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Power The Almighty Buck

Stimulus Could Kickstart US Battery Industry 369

Al sends along a Technology Review piece that begins "Provisions in the Congressional stimulus bill could help jump-start a new, multibillion-dollar industry in the US for manufacturing advanced batteries for hybrids and electric vehicles and for storing energy from the electrical grid to enable the widespread use of renewable energy. The nearly $790 billion economic stimulus legislation contains tens of billions of dollars in loans, grants, and tax incentives for advanced battery research and manufacturing, as well as incentives for plug-in hybrids and improvements to the electrical grid, which could help create a market for these batteries. Significant advances in battery materials, including the development of new lithium-ion batteries, have been made in the US in the past few years; but advanced battery manufacturing is almost entirely overseas, particularly in Asia."
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Stimulus Could Kickstart US Battery Industry

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  • Environmental issues (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:37PM (#26894933) Journal
    My understanding is that battery manufacturing pollutes the environment, and other countries have fewer environmental regulations, making it easier to do whatever you want. Realistically, think about it......do you want a battery manufacturer in your back yard? It may sound selfish, but I really don't. Maybe it would be ok, though.....
  • by mc1138 ( 718275 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:38PM (#26894951) Homepage
    It's really positive to see things like this coming out of the stimulus package. Yeah there's some serious question as to how well its going to do getting us out of this recession, but that being said, it does have some nice provisions in it for science related improvements, including a nice sized boost to NASA. Long term this is the sort of investment that will help keep our economy moving and on the forefront of innovation.
  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:43PM (#26895051)

    I would want a nice clean one in my back yard. We should set tariffs on products that are not manufactured in a way that would be legal in the US. This would level the playing field.

  • by wjh31 ( 1372867 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:44PM (#26895065) Homepage
    is this really the most important part of the stimulus in relation to tech, R+D, and similar things, how about a break down of all the ways it's going to affect anything that is 'stuff that matters' to nerds. I dont mean this as a troll, i would genuinely like to see a full list, new age batteries sound good, but cant be the only thing.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:05PM (#26895343)
    Certainly, some of the money should be spent studying environmental issues.

    And, not all "battery" technolgies are harmful; I read one proposal for storing and shipping hot water as a cheap and quite efficient means of energy storage. Pumping water uphill is another.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:19PM (#26895527) Homepage

    Where to start?

    1) We're talking about li-ion, not "lithium batteries". Lithium batteries are a completely different tech.

    2) There is no single type of battery known as "li-ion"; it's a family of different chemistries. Each one has their own different traits regarding recycleability.

    3) The single element that makes it hardest to recycle li-ions is the presence of a cobalt cathode, which makes the cells much more flammable and provides pretty much all of their (limited) toxicity. Most EV manufacturers are looking at li-ion variants that don't use them.

    4) Even in cells that use cobalt cathodes, such as Tesla's, they're perfectly recycleable [teslamotors.com].

    5) The main reason li-ions aren't generally recycled isn't due to some sort of impossibility of it; it's that the ingredients, especially in the newer variants, are dirt cheap. Cobalt is a relevant portion of the costs of traditional li-ions, but that's gone in the latest. What in a LiP cell is worth recycling? Lithium carbonate at $7 a kilogram? Graphite at even cheaper? Phosphorus and iron? The raw ingredients are pretty worthless. Which brings us to our next points.

    6) There is not a "limited" amount of lithium in the least. Lithium carbonate can be recovered from seawater in virtually limitless quantities at $22-$32 a kilogram with first generation technology. That's a couple percent of the total cost of the batteries. The reason people don't generally do that is because it can be gotten *even cheaper* from places like Bolivia, Chile, China, etc, for $7-8/kg (used to be $4-5/kg, but recent demand has outpaced scaleups of the mines). It's so cheap people can afford to use it for low-value uses like greases and glasses. In fact...

    7) At *current prices*, they have big competition right here in the US. These sorts of prices make the Kings Valley lithium deposits (Nevada) being developed by Western Lithium Corporation economical, for example. There's enough lithium in that one deposit, for example, to build hundreds of millions of electric vehicles.

    I could keep going, but I think I've made my point that you know nothing about what you're talking about.

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:22PM (#26895567)

    those companies once had millions to develop new battery tech and nothing came of it. Ovonics goes and invents the NiMH, partners with GM and sells a majority stake in the patent and then GM sells that to the oil industry who won't let anyone make large NiMH for electric vehicles. Leave the US auto industry out of this battery industry and maybe something will happen and it'll get a chance to be used in the next-gen autos.

    Remember, the EV1 got over 140 miles per charge on the NiMH batteries in the late 90s or very early 2001 period. GM is hardly getting 40 miles per charge of expensive lithium batteries today and nobody is using NiMH for mostly electric or all electric vehicles. It's not because the tech can't handle it. Ask any of the few Rav 4 EV owners out there.

    If the US auto industry is tied into this, I give it less than a 50% chance of working out to anything viable.


  • Re:Why batteries (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:32PM (#26895705) Homepage

    You left out the bit about them needing replacement every couple of years.

    1886 called; their want their knowledge of battery chemistry back.

