Breakthrough (maybe) in better batteries by Doug Mohney
A123 Systems is bragging about its new lithium ion battery technology. Its Nanophosphate EXT (TM) lithium iron phosphate battery is capable of operating at extreme temperatures without requiring heating or cooling systems, making it ideal for transportation and telecommunications applications. But you have to read further and between the lines to get the longer-term impact.
According to A123, Nanophosphate EXT will deliver high power, energy and cycle life capabilities over a much wider temperature range. More specifically, the new tech has been tested by Ohio State University's Center for Automotive Research. CAR says cells built with Nanophosphate EXT are expected to be capable of retaining more than 90 percent of initial capacity after 2,000 full-discharge cycles at 45 degrees Celsius -- that's about 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Intel and others have studied high-temperature operations for data centers, moving up from the stock industry standard 18-21 degrees Celsius to temperatures ranging from 27 to 45 Celsius, according to recommendations made by ASHRAE. Old-style lithium ion technology loses efficiency at hotter temperatures, requiring temperature management so bad things like loss of power and even fire don't happen.
If the world's data center let the temperatures rise about 5 degrees Celsius, that's an 8 percent decrease in world-wide datacenter power consumption, saving 1.7 million metric tons of CO2 and 24.3 billion kWh saved -- more than a month of total energy consumption by Spain, South Africa, Australia or Taiwan.
Lead-acid batteries, aside from being full of non-green lead and acid, are heavy, can need maintenance, definitely need to be kept cool and aren't very recyclable. High-temperature lithium ion batteries, while more expensive initially, get away from acid and lead and all the headaches those components bring in the lifecycle of the battery and should give better TCO (total cost of ownership) -- because if you can't save green (money), it's harder to be greener for the environment.
Another bonus of lithium ion and Nanophosphate EXT is faster charge time over lead acid batteries, up to six times faster. Faster recharge rates mean generator fuel savings costs -- in remote locations like cell towers, but probably equally applicable for grid apps -- of 30 percent or more.
A123 expects Nanophosphate EXT to deliver better performance at lower temperatures, enabling it to be a lighter-weight, longer lasting plug-and-play replacement for the stock 12 volt engine battery found in cars today. The more batteries that A123 can build, the lower the overall price per battery is, so there's more happiness for everyone involved.
Volume production on A123 20Ah cells with Nanophosphate EXT technology is expected during the first half of 2013 and I'd hope A123 can reach some licensing deals with other companies to pump production for 2013-2014. When do your lead acid backup batteries come up for replacement?