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Power Government The Almighty Buck Politics Technology

US Corps Want $1B From Gov't For Battery Factory 394

tristanreid writes "The Wall Street Journal reports that a consortium of 14 US technology companies will ask the Federal Government for up to $1 billion for a plant to make advanced battery technology, as a part of the broad fiscal stimulus package that Pres. Elect Obama is planning. The story quotes a report by Ralph Brodd, which suggests that while existing battery technology was developed in the US, the lead in development is now held in Asia. From the WSJ story: 'More than four dozen advanced battery factories are being built in China but none, currently, in the US.'"
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US Corps Want $1B From Gov't For Battery Factory

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  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @02:57PM (#26163237)

    Because it is closer to fascism than socialism. Why do Americans have such trouble separating those two very different schools of thought?

    Corporatism is pretty much exactly what this and all the bailout have been.

  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <brian0918@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:01PM (#26163315)

    so the government (and US taxpayers, in the longer turn) should be given stocks appropriate to the investment size.

    And thus you've completed the transition to socialism.

  • by jgilbert ( 29889 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:20PM (#26163571) Homepage

    apparently, they already have a plant in gainsville florida. although, it's currently not running for whatever reason related to funding.

    Electro Energy Receives First Order for U.S. Produced 18650 Lithium-Ion Batteries [electroenergyinc.com]

    maybe that's not what they're looking for.

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:26PM (#26163647)

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but true Laissez-faire capitalism doesn't exist in the real world, and really hasn't since we stopped bartering as cavemen. Arguably, true Laissez-faire capitalism produces an unsustainable economy, as it will tend toward the creation of monopolies which will erect barriers to entry to keep competitors out.

    It's generally well understood these days that at least some government intervention is required in order to sustain a healthy economy. Now we just argue endlessly over how much government intervention and what form it should take.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:46PM (#26163925)

    You don't have to think environmental impact assessments are a bad thing to agree that they're a major reason there are no battery factories being built in the US. Battery factories are very dirty, at least using current production methods, and possibly inherently at least questionable (there are a lot of heavy metals and whatnot going into them).

  • by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:53PM (#26164015)

    Say you're an up and coming non-evil telco and you want to spread your non-evil services to a new community over your own non-evil copper or fiber. Sounds good so far, right?

    Well, to spread your non-evil copper and fiber you have to tear up a lot of streets to lay it and you have to do it in a way that doesn't damage or disrupt the existing evil copper and fiber.

    Then after you've sunk all that money into the non-evil copper and fiber that's plowed into the ground you have to be able to recoup the cost and provide a better to the community you just invaded, err, saved. The evil telco, having already recouped its cost from its ancient evil copper (with some fiber), cooks up some evil bundles that it can afford to offer but that your non-evil telco can't compete with.

    End result? Your non-evil fiber and copper goes dark and is added to the pile of corpses building up under the streets.

    Yup, totally not inefficient.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 18, 2008 @04:32PM (#26164603)

    I think that his plans for that are already working!

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @04:51PM (#26164907) Homepage

    Besides, battery technology is not the most effective way to power cars. They are too volatile, have too short a life expectancy, and produce too much nasty chemical waste (both during manufacture and disposal).


    1) I don't know what you mean by "volatile", but if you mean "catching fire", that's mainly just a problem for traditional li-ion. The phosphates, titanates, and stabilized spinels don't do that because they don't get lithium metal plating and the like. The worst you can say for the advanced li-ion cells is that the electrolyte is often flammable, and that if you had both a puncture and a spark (puncture alone won't cut it), you could get fire. But you know what? So is gasoline. At least the electrolyte is isolated into a bunch of small containers that would, worst case, fail individually.

    2) The life expectancy notion is way off. Let's start by busting the basic premise -- that all batteries inherently have to have short lifespans. Jay Leno's early-20th century Baker Electric still runs on its original nickel-iron batteries. Decade-old RAV4EVs are still running fine on their original NiMH packs despite heavy usage. It's simply a myth that there's something inherently about being a battery that means you must have a short lifespan; it all depends on the chemistry. And getting to the advanced li-ion types being looked at -- the various olivine and spinel cathodes and titanate anodes -- they're incredibly stable. Assuming you keep the temperature in the packs from getting ridiculously hot, you're good for the lifespan of the car. A123 and Valence's LiPs, for example, are good for about 7,000 cycles at 1C before losing 20% capacity. AltairNano's titanates take tens of thousands of cycles to lose that much.

