ABG speaks with PowerGenix about NiZn batteries

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We recently got on the phone with Dan Squiller from PowerGenix, a company which hopes to "revolutionize the battery industry" with its new nickel-zinc batteries. The firm's batteries will soon make an appearance in power tools and in lawn and garden machinery, with ebikes, scooters and consumer AA-sized units shipping shortly thereafter. Of course, the company also sees huge room for expansion in hybrid cars and has plans to sell its technology to a major manufacturing company in the near-term future.

What makes the company think its product is so good? Read on past the break for the story.

Basically, because they use a nickel-based chemistry, PowerGenix's batteries can be created using already existing machinery and technology. This allows the batteries to be produced at half the cost of lithium ion units with an equivalent power rating. Of course, all nickel-based batteries are cheaper than their newer cousins, but PowerGenix claims that its nickel-zinc units are preferable due to their 35 percent smaller size in packaging and weight. How is that possible? Each cell outputs 1.6 volts, instead of 1.25 volts with other chemistries. This means that a pack can be created with fewer cells for the same watt hours. Fewer cells also means lower resistance, always a good thing. Thermally, each cell operates in a similar manner to nickel metal hydride cells. The company also claims that its cells have a life expectancy on par with what's already out there.

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PowerGenix sees nickel-based batteries as a big player in hybrid vehicles for the foreseeable future. It's true that both Honda and Toyota will be using these types of batteries in their next-gen hybrids. To prove its technology, the company has already fitted a Toyota Prius with a pack made from its cells and is currently gathering data from the conversion. It hopes to learn how to optimize its batteries for hybrid car applications. The market that PowerGenix sees itself competing best in is normal hybrid cars specifically, not range-extended models like the Chevy Volt. How soon? The company says about 24 months. We'll be watching. PowerGenix also has plans to launch its batteries in electric bikes and scooters in very short order. In fact, as you can see from our photos above, there are already scooters running around with PowerGenix batteries inside and these should be available from Veloteq within the next year.

In addition to being less expensive, the nickel-zinc batteries contain nothing toxic and have been certified safe by the toughest standards available. According to PowerGenix, its cells have a higher percentage of recyclable material than any other competing technology - certainly a big deal considering just how many batteries will be produced for electric vehicles and an area that new technology may actually take a back seat to the tried-and-true lead acid batteries in our cars at the moment. What's more, the batteries are not flammable, which is something that can't be said for all lithium units. Unfortunately, due to the higher voltage per cell, current chargers will not charge individual batteries properly. The company will ready its own line of chargers when it launches its batteries. We'll keep our eyes peeled for more from PowerGenix, hopefully the technology proves its worth and amounts to more than just hype. Stay tuned.

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