    The longevity of a battery pack depends entirely on its chemistry. Early 1900s EVs were often powered by nickel-iron cells, which have extremely long lifespans. Jay Leno has one that's still operating on its original batteries today. At the same time, they also had lead-acid batteries, which were much cheaper and had more storage capacity, but had very short lifespans.

    You see the same thing in today's chemistries. Traditional li-ion gets 160-180Wh/kg. However, they're unstable and only last for a few years. But phosphates and stabilized spinels, while they only get 90-120Wh/kg, lasts for decades under accelerated aging tests.

    There is nothing fundamental about being a "battery" that means it must die in short order. Ask any owner of a RAV4EV.

    As for novel chemistries, there's a ton of them [daughtersoftiresias.org] at various stages of working their way toward commercialization. Even if most of them fail, the odds of *all* of them failing seem vanishingly small. Li-ions should be in the 250-400Wh/kg range within a decade, and be significantly cheaper per watt hour to boot.

  • by StevenMaurer ( 115071 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:42PM (#26895805) Homepage

    I'm not holding my breath until they do, but if you don't, you're a hypocrite for exhaling (dumping) your CO2 into the atmosphere.

    I've heard this argument made before. It's pretty funny.

    Everything we eat and breathe out as CO2 was formed from very recently grown plant material. Plants, as we all know, consume CO2.

    So excepting anyone drinking fossil fuels straight from the tap, human body processes, including breathing, are inherently carbon-neutral.

    This being the case, your charge of hypocrisy doesn't fly (except, of course, in whatever nutcase right-wing blog you got it from).

  • by nxtw ( 866177 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @08:01PM (#26896025)

    Remember, the EV1 got over 140 miles per charge on the NiMH batteries in the late 90s or very early 2001 period. GM is hardly getting 40 miles per charge of expensive lithium batteries today and nobody is using NiMH for mostly electric or all electric vehicles. It's not because the tech can't handle it. Ask any of the few Rav 4 EV owners out there.

    By volume, the Volt has 1/3 as much battery as the EV1 (even less by weight). (source [wikipedia.org])

    The EV1 was also designed to be as efficient as possible - it was a two-seater with the lowest drag coefficient of any production vehicle. I can't find any definitive sources, but it seems that the Volt is about 500 lbs heavier as well.

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .retawriaf.> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @08:30PM (#26896319) Homepage

    Right now, about the only entities that *can* borrow money effectively are governments -- in particular, the US government.

    The business my wife works for is stocking up for the summer, they just got a credit line for five million dollars - the same as they do every year.

    $800B sounds like a lot, but we'll be lucky if it even manages to stop the slide, let alone pull us back.

    Ah yes, taking money from one pocket (mine) and moving it someone else's pork barrel is a wonderful way to stop the slide. I suspect you've never heard of the Broken Window Fallacy. [wikipedia.org]

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @09:15PM (#26896689)

    Or, you could actually see the breakdowns [recovery.gov].

    The actual breakdowns you cite are so broad as to be meaningless. Why not try pointing people at the actual text of the law?

    Fascinating reading, really. Especially the oft repeated exception to exiting Federal laws at the discretion of the (Treasury) Secretary.

  • How is it racism? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @09:48PM (#26896979) Homepage Journal

    To say that the asian countries should be kept out of the USA. To a nation, China, Japan, S Korea, all adopt mercantile trading policies - essentially hoarding dollars the same way 18th century Britain tried to load up on gold. At the same time, they protect their own economies from foreign imports both by encouraging a nationalistic culture that rejects foreigners and foreign things, and also through a use of tariffs. The fact of the matter is, you would be extremely hard pressed to make any reasonable argument that any asian country is interested genuinely in free trade. Go ahead, name me just one. Call me a racist all you want, but the same damn US Trade Office report on Japan's own unwillingness to buy stuff is that.

    Trade with asia is like a black guy trying to get a job in the old american south. No matter how he dressed, what degree he had, he was screwed because he was black. The same thing with trade with Asia. They can complain about this feature or that feature all they want to, and then perhaps even bribe some American media whores to defend their points, but the overall thrust is that no matter what the USA makes, or Europe for that matter, there will be no significant free trade between the West and Asia. It's just not going to happen.

    Free traders have been predicting a leveling of trade with asia now for 40 years, and I'm sick of waiting. Kick them the fuck out!

  • by bendodge ( 998616 ) <bendodge@bsgpAUD ... s.com minus poet> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @10:15PM (#26897243) Homepage Journal

    I read an excellent book by James R. Cook called Full Faith and Credit: A Novel About Financial Collapse. It starts out with the US stock market over-leveraged, and then the stock market crashes, mortgages collapse, and massive inflation and interest rates occur as the government steps in and tries to help. The main character is a trader who buys gold and makes a vast fortune.

    As liquidity disappears, hedge and mutual funds and AAA companies fail and the dollar slides, Congress bails out banks and major funds to no avail. At the end a (laughable now) $100 billion stimulus is proposed (centering on infrastructure improvements), but the federal government teeters on default and starts having troubling paying bond interest. Unemployment benefit claims balloon, and in the face of imminent default and chaos, the president courageously proposes and passes a plan to cut the government down to actual income levels and shears off roughly half the government. There are various riots initially, but things finally settle down to a hard and thrifty recovery.

