green stocks report
Gearing Up for the Battery Boom
U.S. manufacturers seek a role in the future of efficient vehicles.
By RONA FRIED, Ph.D.
Batteries, mundane as they seem, are central to the
clean-tech revolution. Along with emerging technologies, such as ultracapacitors and flywheels,
advanced-technology batteries are at the heart of energy
storage. We need them to power plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)
and electric cars (EVs) and to help smooth out local power
dispatch issues in smart-grid applications.
Why? There aren’t enough rare earth metals to supply the hundreds of millions of batteries required to satisfy demand from rising, massive consumer economies in
South America, India and Asia. Toyota stockpiled enough
lanthanum to use nickel-metal hydride batteries in several
million Priuses, but other materials will have to replace that
for true market penetration.
Rona Fried, Ph.D., is
president of Sustainable
Business.com, the online
community for green
business: daily sustainable business and investor news, Green Dream
Jobs, Business Connections and the sustainable
Contact Fried at rona@
Energy storage is widely viewed as a megatrend. The
market is projected to double from $21.4 billion in 2010
to $44 billion in 2015, according to “Emerging Technologies Power a $44 Billion Opportunity for Transportation and Grid,” a report by Lux Research (available for
purchase at bit.ly/bqxc7n). Between 2010 and 2015, the
report projects �
While new technologies are under development, lithium
is the replacement battery of choice. Lithium batteries have
to drop three to five times in price to make PHEVs and EVs
viable. A PHEV manufactured this year costs as much as
$18,000 more than a conventional vehicle because of the
batteries. In the longer term, lithium battery recycling will
be an important supply source for the metal.
• Smart-grid technologies will grow from $5.4 billion to
• EV storage technology will nearly double, from $7.7
billion to $14.5 billion.
• Electric bike and scooter batteries will grow from $6.4
billion to $10.9 billion.
The United States has plenty of traditional lead-acid
battery-manufacturing capacity but very little devoted to
advanced lithium-ion technology. There are also few trained
We’ll see PHEVs and EVs gaining in popularity this
year, but the bulk of car sales will continue to be hybrids
and improvements in conventional internal-combustion
engine (ICE) cars. ICE engineers can boost gas mileage
by 7 to 13 percent through direct fuel injection, cylinder
deactivation, turbochargers, variable valve timing and continuously variable transmissions.
Consult your financial battery engineers and scientists. President Barack Obama
advisor before making gave the industry a running start through the American
any investment. Recovery and Reinvestment Act and through his goal to
have a million PHEVs on the road by 2015.
For example, the 2011 Chevy Cruze Eco goes on sale
this fall promising “hybrid-like efficiency without the price
tag.” General Motors claims the Cruze Eco will get 40 mpg
on the highway because of its lightweight wheels, low roll-ing-resistance tires, improved aerodynamics and six-speed
In August 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE)
granted $2.4 billion to build U.S. manufacturing capacity for
advanced battery and electric drive components, $1 billion
for research and development and $300 million for government purchases of advanced vehicles (5,600 vehicles have
been bought so far). Tax credits for individuals buying electric vehicles run as high as $7,500.
We’ll also see more stop-start systems, which eliminate
idling, become standard. Gas mileage increases 6 to 10
percent in city driving just by shutting the engine off when
you stop at a light. This simple change costs $600 for the
premium lead-acid battery that’s standard in hybrids.
This article is adapted from
the April issue of
Progressive Investor ( sustainable
Regulations are another strong driver for energy storage: In effect since April 1, new U.S. Corporate Average
Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards require light vehicles
to average 35 mpg by 2016. In the EU, auto manufacturers
must reduce average carbon emissions from the current
level of 160 grams per kilometer to 120 grams per kilometer by 2012.
Mild hybrids, like the Honda Insight, cost several
thousand dollars less than a full hybrid while improving
gas mileage up to 20 percent. They incorporate stop-start
systems, regenerative braking and acceleration boost, but
omit the electric-only launch of the Prius hybrid, which
boosts gas mileage up to 40 percent.
Meanwhile, venture capital firms recently surveyed by
Reuters tied energy storage with energy management as the
top clean-tech sectors for investment in 2010.
Still, the National Research Council says that even with
rapid technological progress, appropriate subsidy levels and
consumer acceptance, only 13 million to 40 million PHEVs
will be on the road by 2030, not enough to significantly
impact emissions ( bit.ly/8YDHR4).
Another near-term innovation is in sight. Ford Motor
Co. will incorporate Microsoft’s Hohm energy management system into its Ford Focus EV, due out next year.
It will help people determine when and how to most efficiently and affordably recharge their vehicles and help
utilities manage the added demands of EVs on the electrical grid.
And in April, the EV Project ( theevproject.com), funded through a $100 million DOE grant, announced that
4,700 Nissan Leaf EVs and 11,210 charging systems will be
deployed in a five-city test run. The race is on! ST