When it comes to current lithium-ion battery tech, cobalt is an essential element – both literally and figuratively. Cobalt is so important to current battery technology that China has gone to great lengths to secure it, predicting a global rise in its demand.
Some reports state that the global supply of cobalt and lithium will reach critical levels by as early as 2050, if current trends and predictions about the adoption of electric vehicles remain true. This statement is especially true for cobalt, with reserves only expected to meet half of the predicted demand.
Before we go further, it should be noted that current roughly half of all cobalt mined in the world is used in batteries (and roughly half of all cobalt mining is done in the Democratic Republic of Congo). This is because of cobalt’s unique structure as a transition metal.
Panasonic, as one of the biggest battery providers for electric vehicles, sees the trend happening with cobalt usage, and understands what it means for the company’s bottom line.
As such, the Japanese technology brand has made news by announcing its plans to eliminate cobalt from its batteries that are destined for electric vehicles.
This week’s big news is that California is looking at how it can join China, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom in the banning of internal combustion engines in the coming decade(s), a move that will surely be a shot in the arm for electric vehicles.
While the social and political pressures are coming into alignment for electric cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the technology for these next-generation vehicles is still not fully baked, and the biggest rate-limiter for EVs are their batteries.
That is about to change, however, with solid-state batteries (a battery that has both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes) looking like the silver bullet that could make electric vehicles comparable in performance and price to their internal combustion counterparts.
This is because solid-state batteries offer higher energy density (2x-3x), faster recharge times, better heat management, more safety (wont catch on fire), and cheaper costs than today’s current crop of cutting-edge lithium-ion batteries.
In short, solid-state batteries are poised to be a game-changer for electric vehicles, and address all the major issues EV companies (especially electric motorcycle companies) are dealing with in their vehicle designs.
July isn’t getting off to a great start for electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo Inc, as the Ashland, Oregon company suffered a fire in the company’s R&D lab during the start of the month. The fire broke-out over the weekend of June 30th, as the EV company was doing extended testing to a lithium-ion battery pack.
Fortunately, Brammo’s automated sprinkler system was able to put out the blaze caused by the malfunctioning battery pack, but in the process caused roughly $200,000 in water-damage to equipment located in the facility.
There’s been a lot of talk in the auto industry lately about electric cars, and moving to fully electric platforms. Quietly, motorcycle companies have seen the writing on the wall, and have been exploring electric two-wheel applications for new models. KTM has promised to bring an electric bike by this time in 2010, and Quantya has an electric dirt bike, the Strada already available for purchase.
Not to be left out on this one, Honda has announced that it has partnered with Yuasa to bring an electric bike line-up to their model range by the year 2010.
“Honda is currently developing a battery-powered electric motorcycle which emits no CO2 during operation. The company is aiming to introduce this electric motorcycle to the market about in two years from now,” says Takeo Fukui, Chairman and CEO of Honda Motor Co. “History shows that motorcycles remain strong in a difficult market environment and have always supported Honda in difficult times,” he adds.
Yuasa, maker of most motorcycle batteries (check yours), will be responsible for the development of the high-performance lithium-ion batteries necessary for the electric motorcycles. The two companies will jointly set up a research and development center, and a battery manufacturing facility near Kyoto in Japan. This joint venture is being funded to the tune of $18.5 million, with Honda holding a 49% stake in the company, and the rest being held by Yuasa.