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Japan Power Transportation

New Battery Tech From Japan Could Supercharge EVs 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-waiting-on-mr.-fusion dept.
joe5 writes "Many experts suggest that battery technology is really the key to the future of transportation. Its certainly the key to unlocking Tesla for even further growth. Today, a Japanese startup called Power Japan Plus unveiled a new battery chemistry that could significantly improve transportation batteries. In testing, the recycle-able cell has completed more than 3,000 charge/discharge cycles with virtually no performance degradation, meaning that it could conceivably last the lifetime of a car. They company won't yet provide too many details due to pending patents, and won't even say who its first customer is — but the chemistry requires 'specific and proprietary changes to the nanostructure of the carbon crystals.'"
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New Battery Tech From Japan Could Supercharge EVs

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  • We all know Ton..I mean, Elon, is bypassing traditional battery technology and finishing up work on his Arc Reactor. Must be for someone else - maybe Apple to tie into Beat headphones so they're not as crappy and overrated as they are now.
  • The company isn't holding back the hyperbole. Definitely front page news there.

  • by Spoke (6112) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:37AM (#46996863)

    PR like this claiming the next breakthrough in batteries has been coming out for years, but what actually makes it to production are basically minor tweaks to existing chemistry.

    Inevitably what happens is something keeps the technology from being mass produced, or is too expensive, or simply does not function as advertised.

    I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not holding my breath.

    • by Xenna (37238)

      Right, too many future of battery stories but we're still stuck with the same old stuff.

      Long lasting batteries are great but not as important as lower cost and higher capacity to weight ratio...

      • by Spoke (6112) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @04:10AM (#46997119)

        Long lasting batteries are great but not as important as lower cost and higher capacity to weight ratio...

        Exactly. The energy density of these cells are very average at best.

        It's nice that they last a long time as that makes them very useful for certain applications, but for EVs that's not the major issue preventing EVs from being more appealing. The major issue is energy density and cost.

        Extreme durability might help with the cost aspect as batteries would hold more value for re-use after a car is otherwise useless, but it would be for other applications such as perhaps grid-storage where having batteries that basically last forever would be very useful.

        • by InsultsByThePound (3603437) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @05:00AM (#46997231)

          I disagree. This helps EVs in two ways. Once, designers no longer will have to oversize battery packs in anticipation of degradation. (Primarily for series hybrids which will probably come out in combination with the 25 HP wave disk generator....) And as you said, resale value. But resale value is a huge thing, so don't understate it.

          • by Spoke (6112)

            That's a good point, it could help plug-in hybrids, or even regular hybrids.

            But given that it's not very energy dense and other chemistries, what would you rather have? A battery that starts out with 25-50% more energy density and degrades 20-30% over the life of the car, or a battery that starts out with less but only loses a couple percent? I'd personally have the battery that starts out with more energy density even if at the end of life the density is similar.

        • by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @06:42AM (#46997505)

          It's nice that they last a long time as that makes them very useful for certain applications, but for EVs that's not the major issue preventing EVs from being more appealing. The major issue is energy density and cost.

          Except if batteries last basically forever, having "swapping stations" where a robot replaces your car battery with a fully loaded one becomes a lot more feasible, since you no longer need to worry about the difference in condition between the old and new battery. That, in turn, makes energy density less relevant, which allows smaller batteries, which brings down the costs. And low cost upfront combined with lower costs of operation combined with basically no maintenance needed makes for a very appealing vehicle for lower-income demographics, especially when these cars start appearing for sale used.

          • by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @09:54AM (#46998719)

            Except if batteries last basically forever, having "swapping stations" where a robot replaces your car battery with a fully loaded one becomes a lot more feasible, since you no longer need to worry about the difference in condition between the old and new battery.

            That is NOT the major thing holding swapping stations back. To make swapping stations feasible you need a standardized power pack installed in a standardized way compatible with a battery pack swap. This standardization need to be agreed to by a substantial market share of electric vehicle manufacturers - enough to justify the enormous infrastructure costs involved in building out a network of swapping stations. Furthermore there need to be enough electric vehicles already on the road to justify the build out.

            Frankly the durability of the battery packs is pretty far down the list of problems with swapping stations.

            • by higuita (129722)

              No, the battery charge cycle is really the main problem!

              everything is expensive when is new, old gas station where also expensive, but when demands grow, so will the deployment.

