Quest For The Ultimate Electric Storage Battery

The worldwide race is on and escalating for the next generation of low cost high output battery storage system technology that will power our hybrid and electric automobiles as well as every other battery powered device and gadget in the 21st century.

As one might expect there are a number of technologies already in advanced stages. Among these participants there are a number of their tech people who firmly believe that this quest to develop the most advanced automotive battery to be one of the most important commercial races of our era.

From the limited information currently available it appears that other than Lithium itself, one of the most important front and centre components in this quest is Electrolytic Manganese Metal (EMM) (65% of battery component) and EMM production is over 97% controlled worldwide by China.

Most of the previously developed Lithium-Ion batteries have used a variety of components mainly with expensive Nickel Cobalt Cathodes. In a recent MIT Tech Review of Feb/07/11 they state a new advanced stage battery is being developed by Envia systems of California. They state that this battery promises to store “Twice the energy of the Lithium-Ion Cobalt Oxide”.

This new technology being developed by Envia and licensed from Argonne National Laboratory is a “High Capacity Manganese Rich” (HCMR) Cathode that they claim stores more energy than anything in use today. General Motors has already secured the rights to use this high density cathode material and is helping to fund millions of dollars in further research.

The bottom line in the cost saving factor for automotive applications is that because they can now store twice the energy, the total number of batteries can be decreased by 50%. Added to that is the fact that Manganese is much less expensive than Cobalt and much more effective in the Cathode.

Looking beyond all the excitement this new technology brings to the Auto sector, one realizes there are a vast number of other high demand applications for Manganese Rich Lithium batteries holding greater storage capacity and lifespan. For example think of the millions of Laptops, Cell Phones, Medical Devices, Power Tools and even Toys that will use this technology. The list is vast.

One such battery is already on the market by a company called Ultralife. A 9-V Lithium, Manganese Dioxide (LiMnO2) battery with a lifespan of 5X that of the older Alkaline and 10X that of the Carbon Zinc 9-V. This new battery is lightest in weight and holds the longest shelf life. The future for Manganese looks bright indeed.

According to a new report by Global Industry Analysts Inc.

(Feb. 07/11)

“The Global Manganese Market Will Exceed 21.9 Million Tons By 2015”

It seems somewhat of a disconnect and strange that the US has no domestic mine supply of Manganese when they are so worried about China’s dominance of Rare Earth’s. We obviously need Rare Earth’s for the magnets in electric motors but what about the batteries to run the motors?

While China controls over 97% of RE’s supply worldwide, they also control over 97% of Electrolytic Manganese worldwide. China also imports the majority of the raw Manganese ore to produce the EMM as their domestic ore supply is limited and of poor quality. Thus the finished product becomes that much more expensive as well as having a 20% export tax the US adds another 14% import tax.

All things considered how does all of the above make US produced HCMR battery producers competitive with China. We know they will ultimately steal or reproduce this technology at some point. If we want to be competitive in the Green Energy Sector we need a domestic supply of EMM plain and simple. The Steel Industry of the US would also be a large beneficiary as well.

So while China builds up its domestic stockpiles, plus controls and taxes heavily it’s exports of Critical and Strategic Metals, the US has sold off the majority of it’s strategic Manganese stockpiles over the last few years.

Stay tuned as I will be doing a follow up on another Critical Metal regarding MIT and their new technology for storing Solar power thru a 3 stage liquid (Molten Magnesium, Catalyst, Molten Antimony) large scale container sized battery that with a farm of batteries can store energy for the power grid of a city. Toyota is already making significant headway with their research on Magnesium use in automotive batteries as well. Magnesium is also being alloyed for sheet steel in Auto bodies to decrease weight. There is a lot of new info on Magnesium to learn about.

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Thanks For Reading: Regards; Ken Reser

About the Author

ykgold [at] telus [dot] net ()