Thursday, 9 October 2008

CSIRO battery to run world's cars

Canberra Times
Wednesday 24/9/2008 Page: 3

Cars across the United States, Japan and Thailand will soon be powered by a world-first CSIRO lowemissions technology that cuts the cost of hybrid-electric vehicles by 70 per cent. But Australia may have to wait until this home-grown green technology arrives in imported cars, unless local car manufacturers express an interest in buying the battery to power hybrid cars.

The UltraBattery, invented by a Melbourne-based CSIRO team led by engineer Lan Trieu Lam, is being hailed as a key breakthrough that will significantly reduce global greenhouse emissions by making electric cars and other vehicles more affordable. CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship director John Wright said, "It's really something special.

"It's quite a remarkable technology, and it's generating a lot of interest." Earlier this week, the world's biggest independent battery maker, the giant US manufacturer East Penn, signed an international commercialisation and distribution agreement with the Japanese company involved in building and testing the battery prototypes. The agreement will see the CSIRO UltraBattery distributed by East Penn across the US, Canada and Mexico, while Japan's Furukawa Battery Company will market the technology in Japan and Thailand.

Described by Dr Wright as "a lead-acid battery with a few interesting new tricks to it", the UltraBattery combines a conventional lead-acid car battery with high-power electrodes. The revolutionary design is 70 per cent cheaper than current batteries used to power hybrid vehicles and delivers 50 per cent more power than conventional batteries. It also lasts four times longer.

Recent tests at the Millbrook test circuit in Britain - Europe's top testing ground for new car innovations - used a Honda Insight as a test vehicle. with the CSIRO hybrid battery powering the car through 160,000km without a hitch. Dr Wright jumped in for the final 5km run, and described the experience as "a real buzz, I can tell you".

Also watching the battery go through its paces at the test track were several members of the US Congress who suggested to Dr Wright that "getting the battery out in the market should be high on the US government's agenda". But will it be used in Australia, where greenhouse emissions from transport are increasing by 27 percent. "Well, that would be nice wouldn't it?" Dr Wright said. "We'd like to see it used in all major brands of cars, and that's probably how it will eventually come to Australia.

"It's not licensed here yet for car manufacture, but could be here within a few years if we receive an expression of interest for manufacture and distribution of the technology in this region." The UltraBattery can also be used to improve the performance and energy storage capacity of wind farms, and has been successfully tested on turbines at CSIRO's Energy Transformed flagship headquarters in Newcastle.

"When you see the turbine blades turning smoothly, it's quite deceptive as they're not generating a steady output of electricity," he said. "There are a lot of fluctuations - what we call electrical noise - but by putting in a battery we can shave off the peaks and spikes and smooth out the current quite considerably."