              The problem is that batteries are EXPENSIVE and that price must be paid during the lifetime of the baterry. This makes the all process very expensive, the price of gas is for many people cheaper than having a "monthly" subscription to replace batteries on "gas" stations. This keep the sales and the demand low and everything will keep

          • Ever since better place went out of business nobody is talking about battery swap stations
        • Energy density of current Li batteries does NOT limit car sales. All of the car sales currently prove otherwise. The fact is, that as electric cars sales continue, the battery costs and therefore EVs will come down further. And once giga-factory is built, that will only drive down cell costs further (according to musk, it will be about 1/2 to 1/3 of what it is today).

          OTOH, oil based cars are only going up in price. So, while EVs are good enough to sell RIGHT NOW, in 5 years time, EVs will be better.

          Thi
        • These also apparently charge more quickly, which is definitely on the list of "stuff we really want from batteries". This definitely seems to be at the "might actually go into production" phase, and if they're telling the truth it'll make for cheap production as well. I'll trade power density for cheap, fast charging, and reusable when it comes to anything I don't have to carry myself.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Right, too many future of battery stories but we're still stuck with the same old stuff.

        If you were old like me you'd have seen batteries going from being total crap to pretty darn good.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Exactly. Some people expect a grand annoncement that makes it worth throwing away last years model of battery. That hasnt happened, and it wont happen. On the other hand, a big part of what made those comically large brick phones from the 80's so big was total crap batteries. If my smartphone had to run off ni-cad, I wouldnt bother.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      It doesn't sound any better than the cells Tesla is already using anyway. Tesla have tested to 750,000 miles with about 80% capacity left. Supercharging from flat takes 50 minutes, or under 30 minutes for 180 miles of range. Combined with more than 260 miles range it is more than good enough for most people.

    • At present yours is the 4th comment and the 4th extremely skeptical comment.

      Quote from the article:

      Power Japan says a Ryden cell barely heats up during charge and discharge--it "experiences minimal thermal change" ...

      That means there is little electrical resistance, which seems impossible if both electrodes are made of carbon. Metal has low electrical resistance. The electrical resistance of carbon is much higher.

      A 2nd quote:

      ... an electric car's battery would hold its full energy over 10 years or more, ...

      That's another statement about electrical resistance. It says that there is effectively an open circuit between the battery terminals, a very high resistance. The battery would not drain itself. Seems impossible to me.

      The writer has a lack of understanding of technology:

      And equally important for practicality, the new dual-carbon anode and cathode can both be produced by existing cell manufacturing processes--and require essentially just a single material as input: carbon.

      That reduces the number of materials that must be procured for the supply chain, simplifying the entire production process.

      The BIG issue is that the battery would not use an expensive, scarce metal: Lithium. The fact that the author doesn't mention that indicates he understands extremely little.

      This is even more weird:

      Separate from the announcement of the Ryden battery, Power Japan Plus is also working on a new form of carbon that is entirely organic.

      The material, known as Carbon Complex, which is made using naturally-grown organic cotton that is then processed using special techniques to control the size of the carbon crystals formed during production.

      Early test cells are not produced with the organic carbon, but the company's goal is to create a battery cell that is not only competitive with today's lithium-ion cells but uses entirely organic input materials that can be fully recycled at the end of their life.

      That is so confused I decided not to comment on the confusion.

      Maybe the entire reason for the article is to find amazingly ignorant investors:

      Meanwhile, Power Japan Plus--which has been internally funded until now--is seeking its first investments of private funds.

      • Organic carbon?! Wow, I head no idea atoms could be grown organically! This must be so much more environmentally friendly than making them using chemicals!

      • by Spoke (6112)

        The BIG issue is that the battery would not use an expensive, scarce metal: Lithium. The fact that the author doesn't mention that indicates he understands extremely little.

        But Lithium is not expensive or scarce relative to current costs of lithium battery manufacture. Other metals and manufacturing costs dominate the current cost of lithium cells.

        • Could you provide more information? A search says that Lithium costs $300 per pound, not as high as I would have guessed. What other metals?
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @08:31AM (#46998057) Homepage

        Have a look at their web site, it makes much more sense: http://powerjapanplus.com/batt... [powerjapanplus.com]

        It's an organic electrolyte. It appears to use lithium, but simultaneous ion and anion flow in opposite directions to increase current flow while producing less heat. They say they have filed a patent but I couldn't find it, not really sure how long it takes for Japanese ones to come online.

