TRL president responds: new battery technology has trade-offs, but will offer a practical solution

Ralph Zito, president of Technology Research Laboratories, was very prompt in his response to the email inquiry I sent yesterday. Turns out that while TRL's battery technology may eventually offer a practical solution for plug-in hybrids and EVs, it may be a little while before we begin to see it powering marketable vehicles as he says the technology is still in the engineering prototype stage, but is about ready for testing and manufacturing.
Mr. Zito concedes some trade-offs in that while their batteries will dispense with the high costs and relatively short lives of lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries, they will not achieve the same high energy densities as their conventional counterparts. He explains that the company's work began with stationary applications such wind turbines and solar cells where their primary goals were to achieve high reliability, low cost and long life rather than energy density. He said that "it appeared later that designs suitable for the plug-in hybrid might be an additional useful application" at which point they continued to focus on cost, durability and reliability as long as the energy density was high enough to power a vehicle.

Mr. Zito also says (very politely) that while TRL seeks out a suitable manufacturer for their new battery technology, they are trying to keep a lid on proprietary details. Still, he gives us a bit to chew on. He states that TRL uses a "process approach" (rather than chemical). The energy is stored by controlled specific ionic concentration. This, he says, might be best thought of as analogous to compressed air or dielectric capacitor storage.

Around here, we like the idea of cleaner, cheaper, longer-lasting batteries, so we wish TRL the best of luck in their continued research and development, and thank Mr. Zito for his quick response.

You can read the entirety of Mr. Zito's email after the jump...

[Source: Ralph Zito]
Thanks for the email and interest in our technology. I do understand the many questions that would immediately arise in anyone's mind upon reading our brief web pages.

I also realize that our description is a bit skimpy.

Since our technology, to the best of our knowledge is new, we are quite concerned about proprietary disclosures. What I can tell you at this point are the following.

1. TRL is not yet in production. In fact, our main effort now is to either place the technology into capable manufacturing hands or begin limited fabrication ourselves. Meanwhile, we are trying to maintain disclosure of proprietary details to a minimum.

The TRL technology employed is qualitatively different from “conventional” batteries. The performance is quite independent of the materials other than peripheral properties. Energy is stored by controlled specific ionic concentration. It perhaps can be best thought of as analogous to compressed air or dielectric capacitor storage. This new process approach enables us to construct very inexpensive, rugged and extremely long life batteries that offer a practical solution to the EV as well as stationary applications.

Energy densities and power densities are largely a function of design and engineering trade-offs and application requirements. Generally power densities in the range of 12 to 30+ WH/lb can be expected, and power densities as high as 1 to 5 KW/cu ft, or 50 to 100+ watts/lb. , depending upon design and rates of discharge. The technology is in the engineering prototype stage and is about ready for field testing and manufacturing.

At present we do not have any batteries for sale as “over-the-counter” products. Any cost figures at present would only be pre-production estimates.

2. No, our technology is not similar to those employed by hybrid cars. They generally use nickel-metal hydride or lithium ion batteries. These are expensive and have life problems. One of our systems makes use of iron chemistry. The structures and electrodes, etc., are indeed made of carbon composite

3. I do appreciate your excitement about the prospect of such a new battery system. However, we cannot achieve the high energy densities that the LMH or Lith batteries can attain (with limited cycling). Our approach has been directed at high reliability, low cost and long life. As always in life, there are trade-offs. We are propelled by the conviction that a cheap, safe and highly dependable power source is more important than high ED - if the ED is high enough to be useful in an EV.

4. We began our work recently with these systems with stationary applications (wind, solar, load leveling, ..) in mind where high ED is not directly important. Cost, and very long, dependable life are the important parameters. But, it appeared later than designs suitable for the plug-in hybrid might be an additional useful application.

5. Until people can go out and purchase something at a competitive price in the market place, it is not a product. We have yet to get this commercialized. TRL has no manufacturing capability. Hence, our single purpose now is to change that situation. We are more than happy to provide any company or entity seriously interested in producing these systems with any and all the technical information needed.

I sincerely hope this answers your questions. We are fully aware of the need to disclose, and magic black boxes, or pigs-in-the-poke are not what TRL is
engaged in. Our web pages provide a little bit about our past work, and further details are readily available upon request.

Ralph Zito, Pres., TRL, Inc.

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