ADVANCING LEAD ACID TECHNOLOGY
The key intentions of the ALABC’s research programs are:
- To understand the factors limiting the performance of lead-acid batteries in various applications and generate technological solutions to optimize performance;
- To assist in and support the creation of emerging concepts, technologies and applications for advanced lead-acid batteries; and
- To accelerate the implementation and market penetration of new and emerging lead-acid battery technologies through demonstration projects
When the consortium began in 1992, the focus was on assessing VRLA battery performance for pure electric vehicle operation as a response to proposed government mandates for lower vehicle emissions. Over the years, the focus has shifted to developing VRLA battery systems for micro- and mild-hybrid electric vehicles, as well as stationary applications for grid and renewable energy storage designs. This approach has already yielded some of the most dynamic advancements in VRLA research in decades.
The consortium’s current program phase (2010-2012) addresses the further improvement and demonstration of carbon-enhanced lead-acid batteries for HEV duty. In particular, the need for successful study and demonstration of lead carbon (LC) batteries is driven by the fact that they are able to provide enhanced performance in high-rate charge and discharge cycling during partial state-of-charge operations but at the price level of conventional lead-acid batteries.
In many of today’s energy storage applications (especially in HEV operation), the battery has to remain at partial state-of-charge in order to accept frequent high-rate charge pulses. Conventional VRLA batteries quickly lose capacity under such conditions because of sulfation in their negative plates. ALABC research has shown that the addition of certain types of carbon to the negative plate can inhibit this sulfation and thus allow novel Lead Carbon VRLA batteries to function well in this application.
FROM LAB TESTING TO REAL-WORLD DEMONSTRATION
As part of the ALABC research program, members have conducted projects that not only test these batteries under different laboratory conditions but also apply them to real-world conditions in demonstrations all over the globe. Some of the more advanced of these projects include testing and demonstrations of:
Lead carbon UltraBatteries (designed by CSIRO and produced by Furukawa) in a Honda Insight HEV that surpassed a ground-breaking 100,000-mile test run at the Millbrook Proving Ground near London, UK
A Honda Insight HEV retrofitted with advanced VRLA batteries from Banner and a Honda Civic HEV with advanced VRLA batteries from EffPower that surpassed several benchmarks at the Millbrook facility
A Honda Civic HEV retrofitted with a 178V pack of lead carbon UltraBatteries for on-road performance evaluation in Phoenix, AZ
An “LC Super Hybrid” Volkswagen Passat HEV, featuring lead carbon battery technology with an electric supercharger and integrated starter generator for higher performance
These projects are intended to demonstrate the practical applications of the advancements in today’s VRLA and LC designs and position them as a reasonable and affordable alternative to NiMH and Li-ion batteries for HEV applications. With continued success in this area, lead-acid batteries could garner more consideration from original equipment manufacturers for use in future automotive applications.
Enhanced VRLA and LC designs are also being researched and developed for deep cycling applications, such as remote area power supply, telecom and uninterruptible power supply, and grid-scale energy storage. These areas of research involve more of the high storage designs that have made lead-acid an attractive option for the industry.