        • Look at the picture of the computer [powerjapanplus.com] the two serious looking scientists (or actors ) are sitting at. Either it is a IBM-PC XT with a floppy disk from 1980s or it is a DVD/VCR player with a TV set on top.
          • by cbhacking (979169)

            I see a 3.5" floppy drive (not unheard of in workstation machines, especially those which interface with any kind of manufacturing equipment and therefore may still actually use them) and an optical drive (not sure what kind, but it's not from the 1980s). The chassis is nothing unusual; I've seen machines like that at offices all over the place. The monitor is unusually thick for a modern LCD, which suggests old (cheap) equipment, but not necessarily indicating any kind of fraud.

      • I agree that the journalist writing the article seems to lack even the most fundamental knowledge of electricity.
        I simply had to stop reading after: "...4 volts of power..." which caused me to eat my own head.

      • by higuita (129722)

        That means there is little electrical resistance, which seems impossible if both electrodes are made of carbon. Metal has low electrical resistance. The electrical resistance of carbon is much higher.

        Tell that to the graphene, to the nanotubes and to any superconductors build with high resistance (isolated) materials.

        Most of the time, each material have different behaviour than simply the sum of all parts, the interaction between different atoms change their global proprieties

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually if you read between the lines, a minor tweak is exactly what they are patenting. Current technology can easily achieve 2000 cycles, they claim 3000. The innovation is a special treatment of the carbon matrix, which is claimed to reduce the intercalation damage. That is one of the ageing mechanisms of Li batteries, but not necessarily the dominating one, especially in an automotive environment.

      So yes, a minor tweak it is. Still worth good money, but not a breakthrough.

    • How much more minor do you mean? They say " 'specific and proprietary changes to the nanostructure of the carbon crystals"
      carbon nano-structures are pretty small.

    • You're not wrong - something may very well happen to keep the technology from being mass produced. EV production and advancement has been stalled many times in an effort to maintain the status quo. Here's a story from Steve Hekeroth, an individual who knows all too well.

      http://www.ai-online.com/Adv/Q... [ai-online.com]

      Unsurprisingly, it has taken a billionaire entrepreneur, Elon Musk, to disrupt the market. Let's hope the trend continues.

    • by Stargoat (658863)

      So basically owners of hybrids could start to think about getting Total Cost of Ownership of their cars to somewhere in the neighborhood of my more fuel efficient diesel. Consumer Reports link. [consumerreports.org] And that on top of the under-reported diesel MPG formula used in the US. [wikipedia.org] Consumer Reports shows 36 average MPG for the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Wagon. My total combined is 38.6. On long trips, it averages about 44 MPG, with the AC on. I have not met a Jetta TDI owner that does not say likewise.

      Hybrids owners, see m

  • ...there's enough post-sale support to allow for a reasonable replacement of the batteries.

    Our newest daily-use car is thirteen years old, and the two other regular-use vehicles are nineteen years old. We certainly could afford to replace them but they've not needed too much expensive service yet and they meet our needs, so we're fine with just continuing to drive them.

    American Consumers are starting to get used to the idea of a car lasting 200,000 miles. Only getting 100,000 miles out of one becaus
    • by CBravo (35450)
      What eight years?

      I only read 3000 cycles and a possible 300 mile radius which translates into 900.000 miles total lifetime. If that is only 22% true then it would be fine.
    • Did your cars ever have a major repair? Owning a car for 200k miles and doing a major repair at 100k is fine. Besides, people are still throwing around the idea of battery exchange.
      • Agreed. The cost of the car > cost of a battery. While you may need to replace the battery at 100k miles, it's no different then needing to rebuild the engine, or make another major repair...

        • I'm glad thats not my Subaru. It went 220,000 miles before needing a major repair. If you consider replacing the alternator major.
          • by guruevi (827432)

            You're just a statistical anomaly with your anecdotal evidence. Most people barely make it to 75k regardless of brand before replacing something that costs near the $5-7k at which point it's usually cheaper to just buy a new car. Especially luxury car repairs (which the Tesla is at this point) can double that cost not to mention the fact that you need oil changes and other repairs specific to ICE engines (mufflers, control valves, cooling) which again, you won't walk out of a Mercedes garage without $100 fo

            • by Ogive17 (691899)
              And you are erring on the other side of the spectrum. If your car needs such an extensive repair before it hits 100k miles, you're doing something wrong (accident or not following standard maintenance protocols) or you got a lemon.

              Most cars these days should hit 150k without any major mechanical failure. The Japanese forced US auto makers to step up their game over the past decade.
            • If most people would need a large repair by 75K then how can Hyundai offer a 10yr/ 100K mi powertrain warranty?

