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The U.S. DOE recognizes the potential of low-cost batteries for start-stop systems and would like to see such batteries continue to develop.
Forthcoming U.S. DOE Announcements May Present Opportunities for Lead Batteries
Within the next few months, the U.S. Department of Energy’s vehicle technologies program is expected to issue three new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) that likely will include areas of potential interest for advanced lead-acid and lead-carbon batteries. Among the key factors in the development of the FOAs is the increasing role of vehicles with start-stop systems (micro-hybrids) in the U.S. automotive market in the coming 5-10 years.
The purpose of the FOAs was outlined March 27, 2012, in testimony before the House Appropriations Energy & Water Development Subcommittee by Dr. Henry Kelly, Acting Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program, which runs vehicle technology research. Dr. Kelly said:
“Major concentrations will be on advanced battery design optimization and innovative battery manufacturing processes. Additional research will focus on developing high-performance, low-cost power electronics and electric motors that require reduced or no rare earth materials.”
What is significant about the upcoming FOAs is that they represent a strong commitment by DOE to help industry develop batteries that will be low cost with more power and extended cycle life, thereby reducing the need for frequent replacement during the life of the vehicle.
DOE recognizes the movement of the U.S. auto industry to step up production of vehicles with start-stop technology and ultimately vehicles with micro and mild hybrid technology. To power such vehicles, DOE envisions low-cost batteries that could last at least eight years and 80,000 miles and even reach a level of 10 years and 150,000 miles. In other words, DOE would like a battery that could “retire” when the vehicle itself is “retired.” It is those vehicles, of course, that comprise a strong market for advanced lead-carbon batteries.
In a recent meeting with DOE vehicle technologies program managers, the ALABC outlined work in development of the LC Super Hybrid in Europe and the desire to help the U.S. take advantage of the knowledge gained in that work. The ALABC also discussed initial plans for development of a natural gas hybrid vehicle with lead-carbon batteries in the U.S. The ALABC will offer a number of white papers to DOE as it develops the FOAs.
None of this is to suggest that DOE will abandon its work on plug-in hybrid and full electric vehicles utilizing lithium-ion technology. However, it is recognition that bringing lower-cost energy storage solutions to consumers is important as well in the near term.
How serious is DOE’s commitment to battery research for automotive applications? To put it in perspective, in the department’s proposed FY 2013 applied energy budget, the EERE’s $2.3 billion is bigger than the budgets for nuclear energy ($770 million), fossil fuels ($428 million) and electricity reliability ($143 million) combined. Within EERE, vehicle technologies is the largest single program ($420 million proposed for FY 2013), with solar energy the second largest at $310 million.
Whether Congress approves DOE’s funding request remains to be seen. Already, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee has approved a funding bill for FY 2013 that would trim about $350 million from the current FY 2012 EERE budget. That bill still must go through the full Appropriations Committee and then the full House. Ultimately, the Senate, where energy efficiency programs have always had stronger support, will weigh in.
The lead-acid industry will certainly have to compete for funding against other battery chemistries. The ALABC nevertheless is well-positioned to help DOE and the U.S. auto industry achieve its goals of producing more efficient vehicles with batteries that are lower in cost with longer cycle life and greater power.
Lead carbon technology was featured in the LC Super Hybrid demonstration project.
ALABC Lead Carbon White Paper Hits the Mark
A recent ALABC white paper by John Howes entitled ‘Lead Carbon Technology: Has the Obvious Been Overlooked?’ presents a comprehensive overview of the advantages of carbon-enhanced lead-acid batteries. The piece provides an in-depth look why the technology is becoming a popular choice for applications from start-stop automotive systems to grid-scale energy storage. It also includes details on lead-carbon technology’s role in the LC Super Hybrid demonstrator vehicle, its potential for the electric power industry, and its outlook from cost advantage and sustainability perspectives.
Shrink to Fit: A Review of the LC Super Hybrid by Autocar Magazine (U.K.)
After taking part in an exclusive test-drive in February, Autocar Magazine’s Hilton Holloway composed this detailed review of the LC Super Hybrid VW Passat demonstrator (produced through a partnership between ALABC, Controlled Power Technologies, AVL Schrick, Valeo, Mubea, and Provector). In his article, Holloway provides a brief background behind the revolutionary concept, and entices readers with an extensive description of the vehicle’s exceptional drivability. The article offers praise for the car’s performance as well as the potential for the hybrid automotive market that it suggests.

The Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium
1822 NC Highway 54E, Suite 120, Durham, North Carolina 27713 USA
Tel: 919-361-4647 | Fax: 919-361-1957 |

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