This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 12, 2003

Battery Advancements Hold Promise for Electric Vehicles

Several companies and organizations have announced significant advancements in battery technologies in early March, providing renewed hope for the electric vehicle industry.

The biggest news came from ZAP, an electric vehicle company, which announced a breakthrough in lithium-ion battery technology that could quadruple the range of today's electric vehicles. According to ZAP, an undisclosed company has found a way to rapidly charge and discharge lithium-ion batteries, which have traditionally been used only for low-power applications such as cell phones. ZAP is applying the battery to a new electric vehicle, called the "Light Utility Vehicle," that it unveiled in January and plans to sell in the United States in the near future.

Noting that lithium-ion batteries can store four times as much energy as a standard lead-acid battery, ZAP predicts the new technology could extend the range of electric vehicles from today's 60 miles to as much as 240 miles per charge. ZAP announced the news in an interview on the Science Channel on March 10th. See the ZAP press release.

Valence Technology, Inc. appears to have made similar headway in lithium-ion technology, having unveiled a prototype battery for "large format" energy storage, on the scale of kilowatts or megawatts. See the Valence press release.

DOE's Sandia National Laboratories also announced a promising advance in lithium-ion battery technology on March 6th. Researchers at Sandia have developed materials made of silicon and graphite that may double the energy storage capacities of the batteries. The materials would be used as the negative electrode, or "anode," in a lithium-ion battery. See the Sandia press release.

Meanwhile, Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec announced on March 4th that it is working with France's Societe de Vehicules Electriques (SVE) to develop an electric vehicle using a lithium-metal-polymer battery. The battery was developed by AVESTOR, a Hydro-Quebec subsidiary. Hydro-Quebec expects SVE to complete a prototype in a few months. See the Hydro-Quebec press release.

Since 1991, DOE has been working on advanced battery technologies under a cost-shared cooperative agreement with the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), a partnership of DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and the Electric Power Research Institute. The program is now focused on lithium-ion and lithium-polymer technologies. See a summary of this research.