.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      Good man.. shame to see what happened to some of his greatest work. It is a real shame that his battery tech got locked up for over a decade by GM and Texaco, which was swallowed up by Chevron just months after the acquisition. Lithium batteries have superseded the NiMH battery now, but there was a big decade long gap in electric vehicle technology advancement due to that. Imagine if the lightbulb and AC power were delayed a few decades by the candle/lamp makers and the steam power / oil industry - that'd set us back some, yah?
        Rick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Always sad to hear the death of a genius, my thought and prayers are for him and his family. Candle makers will be having boom times again in Europe in a few years time when electrical power won't be able to meet demand due to the lack of will and investment in new Nuclear Power Stations, as most in the UK will be decommissioned with out replacements, and places like Germany are going down the non Nuclear Power road because of what happened in Japans problems with Nuclear Power.
          Levine Levine
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rick
          When Germany's no-nuke movement first proposed a nuke-free Germany over 20 years ago, the nuke industry launched Blitzkrieg scare tactics that warned Deutshland of black-outs and smaller towns may revert back to the stone-age. None of that happened even as Germany is set to decommission the last nuke. Germany's conservation efforts and alternative Green renewable energy have more than compensated the removal of nuke plants. The nuke industry has shamelessly lied. "Aber Wir nicht vergessen!" Even before the first nuke was built, the nuke industry promised nuke electricity would be too cheap to meter ..... ' fur uber alles.' Today, the construction of a single nuke reactor cost more than a billion dollar even after excluding the cost of nuke waste storage and insurance. Even with those cost concessions, the price of electricity from nuke is the most expensive of all. As in the past and present, there is no private insurance company in the world willing to insure a single nuke plant in the USA. The risk and liability are too great. Elsewhere as in USA, the government had volunteered the taxpayer as the insurance company. But for this taxpayer generosity, no nuke plant would have been built. Fermi, Chernobyl, TMI, and Fukushima have proven the enormous danger of nuke plants. Those who fail to learn from history are committed to repeat it as fools.
          DaveMart
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rick
          @Levine: You have moved beyond ignorance to outright lies. It is still the case as you have already been informed that: 'It is commonly asserted that nuclear power stations are not covered by insurance, and that insurance companies don't want to know about them either for first-party insurance of the plant itself or third-party liability for accidents. This is incorrect, and the misconception was addressed as follows in 2006 by a broker who had been responsible for a nuclear insurance pool: "it is wrong [to believe] that insurers will not touch nuclear power stations. In fact, wherever they are available to private sector insurers, Western-designed nuclear installations are sought-after business because of their high engineering and risk management standards. This has been the case for fifty years." He elaborated: "My comment refers very much to the world scene and is not contentious. Apart from Three Mile Island, the claim experience has been very good. Chernobyl was not insured. Significantly, because Chernobyl was of a design that would not have been an acceptable risk at the time, notably the lack of a containment structure, the accident had no impact on premium rates for Western plants.' http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf67.html As for the ever-reiterates 'nuclear too cheap to meter' that was an isolated comment from one person. I have heard for the last 40 years claims that solar would be at grid parity anytime soon and seen the dodgy and dishonest accounting to provide wholly spurious grounds for that all that time. The renewables everywhere movement continues to lie and disguise the true disastrous costs of its obsessions. In fact: 'The country's four main grid operators said Monday that households will from January see a nearly 50 percent rise in the tax they pay to finance the switchover—from €3.6 cents to €5.3 cents ($6.7 cents) per kilowatt hour.' http://phys.org/news/2012-10-germany-hikes-electricity-renewables.html So German's will be paying just in the surcharge for renewables more than the total off-peak cost in some areas. Of course the true costs are much higher and hidden in mandates etc. Try telling people in the US that their electricity will cost them 31cents a kilowatt hour to pay for renewables and see how many votes you get. Oh, I forgot, that would be an honest presentation, and so out of the question.
          DarylMc
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rick
          Hi 2WM I like LED's too but I think it is worth noting that 40 years ago a single bare 40w incandescent bulb in a batten holder would have been considered adequate to light a bedroom. A 4ft 40w fluorescent from the 70's would do a stellar job.of illuminating the same room. An 18w compact fluorescent is all I use in my bedroom nowdays. In my small office I have 6 x 17w led downlights. It looks OK but it doesn't give any more illumination than a bare 40w fluro tube. My point is that it is easy to waste the efficiency gains from technology in lighting just as has been done with advances in vehicle technology. Also I don't know if there is any shortage of coal to burn in power stations, but more likely not the will to do it.
          Levine Levine
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rick
          The Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act allowed all the nuke plant owners to pool their private insurance into one big insurance fund to cover liability caused by nuke accidents. The estimated value of the pool is about $10billion, today. Once the pool of fund is exhausted, the American taxpayer is the insurance company. As there are approximately 104 nuke power plants in USA, this means less than $100million is allocated to each nuke plant, which is almost nothing as property damage and personal injuries would quickly deplete the fund in a catastrophic accident like a Fukushima or a Chernobyl. Essentially, the nuke industry is relying on the government, hence, the taxpayer as the insurance company. Without the taxpayer as the back-stop, no investor or lender would have funded any of the existing nuke power plants. As to Germany's nuke power plant insurance, German's law capped nuke plant owner's liability to 2.5billion Euro. Any claim above the 2.5billion Euro will be paid by the German government, which is the German taxpayers. As Germany has about 9 nuke plants in various stages of operation, each nuke plant can support claims of only 260million Euro, which is still twice the American counterpart. Private insurance companies offer life, fire, and auto insurance without government assistance as the back-stop because of their known risk and liability. No private insurance company or a group of private insurance has been willing to insure a nuke plant entirely. The Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act basically subsidized the construction of nuke power plants at the expense of taxpayers
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rick
          Actually Rick, it will be people making LEDs like CREE types and better who will be raking in the cash ;) I can light my bedroom with 20-30 watts worth of CREE LED power. I could collect that power from a solar panel during the day and use it at night, very easily. Might even power a small high efficiency non-defrosting refridgerator and/or aquaponics setup off the panels too, as well as a laptop or two. There are already people who make bicycle-powered laundry machines, and drying can be done outside mostly, in the right environment. The future is not going to suck as bad as you think. There are a variety of interesting solutions being developed to keep us going past peak coal/oil. It won't be that bad!
