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UltraBattery Inventor Lan Lam Retires, Leaving Legacy of Lasting Impact
After nearly 25 years of dedicated research and pioneering innovation of lead-acid batteries, Dr. Lan Lam is retiring, leaving a legacy of lasting impact on the industry. Dr. Lam is noted among his peers for his work at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia that resulted in one of the most recent and, potentially, most significant advancements in lead-acid technology – the invention of the carbon-enhanced UltraBattery.
The contributions of Dr. Lam and his team at CSIRO over the years, often times in coordination with ALABC’s research programs, have helped to transform and reinvigorate the lead-acid battery industry. But few of his accomplishments could overshadow the development of the UltraBattery technology, which combines a traditional lead-acid battery with a carbon-enhanced supercapacitor in one singular and highly-effective component. The accomplishment set a new standard for the lead-acid industry and offered new prospects for lowering the cost of hybrid electric vehicles and easing integration of more renewable energy into the grid.
“It sounds simple, but we have created a new technology that is 70 percent cheaper than current batteries used in hybrid electric cars, and they can also be made in existing manufacturing facilities," said Dr. Lam. “It was always my dream to create a better battery – I knew the success of hybrid electric vehicles was dependent on it.”
Two major battery manufacturers and members of ALABC, Furukawa Battery Company (Japan) and East Penn Manufacturing (U.S.), are currently commercializing the UltraBattery for both automotive and renewable energy storage applications. In fact, the technology is already targeted for HEV applications in Japan, the United States, South America, Europe and Asia.
In addition, UltraBattery storage allows intermittent renewable energy to be smoothly supplied to the electricity grid, making it ideal for grid storage applications. The technology has been successfully installed in large-scale solar power plants in New Mexico, U.S., and King Island off the coast of Tasmania – the largest renewable energy storage system in Australia.
Dr. Lam’s work on the UltraBattery has provided a wealth of opportunities for the technology, from smart grid applications to short-driving range electric vehicles and bikes. While CSIRO and the ALABC continue to research and develop the UltraBattery and other lead-carbon technologies, the industry will always be appreciative of the ingenuity and dedication Dr. Lam has contributed to this unique innovation.
Dr. Lam served as Research Team leader in the area of energy storage in CSIRO's Energy Technology Division, and was a valuable member of CSIRO’s Battery Research Group, which was originally founded and led for many years by industry colleague and former ALABC program manager Dr. David Rand. Over the course of his career, Dr. Lam has been the recipient of several industry awards, including the Gaston Plante Medal (2011), the Technical Development Award of The Electrochemical Society of Japan (2009), the CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement (2008) and the International Lead Medal (2005) among others.
For more information on Dr. Lam and the UltraBattery, visit:
Concorde Demonstrates VRLA Batteries Ideal for Aviation
With all of the attention (mostly negative) that lithium-ion batteries have received over the past several weeks for their role in the fire that grounded a Boeing 787 in January, some journalists have questioned whether the energy storage industry could produce a safe, reliable product for aviation applications. But many seem to have overlooked the fact that, for several years, ALABC member Concorde Battery has been producing valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries designed specifically for aircraft power supply – and they continue to meet strict safety and reliability standards.
Concorde’s VRLA designs allow the battery to be classified as “non-spillable” and therefore exempt from the hazardous material rules that have dogged other battery chemistries. In addition, the batteries are shipped fully-charged and do not experience the “memory effects” that decrease the charge retention characteristics of traditional nickel-cadmium batteries.
The need for more efficient power management for aircraft primary systems continues to drive sales at Concorde, which has become one of the dominant players in aircraft battery supply. In fact, The Aviation Consumer recognized Concorde last year with its Product of the Year award for “Best Aircraft Battery”.
Concorde currently designs and manufactures over 90 models of Original Equipment and direct-replacement batteries for fixed wing and rotary aircraft, and its list of customers includes the likes of Bombardier Learjet, Hawker Beechcraft and Cessna Citation jets, and many more, including the U.S. Military.
Its largest aircraft battery is rated at 24V/48Ah, but requests for higher-capacity batteries have been fewer because of the changing market. According to Dave Vutetakis, Concorde’s Director for Advanced Batteries, while primary systems are using more electric power, the growing demand for additional cabin systems (such as in-flight entertainment) is giving rise to the need for separate backup batteries rather than increasing the capacity of existing batteries.
With the continued safety concerns regarding lithium batteries (as well as their exorbitant costs) Concorde’s VRLA aircraft batteries demonstrate that lead-acid is not only a safe, reliable and affordable alternative for aviation power supply applications, but also a dominant fixture in the market now and in the future.
One of the largest mining and metals companies in North America, Xstrata Zinc has been a valuable ALABC member and strong supporter of the consortium’s programs for several years. While it is one of the world’s largest vertically-integrated producers of zinc, with an annual production of about 1 million tons of mined zinc, Xstrata also maintains several lead-related operations and continues to fund a handful of industry initiatives, including ALABC research.
Xstrata Zinc’s lead operations in Canada are well-known throughout the industry, including the Brunswick mine, which is scheduled to close soon after nearly 50 years of operation, and the Brunswick lead smelting facility, which includes a state-of-the-art lead-acid battery recycling plant. It is also a subsidiary of one of the most global metals companies, Xstrata PLC – a producer of seven commodities with operations in more than 20 countries and a global workforce of more than 70,000 people.
As lead producers and smelters like Xstrata Zinc continue to provide the bulk of the funding for ALABC’s research and development programs and strong participation in the consortium’s administration, it is important to recognize their contributions toward the advancement of lead-acid battery technology as the industry continues to evolve.

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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