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Clean Transport GE Durathon-Powered Bus at GE Global Research Center.

Published on January 16th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

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GE Durathon Battery for Buses Unveiled

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January 16th, 2013 by
 
I have been awaiting a powerful and energy-dense alternative to lithium-ion batteries primarily because it is important there are more energy storage options available, especially if they are built with cheaper and more abundant materials such as sodium, unlike li-ion batteries.

It looks like GE may have the answer.

GE Durathon-Powered Bus at GE Global Research Center.
Photo Credit: Gizmag

General Electric (GE) unveiled its Durathon battery system for electric buses, which consists of both sodium batteries and lithium-ion batteries.

The Durathon sodium batteries provide a high energy density and help to lower the cost of the bus, while the lithium-ion batteries provide the power.

People may misinterpret the scarcity of elemental lithium, but that is not where we get our lithium — it isn’t necessary. Lithium is obtained from much more abundant non-elemental lithium compounds such as lithium carbonate, lithium chloride, and other compounds as well.

Range is a concern for electric vehicles in general, but considering that bus routes are normally set in stone — with the majority of transit buses on American roads travelling less than 100 miles in a day — implementing alternative energy solutions is a natural extension.

GE says that thousands of its Durathon batteries will be shipped from its Schenectady, New York business this year to telecommunications businesses in South East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

In those areas many cell sites are powered by diesel-generators which are costly to operate due to the high cost of diesel fuel. Solar energy could also be used to charge the batteries.

Source: Gizmag

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.



  • mds

    Can’t find the cost of Durathon batterys. Did find this:
    http://batteryguy.com/are-durathon-batteries-the-future-for-sla_53_info.php “Are Durathon Batteries the future for SLA?” – August 2012
    “Secondly there is an issue of cost. Compared to sealed lead acid batteries the Durathon is much more expensive and so is unlikely to prove any major competition when it comes to usage in emergency lighting or alarm system applications.”
    “However new technology, due to major investments in research and development, usually does carry a high price tag but only in the short term and in several years it is possible that we will see technologies like Durathon influencing the market of sealed lead acid batteries.”

  • mds

    I found this:
    http://www.personal.psu.edu/klm5709/plugin-GE-NaMx-Batteries-ss.pdf
    Type A1: 12.4 kWh / 134 kg = 92.5 Wh/kg
    Type A2: 24.8 kWh / 260 kg = 95.4 Wh/kg
    Type A3: 8.2 kWh / 95 kg = 86.3 Wh/kg
    >2,500 cycle life, 15 years float service life
    Page says Durathon batteries. The energy density and cycle look similar to some lithium batteries to me. Low energy density for lithium, middle of the road cycle life. If this is really the GE Durathon they’re talking about then advantage over lithium must be lower cost of manufacturing, not energy density or cycle performance.

    There is also this link:
    http://geenergystorage.com/telecom/technical-specifications
    says “Telecom Technical Specifications”
    But I haven’t given them the information they want to send me specifications they have.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Thanks. The cycle life looks good. Even in a 100 mile range EV 2,500 cycles would be a 250k mile battery pack. In a 200 mile range EV they would be good for two or three cars lives.

      Float service life? I couldn’t find a clear definition for that one. One site seemed to be saying that it was the same as cycle life.

      Another defined it as ” Length of time a battery can be on *float* charge until the capacity degrades to a specified value.” That seems to be something of a shelf life value, plugged in while on shelf.

      Energy densities look puny. LEAF batteries are 120 Wh/kg. Electrovaya’s batteries are in the *170 to 210 Wh/kg range. *
      *
      *

  • Bob_Wallace

    Anyone have capacity/weight information? I haven’t found anything on the web.

    Apparently GE is shipping thousands of these sodium-ion batteries for grid applications.

    • http://soltesza.wordpress.com/ sola

      there is no hard information available about the durathon technology, not even on the GE website.

      However, they write, that GE has invested 100M USD into building a new battery plant for the Durathon so I tend to believe that they are on to something disruptive.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I agree. It looks like the ‘big boys’ have been developing behind closed doors and we may now be seeing results.

        BTW, Electrovaya has signed a large contract with a major Chinese car manufacturer for their batteries. If their first delivered batteries perform as promised we could see some longer range EVs before long.

        The Electrovaya batteries that Chrysler tested had about double the capacity of the batteries used in the Volt. That much range increase could get us really close to an EV that would work for about everyone.

  • mds

    Wow, thousands being shipped! Very nice.
    Mr. Brown,
    You state “especially if they are built with cheaper and more abundant materials such as sodium, unlike li-ion batteries.”
    This is not correct. Lithium IS earth abundant. The concept of it being rare is an internet perpetuated myth, as you sort of explain later. Sodium batteries can be an improvement for two reasons:
    1. The double charge valence means you can make batteries with a higher energy density. If you build two 10 kilogram batteries at the same cost, but one has twice the energy density, then it will have half the cost per kWh. That is the cost metric you are concerned with when storing power.
    2. The battery with twice the energy density will store the same amount of power using half the weight. You use less power to move your vehicle if it weighs less.
    What is the energy density of the Durathon?
    What is the deep discharge cycle life?
    VERY interesting about the cell tower power customers. Nice post, but please get your storey straight on Lithium abundance. I can provide link references addressing the abundance of lithium if you like.
    Thanks.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.todd1 Jeffrey Todd

      Please provide the link.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The 100 mile Nissan Leaf uses 4 kg of lithium in its batteries. Let’s say magic happens and between 2015 and 2035 we put 1.2 billion 200 mile range EVs on the world’s roads, each using 8 kg of lithium in their batteries. (And that’s if range increase comes only from more batteries rather than the more likely improved anodes and cathodes.)

