The Li-Ion In Winter: Companies to Attempt Lower Cost Hybrid Battery

One of the major costs associated with hybrid vehicles is the Lithium-Ion battery pack that powers the electric motor. In that spirit, Ricardo and QinetiQ are teaming up with the UK's Department for Transport to create a dramatically cheaper battery. The project, cleverly called RED-LION (REDuced cost LIthium-iON), aims to lower costs by two thirds while providing power for vehicles capable of delivering sub-100g/km CO2 emissions. The breakthrough comes in the new chemistry of the battery, which is something they're probably not going to go into great detail about until some more patents are filed. Full press release after the jump.

Ricardo and QinetiQ to Demonstrate Low Cost, High Performance Battery Technology for Hybrid Vehicles

VAN BUREN TWP., Mich., Nov. 7, 2007 — Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery technology shows significant promise for hybrid and electric vehicle applications in terms of its comparatively high power and energy density, and ability to retain charge for extended periods. However, commercial challenges remain in terms of both cost and weight. Ricardo and QinetiQ have embarked on a two-year collaborative project part-funded by the UK Government's Department for Transport, which aims to dramatically reduce the costs of Lithium-Ion batteries for hybrid vehicles while protecting or further improving vehicle performance.

The specific objective of the Reduced cost Li-Ion (RED-LION) project is to demonstrate the application of new Li-Ion cell chemistry in a hybrid vehicle battery with an estimated production cost of one-third that of conventional battery technologies and around half the weight. If successful, this breakthrough technology could make hybrid and electric vehicles commercially more attractive and hence make a significant impact on global CO2 emissions.

In June 2006 Ricardo, QinetiQ, and PSA Peugeot-Citroen unveiled their 100g/km CO2 Efficient-C full hybrid diesel demonstrator vehicle based on a Citroen Berlingo Multispace. While this vehicle provided an uncompromised package and superior performance compared with the equivalent current production turbo-diesel model, the project partners estimated that its incremental manufacturing cost needed to be reduced by around 50 percent (to approximately $2,900) for the technology to become fully commercially viable based on prevailing fuel prices and consumer fiscal incentives.

The battery system represents around one-third of the incremental manufacturing cost of a typical hybrid vehicle as well as considerable addition to the vehicle mass. If successful, the RED-LION project will demonstrate commercially viable technologies that are capable of delivering sub-100g/km CO2 emissions with superior performance compared to the equivalent current production vehicle.

Mel Brooks, managing director of QinetiQ's Energy and Materials business, said:

"QinetiQ has a strong track record in delivering high-energy Lithium-Ion battery technology to military customers. This leading edge battery technology emanating from defense is now poised to make a significant difference to the viability of hybrid vehicles with the RED-LION project helping to ensure that cost does not stand in the way of more widespread commercial adoption."

Neville Jackson, Ricardo technology director, said: "By incorporating the very latest high performance Li-Ion battery technology, which offers the potential for significant reductions in both manufacturing cost and weight, we aim to demonstrate that we have made progress in developing the commercial case for hybrid diesels. We have already demonstrated that acceptable package and superior performance is possible from a hybrid diesel powertrain and with this project, we aim to show that it can be made commercially viable too. This promising battery technology could deliver significant benefits to many vehicle types including electric and plug-in hybrid, as well as full diesel and gasoline hybrids."

With technical centers and offices throughout Europe, the U.S. and Asia, Ricardo is a leading independent technology provider and deep-content strategic management consultant to the world's transportation sector industries. The company's engineering expertise ranges from vehicle systems integration, controls, electronics and software development, to the latest driveline and transmission systems and gasoline, diesel, hybrid and fuel cell powertrain technologies. Its customers include the world's major automakers, tier 1 suppliers and leading motorsport teams. The headquarters of Ricardo's U.S. operations, Ricardo, Inc., is located at Van Buren Township, Michigan. The company's skill base represents the state-of-the-art in low emissions and fuel-efficient powertrain technology, and can be best summarized: "Ricardo is Fuel Economy." Ricardo plc posted sales of $344 million in financial year 2007 and is a constituent of the FTSE techMark 100 index - a group of innovative technology companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. For more information visit www.ricardo.com. [The Auto Channel]