    At the end Cook includes a note saying that the collapse was compressed to 3 years for the sake of the story but that the real crash could take several more years. It's scary how realistic the entire things is, right down to terms like 'stimulus package' and 'bailout'. It's copyright 1999.

  • Re:How is it racism? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:18PM (#26897819) Homepage Journal

    Neither Hong Kong or Singapore are countries in the country sense of the world. Singapore is just a city and Hong Kong is just a tiny, tiny island. They HAVE to have some measure of free trade because they have essentially no natural resources, no room for manufacturing... putting them in the same category as the rest of Asia is like saying all of Europe is like the Channel Islands.

  • by novakyu ( 636495 ) <novakyu@novakyu.net> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:52AM (#26899777) Homepage

    Except, of course, in a capitalist system, the person who lends the money or tool has a choice.

    You don't have such choice when the government decides to "borrow" from you to fund some "capitalistic" venture. And, to note this distinction, most people use a different word when the government engages in a "capitalistic" activity. They call it fascism.

    You can look up what Mussolini said about merging of the government and corporation. As long as these two stay far apart, we are good. The moment they start touching each other (as they are now, especially with this stimulus package), you have a disaster like WWII brewing.

  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @06:57AM (#26900287)

    Do you have any clue how much toxic debt there is circulating out there?

    There is far, far more debt than there is money. It can't be paid off. It's pretty clear that the US can't even pay the interest any more.

    You can approximate the percentage of people and businesses who may go bust by the credit/debt ratio. Once many of their debts have been written off and the ratio falls, the economy will be ok again for a few years until the debt grows out of hand again. (maybe the system will have been reformed by then, who knows).

    Approximate numbers (not quite up to date, but ballpark, they should be worse by now)
    US total debt is around 47 trillion dollars. That's national, business, personal.
    US total money is around 11 trillion dollars. (M3)

    The ratio then is around 4:1

    As each dollar of credit pays off one dollar of debt, it vanishes. So you see, any attempt to pay off the debt using credit is completely futile. What America has been doing for the last 40 years is create new credit and debt to pay off the interest on the debt. (Gotta love these Ponzi schemes.) That's what all the "growth" bullshit has been about.

    However that assumes that there is someone out there willing and able to take on that new debt. It used to be China, Japan and the UK as the primary holders. The UK is in an identical position to the US. Japan's economy just dropped 12%, so that pretty much leaves China, and they have a billion people internally to take care of.

    My, aren't you guys proud of yourselves?

    So... I think you'll find the government under Obama beginning to print (not borrow) trillions of dollars. Or rather, the fed will buy newly issued debt with freshly printed dollars. I'm fairly sure this stimulus package will be but the second of several more even larger packages. Obama gets to go on a spending spree of epic proportions. How would you like a 20% raise? What depression? It's going to be the roaring 10s.

    This has all been predicted, the system is predictable. Hell, there have been loads of books written about it, maybe you read them. No?


  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot@NosPam.pitabred.dyndns.org> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:20PM (#26904503) Homepage
    And that STILL didn't pull us out of the depression. The only thing that pulled us out was WWII. We aren't learning from history... we're repeating it.
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @06:29AM (#26914563) Journal
    I interpet the Pink Floyd quote in my sig as refering to ideological cages rather than physical ones. "Left leaning greenie" is how others would usually describe me (particulaly on a US centric site such as this one). OTOH I have also been described by fellow "enviornmentalists" as a captialist pig and an environmental rapist because of some of the following actions and opinions that are offensive to the dogma held by many in the green left.

    I spent a year working in an old growth sawmill, some of the trees were 350yo, 12-14 feet in diameter and took two log trucks to carry. As you can see from this link [google.com.au] the forest is still there almost 30yrs later. It is still being logged in a responsible/sustainable manner and I see no reason why it cannot continue to provide jobs and timber in perpetuity.

    I spent another year working on fishing trawlers - somehow this makes me a dolphin killer even though it's impossible to catch dolphins with a scallop drag unless they lay on the seabed and commit suicide.

    I think culling kangaroos and using them for dog/human food is more humane than letting them starve due to over-population.

    I think we (Australia) should dig up our vast uranium resource and sell it to nations where renewables are impractical. If it wasn't for the embarrasing wealth of renewables in Australia I would also argue we use the uranium at home.

    Probably the biggest herasy I have is that I belive trees are valuable in their own right and should NOT be included as a credit in a CO2 cap & trade scheme. The science of the matter is that CO2 uptake by vegetation is too difficult to quantify on anything but a global scale and even then there are large error bars. The idea is ripe for corruption and will have the opposite effect to that desired by it's advocates (re: biofuels and Indonesian palm oil plantations).

    Anyway I wish you well in your efforts to chip away the dogma from the inside, but whatever you do, don't let the bastards put you in a cage. :)

"Remember, extremism in the nondefense of moderation is not a virtue." -- Peter Neumann, about usenet