      lad
      • 2 Years Ago
      It appears He led a good life and did what he wanted to do...Our society will always misses people of his stature. His invention of a better battery to be mass produced were dashed by the political and industrial players at the time; else, we might have been driving EVs much sooner. ZEVs, remember the story well. California passed the requirement for the car companies to meet zero emissions and the companies actually started producing prototypes for the California market; and, of course that included battery drive lines. A new election, a new Governor named Pete Wilson with a wife who worked for Big Oil and Bam! the requirement for ZEVs was blown up and the ZEV idea was scattered among the ashes of the many projects that were good for the people but not the ruling industry of Big Oil. The idea of Rockefeller running the country by controlling our Oil industry is alive and well today only it's done in a different way, not by a single monopoly. You have five major oil companies who are the members of The American Petroleum Institute(API). This is the lobbying entity and the business coordination group for these five "sub-monopolies." They are the ones who buy and sell our politicians to assure control of our energy, and thus our country,is maintained by The Oil Special Interests. There is no theory here, this is a fact!
      mazdamattyp5
      • 2 Years Ago
      Very sad. The world is worse place without him.
      Marcopolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Many years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Stanford Ovshinsky, and listening to him speak on a wide range of topics. Unquestionably brilliant and charmingly charismatic, he was not without a degree of vanity. Although many of his inventions and research led to the production of invaluable products, others were failures. Investors in failed or impractical projects were treated without respect, if a suggestion was made that some responsibility for the failure may attach to the great man himself ! Stanford Ovshinsky, was very successful in creating conspiracy theories, often to conceal his scientific and financial failures, while keeping the investors money rolling in. Not that his failures weren't balanced by brilliant successes ! Therefore it's sad that he will largely be remembered for a conspiracy theory, rather than his achievements! The Great Oil Company Battery Conspiracy, remains a very popular conspiracy theory. Stanford Ovshinsky, helped support and publicize this urban myth as a method of detracting from financial and technical difficulties experienced by his battery interests. The idea that GM and Texaco paid millions to secure NiMH patents, only to suppress the technology so that Oil companies could continue to sell gasoline, is ludicrous ! (Not that Oil companies would have any moral objections to such a concept, but simply because it's silly and unworkable idea !) Even today, all these years later, EV technology represents such a small percentage of transport, Oil companies simply don't care ! The EV1 was built in response to political pressure from the Californian Government. The EV1, was a vehicle of extremely limited appeal. Like many attempts before it, the EV 1 was an impractical vehicle with no ability to be sold in volume. Part of the problem was the performance of the NiMH battery. Volume production of NiMH batteries, and attendant warranty problems, became uneconomic.Texaco also realized that NiMH technology would become obsolete for many purposes, with the advent of Lithium. Texaco simply reasoned any further investment would be commercially unprofitable. Always ignored by the happy band of conspiracy theorists is that NiMH batteries, continued to be produced, in conjunction with EV technology, with varying degrees of success. (Toyota, Vectrix , etc ), The whole idea of suppressing an important technology is absurd. The Indians and PRC would simply ignore the patents (or claim they simultaneously invented the product, in conjunction with the Russians !). But more importantly, any US corporation could sue to have the products patent protection removed, since the law requires active development as a condition of patent protection ! But, conspiracy theorists are not big on either commonsense or factual research ! Vale Stanford Ovshinsky ! I hope you are remembered for your truly notable achievements, rather than the hero of conspiracy theories !
        Dave D
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Marcopolo
        Dude, don't ruing a good conspiracy theory buzz! LOL
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Marcopolo
        One little thing about your argument - why would the folks who could make these NiMH batteries repeatedly refuse to sell them, if not for basically locking up the patent? Even if the batteries were decently priced ( we can never know the true cost per watt hour.. ), Oil companies would be intentionally not selling them because the profit margins would be low, and these batteries would ultimately undercut their core business. That's how you get a 'bad business case'. And surely, they knew that the second they purchased them. Have you ever intentionally made an investment in something that will only lose money for you? ever invested without doing any research beforehand? I remember many stories of companies being frustrated because they could not get this battery. The minimum quantity was a moving target that would keep going up above and beyond what the company could ever want. GM's EV1 was pulling over a hundred mile range on these batteries at the end of the EV1 program. Are you so sure it wasn't a patent troll type situation? such a mechanism of preventing a new invention coming around that would work against someone's business interest, and/or trying to sell IP at a ludicrously high price has been going on for a while now, and has been more common as of late.
        brotherkenny4
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Marcopolo
        Reuters tell us that GM has fixed cost in the Volt of 1.2Billion dollars and material and labor costs of 24K per vehicle. Over the 500K units GM will recieve $7500 rebate from the government, that means a fix cost per vehicle of $2,400 dollars. So, the cost to GM is really $26,500 per vehicle. GM could sell these unsubsidized for $30K and still make money. No conspiracy here, just greed, and hatred for the US people. Which of course is the seed of all conspiracy theories involving technology. The people assume the government is in charge and could force corporations to do the right thing, which of course is the big lie, corporations are in control and our politicians are the lackeys.
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