Saturday, February 17, 2007

How to Build a Better Battery

Battery power cars have been built for the general public but failed to make a big hit. Limited range and long recharge times seem to be reason for the poor sales. Battery powered forklifts were fairly well received in the warehousing industry where the need for pollution free power is much more critical. Still the limited run time and long charging times limited the electric equipment lift equipment growth. Propane powered equipment took over a larger share of the market.

What was needed for the electric powered equipment was a better battery system. Batteries that would extend the operating time, decrease charge time and increase the life span of the batteries. Many different materials and chemical combinations have been tried with limited success. Until a year or so ago.

This new battery system occupies the same foot print as the large lead acid batteries originally design for the forklifts. It triples the runtime over lead acid, reduces recharge time to under four minutes, virtually eliminates hazardous waste storage of lead acid batteries and maintains a constant output voltage over the entire discharge cycle.

Now that the battery manufacturer has proven its performance in warehouse applications, original equipment manufacturers (OEM) are ordering the new batteries. This may signal not only the growth of electric warehouse equipment but rebirth of the electric car.

The Hydricity ® power cells use space age technology redesigned to reduce cost and weight. The NASA proven technology is the hydrogen fuel cell. Energy stored for the fuel cell is in the form of hydrogen not electrons. The hydrogen is converted to electricity through the fuel cell providing the equipment with constant power while the cell is fueled. Waste products of the conversion process is water vapor and heat.

The Manufacturer, General Hydrogen announced its first OEM order in May of 2006 from Cat ® Lift Trucks of Houston, Texas. Sales figures for hydrogen fuel cell model lifts were not available at the time of this article.

The Ballard Mark 9 fuel cell, the heart of the new battery replacement system, has yet to meet its goal of 2300 hours of reliable operation. The Mark 9 SSL ™ ratings range from 4.4 KW to 19.3 KW with weights under 35 pounds. The total Hydricity 2 unit weights just over 2000 pounds including capacitors, fuel storage, cooling system, controls and cabinet.

The fuel cell manufacturer predicts that by the second quarter of 2007 they will meet that goal. The company has meet cost goals of less than $65 per KW, 1500W per liter size and cold start performance for its automotive application model 902. After meeting the 2300 hour minimum life the Ballard 902 models will be available for automotive use. The 902 model can be configured for 85KW for light autos to 300KW for heavy vehicles.

Both the Mark 9 and the model 902 are based on the light weight PEM (Polymer Electrolytic Membrane or Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cell technology. Using this design, the model 902 weighs in at 212 pounds. The Mark 9 19.3 KW weighs under 35 pounds.

At 65$ per KW the typical compact car power plant would be $5525.00 which is considered competitive for automotive power plants. Note this price is for the fuel cell only and does not included electric drives, fuel storage and other required components. The 2300 hours life translates roughly to 70,000 miles of reliable service before overhaul (mileage estimates vary greatly with use).

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