        That would mean that in that 20 year period we would need to produce 480,000 metric tons of lithium per year.
        And after that we could just recycle what we’ve already extracted.

        At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth’s crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel and lead have about the same abundance.

        Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Portugal and Zimbabwe have roughly 13,000,000 metric tons of lithium that can be extracted. That’s a 27 year supply.

        Bolivia has 5,400,000 tons. Over 11 years.

        There are approximately 230,000,000,000 tons in seawater. A 479,167 year supply.

        The cost of extracting lithium from seawater is 5x or less than from lithium salts.

        Prices for high-purity, battery-grade lithium hydroxide range from $6,000 to $7,000 per tonne

        http://lithiuminvestingnews.com/5886/lithium-prices-2012-carbonate-hydroxide-chloride/

        That’s $6 to $7 per kg (1,000 kg in tonne) or $24 to $35 for the lithium in a Leaf.

        If we had to use seawater extracted seawater it would increase material costs by $120 to $140 for the entire battery pack.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.todd1 Jeffrey Todd

          Then why are we sourcing it from Chile?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Because Chile is selling it.

            (I posted over two hours ago via Gmail but they’ve never shown up so I’ll copy over.)

            Lithium is all over the place…

            Due to its high reactivity lithium is not found in its native state. It’s main sources are igneous rocks and brine. The main igneous rocks used as sources of lithium are:
            • Spodumene (LiAlSi2O6) – The most abundant and important of the lithium containing ores. Found in North America, Brazil, USSR, Spain, Africa, and Argentina.
            • Lepidolite (K2Li3Al4Si7O21(OH,F)3) – Found in Canada and Africa.
            • Petalite (LiAlSi4O10) – Found in Africa and Sweden.
            • Amblygonite LiAl(F,OH)PO)4 – not a common source of lithium
            Lithium is also extracted from brine by evaporation. Places where this occurs include Searles Lake (California, USA) and Clayton Valley (Nevada, USA).

            http://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=3503#_Occurrence

            Chile is currently the leading lithium metal producer in the world, with Argentina next. Both countries recover the lithium from brine pools. In the United States lithium is similarly recovered from brine pools in Nevada.[2]

            http://chemistry.wikia.com/wiki/Lithium#Occurrence

            Here’s a very good paper on lithium and EV batteries.

            I’ll copy the summary….

            Global Lithium Availability

            A Constraint for Electric Vehicles?

            Paul W. Gruber, Pablo A. Medina, Gregory A. Keoleian, Stephen E. Kesler, Mark P. Everson, and Timothy J. Wallington

            There is disagreement on whether the supply of lithium is adequate to support a future global fleet of electric vehicles.

            We report a comprehensive analysis of the global lithium resources and compare it to an assessment of global lithium demand from 2010 to 2100 that assumes rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

            Recent estimates of global lithium resources have reached very different conclusions. We compiled data on 103 deposits containing lithium, with an emphasis on the 32 deposits that have a lithium resource of more than 100,000 tonnes each.

            For each deposit, data were compiled on its location, geologic type, dimensions, and content of lithium as well as current status of production where appropriate. Lithium demand was estimated under the assumption of two different growth scenarios for electric vehicles and other current battery and non-battery applications.

            The global lithium resource is estimated to be about 39 Mt (million tonnes), whereas the highest demand scenario does not exceed 20 Mt for the period 2010 to 2100. We conclude that even with a rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries, lithium resources are sufficient to support demand until at least the end of this century.

            http://www.eenews.net/assets/2011/07/27/document_gw_02.pdf

        • Bob_Wallace

          Let me post a somewhat cleaner version…

          Availability (Occurrence) of Lithium

          The 100 mile Nissan LEAF uses 4kg of lithium in its batteries. Let’s say magic happens and between 2015 and 2035 we put 1.2 billion 200 mile range EVs on the world’s roads, each using 8kg of lithium in their batteries. (And that’s if range increase comes only from more batteries rather than the more likely improved anodes and cathodes.)

          That would mean that in that 20 year period we would need to produce 480,000 metric tons of lithium per year.
          And after that we could just recycle what we’ve already extracted.

          At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth’s crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel and lead have about the same abundance. There are approximately 39 million tonnes of accessible lithium in the Earth’s crust. An 81 year supply.

          Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Portugal and Zimbabwe have roughly 13,000,000 metric tons of lithium that can be extracted. That’s a 27 year supply.

          Bolivia alone has 5.4 million of the 13 million tons. Over 11 years.

          There are approximately 230,000,000,000 tons in seawater. A 479,167 year supply.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium#Terrestrial

          Cost

          Prices for high-purity, battery-grade lithium hydroxide range from $6,000 to $7,000 per tonne

          http://lithiuminvestingnews.com/5886/lithium-prices-2012-carbonate-hydroxide-chloride/

          That’s $6 to $7 per kg (1,000 kg in tonne) or $24 to $35 for the lithium in a LEAF.

          The cost of extracting lithium from seawater is 5x or less than from lithium salts. If we had to use lithium extracted from seawater it would increase lithium costs to $120 to $140 (or less) for the entire LEAF battery pack.

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