Hitachi Builds Fourth Generation Lithium Ion Battery

Joshua Duval
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#GM, #Volt

Because they are lighter and more powerful than nickel-metal hydride batteries, production of lithium ion batteries is set to increase exponentially with the slew of electric vehicles currently being developed. Perhaps the most important of those vehicles is the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, and GM will source the Volt's lithium ion battery packs from Hitachi - a significant fact because the Japanese company has announced it has developed a powerful new battery.

One of the most important, complex, and expensive components of the electric vehicle as we know it today is its battery. Although there are several different kinds of batteries - including the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in the Toyota Prius - lithium ion batteries are considered the most viable for the mass production of electric vehicles because of their lighter weight and better power output.

While the first-generation Volt is set to use Hitachi's current batteries, we speculate that the next generation could us Hitachi's newly announced fourth-generation batteries. According to Hitachi, the newer batteries generate 1.5 times the energy output of third-generation batteries, due to reduced internal resistance, thinner electrodes, and a new manganese cathode. Those improvements result in an energy density of 4500 watts per kilogram, compared to 3000 watts per kilogram in the third-gen batteries.

With the new batteries, Hitachi can pack much more power into lighter packs. GM could significantly reduce the weight of the Volt by using Hitachi's more energy-dense batteries. For now, however, Hitachi is set to supply GM only with the older batteries.

In the meantime, Hitachi says it will begin testing the new batteries this fall.

"We are going to start shipping samples to both domestic and foreign carmakers in the autumn," said Hitachi spokeswoman Hajime Kito. "We don't know which makers are going to use it yet, but we are hoping to start mass producing the batteries in 2013."

GM has currently ordered 100,000 third-generation battery packs from Hitachi.

Source: Automotive News

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