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June 13, 2003

FRANCE: Lead-acid batteries fight back in hybrid battle – report

In the race to develop a single powerful car battery for a new generation of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), traditional lead acid power is fighting back against nickel and lithium-based technology, industry executives said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

By bcusack

In the race to develop a single powerful car battery for a new generation of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), traditional lead acid power is fighting back against nickel and lithium-based technology, industry executives said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Patrick Moseley of the International Lead Zinc Research Organisation told a conference in Nice, France that current 12-volt lead acid car batteries are unable to cope with the high-power needs of the hybrid vehicles, the news agency said.

“Over the next few years the familiar 12 volt electrical system will, progressively, be supplanted by other electrical configurations,” he said in a paper presented to the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference.

“A part of the automotive market will be taken over by hybrid electric vehicles and the rate at which this shift is already occurring has caught many experts by surprise,” he reportedly said.

Reuters noted that hybrid electric vehicles on the market since 1999, with some total sales of more than 100,000, have employed nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries because of lead acid technology’s lack of lifespan and power output, despite its cost benefit.

But Moseley reportedly said new research had opened up the possibility of extending the life of lead acid batteries, when operating continuously as required by HEVs.

“It remains to be seen whether the benefit that can be gleaned for the several design adjustments (from the research) will prove to be sufficient to provide a satisfactory life for the VRLA (valve regulated lead acid) battery in a HEV environment.

“If it does, then the rewards, in terms of reduced battery costs for such vehicles, will be enormous,” he said, according to Reuters.

But the conference heard that research is also underway on NiMH and lithium ion technology, the type used to power mobile telephones, Reuters noted.

Masato Ohnishi of Panasonic EV Energy said the company had developed a new NiMH battery specifically for HEVs, building on the technology behind systems installed in the Toyota Prius, Toyota Estima-Hybrid [Previa], Honda Insight and Honda Civic-Hybrid.

Mass production will start later this year, he said, according to Reuters.

Adoption of the improved battery technology is not just limited to HEVs, but all motor vehicles, the news agency noted.

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