Lithium-Ion Batteries and Electric Vehicles – Alternatives as 2012 Supply Crunch Nears

Then it was GM’s turn to make the same mistake in 1995, nearly fifteen (15) years ago. They spent nearly US$1 billion on developing the EV-1, only to have the same sentiments from the 1900’s creep into drivers’ minds. This time, it was the knowledge of battery technology being only able to carry a vehicle only forty (40) miles and thus being stranded on the Freeway with an Electric Cord and no 110VAC or 220VAC outlet handy, again made the mass adoption of EV’s elusive. It is for this reason that the 2010 Chevy Volt has a Flex Fuel Electric Generator as a backup in case the Lithium-Ion batteries ran out. Coupled with computers controlling every aspect of the vehicles management and you will get the impression that driving an EV is not only as simple as it was back then in the 1900, but is like flying a fighter jet, minus the sound barrier speed, quiet as a tomb inside.

The level of efficiency of an EV can be best summed up in the views of George Romney, Head of American Motors in 1955, who gave a pep talk entitled “The Dinosaur in the Driveway”, a commentary on the Motor City’s aka Detroit’s, illogical yearnings for gas guzzling SUV (Sports Utility Vehicles) and the huge profits accrued from their purchase. His entire speech is best summed up in a single line: “Cars 19 feet long, weighing 2 tons, are used to run a 118-pound housewife 3 blocks to the drug store for a package of bobby pins and a lipstick”. With these words ringing in their ears, GM Engineers years later during twenty nine (29) months of building the most complex vehicle ever made, endeavored to keep it as lightweight as possible, thus the choice of Lithium-Ion Batteries, meeting and beating the weight requirements and making the son to be successful 2011 Chevy Volt worth every cent spent on its design.

Nissan Leaf

The 2011 Nissan Leaf and the 2011 Mitsubishi iMiEV are true All-Electric Vehicles, thought, sporting only Lithium-Ion Batteries ONLY, but with a comfortable range of one hundred (100 mi) miles on a single charge, once driven at speeds below 80 km/h, comforting words to those interested in the vehicles that look a lot like a 2010 Honda Fit. Even GM, feeling a bit brave, is coming out with its own Cruze Concept EV, abandoning the Range Extender Technology as is also Toyota and their tricked out RAV 4 made EV by Tesla.

Tesla is also coming out with their own EV, with a factory now in place in the US of A to achieve their production goals and showrooms in Japan, ready to sell EV’s to Japanese eager to trade up to the future. Volvo is testing a new concept, that being the usage of a Gasoline Reformer to sequester Hydrogen Gas directly from Diesel, E85 or any other Fossil Fuel to power a Hydrogen Fuel Cell, but even Hydrogen Fuel Cells need to use Rare Earth Metals. In summary, no matter the maker of these EV’s, they are all powered using batteries or fuel cells that require Rare Earth Metals.

GM knows this, and is actively looking into patented technology as it relates to recycling and changing out Lithium-Ion Batteries, which have a warranty guaranteed lifespan of eight to ten years (8 to 10). Most certainly, the expected explosion in EV necessitates recycling old electronics for their Rare Earth Metals, possibly even sequestered from the waste of the Industrial areas in Silicon Valley as the Japanese have done to recover wasted Gold at rates far cheaper than mining.

The Americans and the Europeans, long time opponents in the Automobile Industry, need to form an Alliance and jointly exploit Afghanistan’s rich Rare Earth Metal bounty, much in the same way Japan and Vietnam are teaming up with each other on a joint venture to extract Rare Earth Metals after People’s Republic of China blocked exports to Japan. This is to avoid the crushing might of the People’s Republic of China, who possess 97% of Rare Earth Metals and are thus in a position to choke off supplies in a race to sell the Americans EV’s, a crush of supply that would result in a Rare Earth Metals Crunch in 2012 AD, despite the words of China’s top official, Wen, assuring that they [the People’s Republic of China] will not block or unfairly price supplies of Rare Earth Metals to foreign buyers, words of little comfort.

Closer to home, Chile is the world’s No. 1 supplier of Lithium, and Bolivia, its next door neighbour, is entertaining the idea of getting into the Rare Earth Metals trade, but with ambitions to make Lithium-Ion Batteries as opposed to just mining the minerals required for their construction, much like a farmer who packages and sells his fruits as opposed to selling them to a buyer. Thus, the use of Lithium is unavoidable, at least for now, as nothing beats this lightweight, high capacity Rare Earth Metal and the lightweight Lithium-Ion Batteries for which they are famous.

The choice left for Jamaica, really, in the next four (4) years, amounts to choosing between EV’s with only Lithium-ion Batteries of EV’s using Range Extender Technology, with the Government of Jamaica left to sort out the Infrastructure (may I recommend Coulomb Technologies and Ecotality?) to support the maintenance and changing of the Lithium-Ion Batteries and Automakers left to source new spare parts for these “eclectic electrics”.

For now, expect to see mainly the wealthy and well to do, progressive minded people, mostly females who dislike looking under the hood of their vehicles, driving Range Extender Technology based EV’s in Jamaica and charging them at home using an installed Home Charging Unit or a Wireless Home Induction Charging Units in the driveway that automatically charge the Vehicle when it is parked after a day’s commute and carrying an onboard spare Remote Electric Plug for charging from 110VAC and 220VAC outlets, already tired of the 2008 Toyota Prius. Give a couple to the Reggae and Dancehall Artiste to sport around town and by 2012, when EV’s start trending, Jamaicans will wonder why they ever drove in such noisy vehicles.

Post Author: Lindsworth

Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.