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Which Way, Battery? (Part 2: Ni-MH)

Posted December 15, 2008 11:25 AM by april05

In Part 2, I begin to take a look at specific battery technologies from around the world that may power many of America's (and the world's) future electric cars. Sincere thanks to CR4 Guru, Blink, for suggesting in Part 1 "Nickel-metal hydride" (Ni-MH) as a promising technology to look at:

Above photo (courtesy of Wikipedia): Battery used in Toyota's Prius.

HISTORY
Nickel-metal hydride evolved from nickel-hydrogen battery technology of the 1970's. High-energy paste technology for the positive electrode, followed by development of high-energy alloys for the negative electrode, eventually led to development of a high-energy density Ni-MH battery (140 - 300 Watt-hours per Liter).

RAW-MATERIAL SOURCING
The most common materials used to make nickel-metal hydride batteries include rare earth materials lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, praseodymium; metals nickel, cobalt, manganese, aluminum; and an electrolyte, usually potassium hydroxide.

Industrial nickel is recycled, and so domestic scrap metal companies in the U.S. are a potential source.

From my research, I understand cobalt, in contrast, is sourced primarily from the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, along with the other politically-sensitive places Tibet and Siberia.

There is the potential for sourcing cobalt from domestic scrap as well, from turbine blades, jet engines, spent re-chargeable batteries, spent catalysts, and other industrial equipment, per a 1998 research document from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The recycling process technology for recovery of cobalt may require refinement in order to be price competitive with overseas sources.

Next week I'll take a look at a technology developed by Chinese battery manufacturer and automaker "BYD", a company that recently caught the attention of Peter Day, BBC World Service's global business Guru.

- Larry

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel_metal_hydride_battery

http://www.cobasys.com/pdf/tutorial/inside_nimh_battery_technology.pdf

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97295913

http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2002/of02-299/of02-299.pdf

http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/30/buffet-buys-byds-battery-brain-trust/?emc=eta1

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Guru

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#1

Re: Which Way Battery? (Part 2: Ni-MH)

12/16/2008 1:59 AM

Queensland Nickel plant at Yabulu QLD used to produce Cobalt as a by product of Nickel refining in the 80s. The ore then came from Greenvale, now that the ore is imported from places such as New Caledonia I don't know if this is current (I also no longer work there).

Someone from Townsville may be able to update.

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#2

Re: Which Way Battery? (Part 2: Ni-MH)

12/17/2008 5:06 AM

Doncha just love a nice cut-away model?

Del

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#3

Re: Which Way, Battery? (Part 2: Ni-MH)

12/24/2008 10:26 AM

Author's note: Part (3) is now available: click here.

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