Here's an idea to reduce the costs of lithium ion batteries: split it four ways. That was one proposal given by
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries senior executive vice president, Ichiro Fukue, at the 2010 Driving Sustainability conference in Reykjavík, Iceland this weekend. Here's how it might work.

When someone buys a new electric vehicle (EV), she would pay the battery manufacturer just 25 percent of the battery cost. After a few years, when the car is sold, the second buyer would pay the battery manufacturer the second 25 percent. Finally, when the EV is ready for the scrapyard, the power utility would buy the battery, paying the last 50 percent to the manufacturer. How this would all work in the real world was questioned by conference attendees, but it does give us a fresh new way to think about car ownership, doesn't it?

Most of Fukue's presentation, though, was about the lithium-ion battery market, which he said could reach $25 billion U.S. by 2020, and buses. The market will reach that high level even if (or maybe because of?) the price for li-ion batteries drops to $300-$400 per kWh in a few years, something Fukue predicted would happen. (More after the jump.)

Mitsubishi has been testing li-ion batteries in its i-MiEV, of course, but the company has a new electric vehicle project in the works: transit buses with swappable batteries. Fukue said trials of the EV bus will begin in Kyoto, Japan in February 2011, with mass production scheduled for 2013. The buses have two packs, one in the roof that is always there and one in the bottom of the back that can be swapped out. Here are the specs:
  • The replaceable battery is a 60 kWh pack.
  • The bus has a 30-kilometer range.
  • The bus will reduce CO2 emissions by 50 tons per year, compared to a standard diesel bus.
  • The bus can hold 65 people.
  • The electric motor has 160 kW max power.
Starting five months from now, the bus will travel from Kyoto station to the popular tourist destinations of Ginkaku-ji and Heian-jingu and the conference center. Another bus is potentially planned for Toyko, where a planned showcase renewable energy building will store energy in the batteries while they're in the ground. The buses will pick up passengers in the bus terminal in the lobby (thanks, quiet and emission-free EVs!) and the buses will get a fresh set of packs as they leave the building. "We like to change the image of the bus," Fukue said. "Buses are very clean and beautiful."

Oh, and how's this for another unusual energy storage idea? When there is excess energy produced at night, the totally green building will have a system that freezes water and then uses the ice to help cool the building the next day as part of the air conditioning system. Pretty, um, cool, right?

[Image: np&djjewell – C.C. License 2.0]

Our travel and lodging for this coverage were provided by the event organizers.

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