              I'm another statistical anomaly, I guess. I'm currently driving a 2005 Matrix with 93K miles on it, and it's only needed a new clockspring assembly ($300 in parts, did it myself).

              • by guruevi (827432)

                Power train warranty only covers the motor, the transmission and parts of the drivetrain. My car has a little over 100k on it and currently requires repairs on the shocks, new muffler and wheel bearings as well as several sensors (oxygen and coolant level - both of which make the car fail inspection). Total cost would be $5k.

                Got a new motor control computer (one day, the car didn't start, couldn't move it out of park, $1.5k), 2 EGR valves ($300 per) and new heated seats under extended warranty (would've cos

            • by knarf (34928)

              I don't have a car (I ride motorbikes instead) but my wife does. I maintain her car, always have.

              Oil change? What for? Because they say so? Because the warranty... wait a minute, warranty... that is for new cars, right? We don't buy new cars as that is a waste of money. We buy cars when they're about 4-5 years old, having done about 100.000 km. We get rid of them when they've done about 350.000 km, usually some 6-7 years later. The only time I change the oil is when she's run the thing into some piece of ro

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Unfortunately it could be hard to predict usage patterns to charge less often and to wait until batteries are low enough to need it

      Why would you want to do that in the first place? Most people just plug in when they get home. Takes a few seconds, saves going to the petrol station every week. Normal charge is 80%, which is 208 miles or more in a Tesla so I have no idea where you got 30 miles from. Even a Leaf at an 80% charge is 80+ miles range, assuming you don't Broder it.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      Unfortunately it could be hard to predict usage patterns to charge less often and to wait until batteries are low enough to need it, as while one's daily commute might be consistent most of the time, if an emergency or other need forces a change it would be terrible to be low on energy simply because the computer thought that you were only going to need a range of 30 miles that day.

      Speaking of computers, can't you do what SSDs do: cycle which cells are used first? It's not like a computer-controlled batter

      • by Alioth (221270)

        That would be generally impractical as the cells would need very very very high C ratings if you were to use one at a time to be able to provide sufficient current (and running lithium batteries near their maximum current rating is quite hard on them). Running the whole pack in parallel is much better since you can use batteries with lower C ratings and you're less hard on them.

    • by necro81 (917438)

      Only getting 100,000 miles out of one because the battery charge cycles are exhausted wouldn't be a terribly good deal unless the car cost significantly less than gasoline or diesel powered models or had something particularly special to offer for the same price.

      You neglect the ongoing costs of owning each type of car. The biggest difference between is the cost of fuel: gasoline/diesel versus electricity. On a per mile basis, the fuel for EVs is much less expensive. A more appropriate way to judge bet

  • Seems to me their claims are contradictory. If the cell doesn't heat up at all during charge/discharge, then it must have very low internal resistance and consequently if there is a short, it will release its energy almost instantaneously and be more, not less, susceptible to thermal runaway and fires (it's carbon after all). No matter how low the internal resistance, the energy when has to go somewhere. Relatively high internal resistance is what makes LiFePO4 cells safe for EV hobbyists - short out a c
    • by fnj (64210)

      Thermal runaway is not just a description of something that gets real hot. Thermal runaway means the system has positive feedback - the hotter it gets the faster it gets even hotter.

      The (relative) safety of LiFePO4 does not have anything to do with high internal resistance. It has to do with chemistry. You can design LiFePO4 to have an internal resistance just about as low as LiIon. Ask any electric powered radio control flyer.

  • won't even say who its first customer is

    A Japanese startup... the first client could likely be Toyota - Toyota is constantly welcoming innovation, and a Japanese startup would prefer to grant such beneficial technological progress to another Japanese company, regardless the amount of money coming from overseas. Japan is known for national preference.

  • Something tells me the this company hasn't thought everything through.

    ...naturally-grown organic cotton...

    Isn't cotton one of the most pesticide-intensive crops around? If, perhaps, they meant to use the other definition of organic — molecules based on carbon, but containing other elements — well, they're being redundant.

    ...uses entirely organic input materials that can be fully recycled at the end of their life...

    From the first image presented, a dual carbon cell looks to require lit
  • Ah, startup battery companies. There have been so many.

    I have no idea if this will work. But the company seems flaky. Their "path to market" says "This facility will allow Power Japan Plus to meet demand for specialty energy storage markets such as medical devices and satellites." In other words, they're nowhere near making auto batteries.

    The medical and satellite industries won't be interested because they already have specialty batteries with demonstrated long life and huge numbers of charge/discharg [quallion.com]

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