One hundred and seventy years ago, Faraday appreciated the different electrical properties of nano gold over bulk metal in electrical devices, so applying nanotechnology to these things is scarcely new. However, the huge sums now being applied to improvement of lithium traction batteries in particular are now leading to work on a much larger scale and thin film technology, nanotechnology and printing are an increasingly important part of this.
Potential is considerable. LG of Korea, one of the leaders in traction batteries, forecasts 4.6 million electric cars produced in 2015 and IDTechEx forecasts 3.8 million for that year--hybrid and pure electric.
The conference "Lithium Battery Technology and System Development" in London, March 9, 2010, was concerned with "breaking barriers for electric vehicles." Professor John Owen of the School of Chemistry at the University of Southampton in the UK described work on interdigitated laminar electrodes to overcome the problems of ionic and polymeric electrolytes that are resistive. His team is involved in a pan European project working on this and involves Swedish, Dutch and French organisations, Varta Battery and St. Jude Medical.
Importance of Iron, Manganese and Phosphorous
Dr. James Myners, who has recently sold his Lithium battery electrode business in Switzerland to Dow Chemical, reported on that company's effort and gave his take on progress. Interestingly, he pointed out the widespread abundance of lithium--current reserves can power one billion cars--and the fact that the lithium is only about 1% of the cost of a lithium electric car battery.
Cobalt may have a supply problem however--perhaps another reason to move to the more affordable and, many say, chemically safer manganese formulations (e.g. with phosphorous and/or iron). He said that the more exotic options, such as Zn-air, LiS and Li-air, will appear in laptops and mobile phones before cars.
Dr. Christian Rosenkranz, EUROBAT representative and Director of Global Business and EU Government Affairs - Johnson Controls SAFT Advanced Power Solutions GmbH, claimed that only SAFT, with its military work, has actually demonstrated life of over 10 years for lithium batteries because the others have not been in the business long enough.
JC-Saft has had great success in gaining a lion's share of the Obama battery investment and it expects to be price competitive with East Asian factories making these traction batteries as it brings on its facilities in Holland and the U.S. at an initial cost of $600 million. JC-Saft does not take the popularly narrow view so often encountered in the West that the opportunity ends with cars.