Axion Power International, Inc - fascinating possibilities in redesigned lead/acid cell storage technology - Good news due ?
You can generate electricity, you can use it, you can move it but it is very difficult to store it. Clever guy Mr Faraday but that was something he missed - and nobody has really improved things much since Mr Leclanche and his famous cell.
In moving electricity around from where you generate it to where it's wanted involves the use of unstable grids that have grown like topsy. This results in increasingly severe disruptions when variable power supplies ( sun, wind, tide ) fail to mesh with variable and increasing power demands - picky consumers who expect the lectric light to go on when they flick the switch.
Energy storage is , remarkably still in it's infancy.
There are three areas which require immediate and urgent attention ...
A : Current common and widely used energy storage technologies such as lead / acid batteries need to be improved
B; Some existing small format energy storage technologies must be examined to scale up their storgae capacity
C : New large format energy storage technologies need to be explored
Naturally no-one in the field of Government funded development is very interested. All effort is directed to generating electricity, be it photo- voltaics, wind, tidal power, barrages, geo-thermal, or aste rec-cycling.
Lead Acid batteries are used as reserve power in very single automotive vehicle produced. They are also used for power transmission, in say golf carts, milk floats -even we note from tonight's TV news, nifty Police runabouts in Kashgar, chasing separatists from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
Lead acid batteries are simple to make, dependable, they work, the lead can be recycled almost 95%. Their design has remained virtually unchanged for many decades.
There is however an intersting small OTC company, Axiom Power who have introduced some recent developments which look very promising.
On Thursday July 24th Edward. R. Buiel, Ph.D, the Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, of Axion Power International, Inc (OTC Bulletin Board: AXPW ) gave evidence to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources about new technologies being developed for traditional lead-acid batteries to improve efficiency, sustainability, manufacture and the ease of recycling.
He declared that 120 million lead-acid batteries per year are produced in the US (which has massive internal supplies) employing over 100,000 people. Currently the power quality market presently accounts for US$487 million in annual battery sales and is expected to grow to US$615 million by 2009. The motive power market presently accounts for over US$2.2 billion in annual lead-acid battery sales and is projected to grow to US$2.8 billion by 2009.
Axion also expect the Hybrid electric vehicles are an emerging market which currently accounts for $180 million annual power system sales. They claim this market to grow to $2 billion by 2009 - which if true should mean bonanza time - but just who is making hybrid vehicles in that sort of volume ?. certainly not GM and Ford.
This market includes power conditioning systems and uninterruptible power supplies. Power quality systems isolate sensitive electronics from grid-related power quality problems and provide emergency power for mission critical systems in case of power failure.
Key performance requirements for power quality applications include deep discharge, long useful life and minimal maintenance - features of major concern to mission critical operations in the military, supply of essential services such as water, oil, gas, and information - hard-wired telephone networks, cellular telephone networks, cable television networks, electric utility substations and traffic control systems.
Dr. Buiel joined the company 3 years ago from the Energy Storage Group of Meadwestvaco Corporation (NYSE:MWV), one of the largest producers of activated carbon in the world. In this position Dr. Buiel's team focused on developing activated carbon materials for electrochemical applications including Lithium-ion batteries, organic ultracapacitors, and asymmetric lead-carbon capacitors.
His responsibilities included managing a USCAR-Advanced Battery Consortium (http://www.uscar.org/
) project to develop activated carbon materials for hybrid electric vehicle ("HEV") energy storage systems and managing a joint program with Sandia National Laboratories (http://www.sandia.gov/) to develop lead-carbon capacitors for grid-connected energy storage systems.
Now Axion Power International, Inc has announced an Earnings Conference Call (Q2 2008)Scheduled to start on Thursday , Aug 7, 2008, 10:00 am Eastern Time. When it is possible we can learn more about how successful the company has been in it's production of what they call their "e3 Supercells".
Axion's proprietary PbCTM technology is a "multi-celled asymmetrically supercapacitive lead-acid-carbon hybrid battery."
This means it is based on the standard lead-acid battery, with a series of linked cells cells. It differs in that where the negative electrodes in lead-acid batteries are simple sponge lead plates, Axion negative electrodes are five-layer assemblies that consist of a carbon electrode, a corrosion barrier, a current collector, a second corrosion barrier and a second carbon electrode.
These electrode assemblies are then sandwiched together with conventional separators and positive electrodes to make the battery, which is filled with an acid electrolyte, sealed and connected in series to the other cells.
The benefits ?
Those anxious for the chemical details and analysis of the electrochemical reactions which occur on the negative electrodes where the carbon acts as a capacitor can go here
From this chart we can see that the complex negative electrodes add to the initial capital cost but the increase in useful life cycles and enegy density results in a lower ownership cost per Kilowatt Hr compared with other battery systems currently available and in use.
One essential area for use of such enhanced performance batteries is to capture the intermittent power generated by renewable energy producers - solar, wind , which should result in improved performance, productivity, reliability and reduced costs.
Axion also claim that the PbCTM design is ideal for for renewable energy units due to their long useful lives minimal maintenance of sealed units and low operating costs for remote units.
Axion see their technology with it's rapid charge/discharge capabilities and high power output of as ideal hybrid electric vehicle applications. Thye claim they will be able to offer similar or better power and a longer useful life and be lighter than Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries.
NiMH batteries provide high energy and modest power. Advanced supercapacitors offer higher power but far lower energy. Axion say that their PbCTM technology can fill the gap in the energy/power profile.
Where Now ?
Axion received the prestigous Frost & Sullivan Technology Innovation Award for North America in 2006 for their work in the field of lead acid batteries and developing an innovative lead-acid-carbon battery- supercapacitor hybrid that could cause disruptive changes in the market.
Axion wer based in Toronto but in 2007 they purchased the assets of the 70,000-square-foot New Castle Battery Company in Pennnsylvania and signed an agreement to lease the old manufacturing facility and upgraded it with new machinery and equipment.
Along with this arrived US$1.2 Mn fro Governer Rendall's Energy Independence Strategy designed to help save consumers and businesses US$10 billion in energy costs over the next decade.
This is funded a minimal charge on electric power consumption. Similar charges are in place in 15 states and the District of Columbia. The charge is proposed at $0.0005 per kWh of electricity used.
Axion's package included a US$750,000 grant through the Department of Environmental Protection's Small Business and Household Pollution Prevention Program, a US$150,000 grant through the Opportunity Grant Program, US$42,300 in Customized Job Training funds and US$258,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits.
On July 8th The Quercus Trust of Newport Beach, California made their final closing US$10 million equity investment and, along with two previous investments of $4 million each announced in January and April. Quercus bought 4,761,905 additional units for $10 million. Each closing unit will consist of one share of Common Stock and a 5-year warrant to purchase one share of Common Stock at an exercise price of $2.60 per share.