    3) What nasty chemicals do you think are involved here? The worst you can say is that the titanates, like traditional li-ion, have a LiCoO2 cathode. But that's only mildly toxic. Phosphates and spinels, you can literally throw straight into the trash in some places. The worst thing in them is that the electrolyte is corrosive. Manufacture is no worse. Phosphates, for example, traditionally have their cathodes made from phosphoric acid, iron powder, and lithium carbonate, with a carbon binding from burning sugar. The anodes are just graphite. The separator is just plastic.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 18, 2008 @04:51PM (#26164909)

    Congratulations! You have just created the pharmaceuticals industry, which gave us a dozen meds for erectile dysfunction but no actual cures for important things like AIDS or cancer.

    Of course, this ignorant trash-hyperbole does not account for the fact that enormous resources are put into both AIDS and cancer research in any case from both private and public sources. Also that erectile dysfunction is rather easier to treat medicinally ("make blood vessles relax") than curing cancer ("prevent all of the potential reasons that can cause any of the body's cells to divide uncontrollably"). DNA is almost even designed to be damaged. Here's some advice: Be less of an evil person?

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @04:56PM (#26165003) Homepage

    Private investors have not because they don't see any opportunity at this point for it to become a profitable viable technology.

    Yes, marques have plans to produce and commercially sell EVs within the next few years. Except, of course, Aptera, Audi, BMW, BYD, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Daimler AG, Duracar, Fisker, Ford, Heuliez, Hyundai, Lightning Car Co, Loremo, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Miles, Mitsubishi, Nissan-Renault, Phoenix, Pininfarina/Bollare, Range Rover, Saturn, Shelby Supercars, Subaru, Tata, Tesla, Th!nk, Toyota, Venturi, and Volkswagen. But apart from them...

    I could give you a similar list for battery manufacturers if you're interested.

  • by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:31PM (#26165597)

    Here's a neat little (relatively unknown) fact about I(ncumbent)LECs.

    They are required to provide a dial tone to anyone in their service area that wants it. Even if it would take 99 years of service to make that line profitable THEY HAVE TO PROVIDE SERVICE. A government mandate that's part of the bargain for being allowed to be a monopoly in that area.

    Do you really think that a market driven infrastructure (like internet service, for example) would plow a line they'd know they'd never make the money back on? Not getting cell service is bad enough but imagine having no one willing, or required, to provide you with at least a landline.

  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:41PM (#26165747)

    With "traditional" ones, cobalt for the lithium cobalt oxide cathode.

    With LiFePO4 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_iron_phosphate_battery [wikipedia.org]), iron which is technically a heavy metal even if harmless. Plus traces of other materials for doping. Overall much less harmful, and LiFePO4 promises much better safety and battery lifetime :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 18, 2008 @06:11PM (#26166115)
    It's not that the process is often abused, but that an EIS often lengthens the process by anywhere from 18-36 months and it's not uncommon for it (and it alone) to be $100k-250k or more. After that time, a verdict may be reached, and it may not be in favor of your project.

    Simply put, an EIS is a humongous hurdle in both time (=money) and money. Corporations, and moreover investors & their investment dollars, aren't likely to invest that much, let it sit around for 3 years to have their project ultimately decided by committee (e.g. government) and by unscientific, usually irrational & stubbornly uninformed, public sentiment (e.g. NIMBY).

    yes, I work in this field.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @06:41PM (#26166513) Homepage

    Lithium is not a "nasty substance", and it's not found in raw form, either in production or in the batteries, anyways (they use lithium salts, like lithium carbonate, a common red colorant in fireworks, for that). Try again.

  • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @08:35PM (#26167735) Homepage

    Lack of transparency was a free choice by an underregulated industry.

    Nothing in the CRA required any bank to lend to a borrower who wasn't fit. It just made redlining illegal. Further, the CRA has been gutted over the course of the Bush administration, which reduced reporting requirements, reduced the number of institutions covered, and slashed the regulatory budget.

    Further, investment banks were never covered by the CRA, and investment banks were the ones launching themselves into the subprime lending business over the last five years.

    There has never in the history of the world been a "free market" consisting of more than 100 persons. This makes it convenient for lazy libertarians, who can always say -- no matter how clearly the free market failed -- can always find some tangential regulation. Aha! The free market could have worked, but for that!

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes