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Dec 23

GM Planning to Triple or Quadruple Electric Car Volumes by 2015, LG Chem Says Batteries Not a Constraint

 

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson

[ad#post_ad]We have heard before that GM’s newest CEO Dan Akerson is particularly bullish about electric cars. It is clear he feels the Volt is a very significant vehicle for the company and projects that the currently high demand will continue to grow.

Thus far GM has committed to producing 15,000 Volts in 2011 and at least 45,000 in 2012.

There is also evidence the company is developing a crossover Voltec vehicle, a 2-mode plugin Cadillac SUV, and possibly a third Voltec car. The crossover may be called the Chevy Amp and could be unveiled next month at the Detroit Auto Show.

Akerson told reporters previously that GM was studying ways to double or triple electric car capacity. Bloomberg now reports that GM sources say Akerson has asked a team to look for ways to triple or even quadruple 2012 electric car production rates by as early as 2015. These volumes  potentially of 250,000 vehicles would be spread across several different vehilce types and brands.

Spreading the technology across brands and vehicles will help to lower costs. Lower costs are needed to increase sales volume. Only 7% of the US car buying public has been determined able to afford the Chevy Volt at its current price.

Akerson’s production plan aims to make GM the recognized global leader in electric vehicles, and is devised to prepare for higher gas prices in the future.

The new electric vehicles under development for the US will all be larger than the Volt and may include an SUV.

Aside from consumer demand and cost the only other theoretical limitation for increasing production is the availability of the lithium ion batteries.

Volt battery supplier LG Chem, however, has massive production capacity, has already started building one Michigan factory and has a second under development.  In fact, LG Chem Power CEO Prabhakar Patil tells GM-Volt that battery supply isn’t a limiting factor.

“GM will have to speak to their plans for future volumes,” said Patil. “But LG Chem stands ready to support them and does not expect battery capacity to be a constraint.”

Source (Bloomberg)

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Mar 09

Report Reveals Lithium-ion Battery Prices Already Dropping Steeper Than Expected

 

[ad#post_ad]Electrification of the automobile is well underway, with the first mass produced cars expected to hit the roads later this year.

There have been many speculative reports about whether these cars will catch on and be sold in high volumes over the next few years.

These predictions hinge on cost to consumers, both for the cars and for gas.  Other than for early adopters, plug-in cars must offer better cost of operation than gas-powered cars to win in the marketplace.

The bulk of an electric vehicle’s cost, however, is the cost of its lithium-ion batteries.

Reports predicting low EV sales volumes often use $1000 per kwh as the price for lithium-ion batteries, but that is unrealisticly high and should no longer be used.

A new report issued by Deutsche Bank indicates prices that are considerably lower.  They write “we continue to believe that the market underestimates the potential for growth in this segment” and “we’ve noted evidence of steeper than-expected battery price declines which will likely bolster the consumer value proposition and potentially lead to stronger demand than we originally envisioned.”

The firm notes the average lithium-ion cell price in 2009 has been $650 per kwh, but claims automakers are already seeing bids for $450 per kwh from battery companies for delivery contracts in the 2011/2012 timeframe.

Furthermore, they predict an additional 25% decline in price over the next 5 years and a 50% decline over the next 10 years along with a doubling of performance over the next 7 years.

Previously LG Chem subsidiary Compact Power’s CEO Prabahkar Patil told GM-Volt he expected cell cost to drop up to four-fold in the next 10 years, and said lithium ion cells for non automotive applications is already $350 per kwh.

Furthermore, last March GM vice president Jon Lauckner stated GM is already paying “many hundreds of dollars per kWh,” less than $1000 for the Volt’s lithium ion cells.

If one considers the Volt has a 16 kwh lithium ion battery, at $450 per kwh its total cell cost would be $7200.

Fuel costs about 2 cents per mile using electricity, and about 10 cents per mile using gas. At $450 per kwh at today’s gas prices, after 90,000 miles of electric driving fuel savings will cover the added cost of the battery.

Source (Deutsche Bank, PDF)
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Oct 19

Q&A With the CEO of Compact Power Inc.

 

Prabakhar Patil is the CEO of Compact Power Inc.  CPI is a subsidiary for LG Chem, the Korean company that was awarded with the Chevy Volt cell supplier contract.  CPI helped GM to develop the packs for the Volt.  I had a chance to interview Dr. Patil on the current status of the relationship and operations.

Where are things with respect to pack development and considering GM’s announcement about in house pack and your relationship with them?
The relationship is good and unchanged because the decision for GM to manufacture the pack in-house after they got into volume production had been made some time ago. We agreed to it in the spirit of partnership because for strategic reasons it was important for GM to do this in house, even though we were prepared to support them in high volume production.

Right now nothing has really changed. As you know we shipped around 50 packs last year, this year we are shipping around 400 packs and that continues to happen. We are validating the pack design, the manufacturing process etc, and these are the prototype packs that are going into GM vehicles. That part is exactly the same as it would have been were we to make the high volume production packs.

So the prototype packs are currently being produced at your facility?
Yes, and they will continue to be made here until GM’s facility is up and running.

Are you helping GM to prepare their facility?
We work together. It’s a joint team that is actually at work.

As a subdivision of LG Chem, will you continue to work in GM’s facility?
No, once the production moves to their facility our role will be more supportive.

LG Chem got a $150 million DOE grant for setting up a cell manufacturing facility that will be locating in Michigan?
As you know, up to now the cells are made in Korea and we assemble, engineer, design and manufacture the pack here. The DOE grant is targeted at making the cells here. That has always been our plans and our footprint but this helps expedite the process.

So you are going to build a US battery factory from the ground up with that money?
Yes.

When will you start construction?
We probably will complete the site selection process by the end of this year and then we’ll be breaking ground sometime next year. We have to go through all the permits and site preparation and all that stuff. More importantly in terms of production, the first of the cell lines in that new facility we expect to come on in production rates by second quarter of 2012. It will be fully done with all of the cell lines and electrode lines and all that stuff a year later. At that point, it will be capable of producing enough cells to support anywhere from 50,000 to 250,000 vehicle packs depending on how many cells the packs contain.

Is that factory going to solely be used for the Volt pack or might it be used for other automakers?
It is not tied to a single application or customer, that’s part of the flexibility that we will have that it can support different applications. Because as you know the cells for the Volt will initially come from Korea. In fact, that cell line is already up. It has to be in order for us to have certified cells that have to be ready well ahead of the vehicle launch so GM can go ahead with the pack validation and so forth.

That cell line is already up. That will be used to supply cells for the Volt until the cell line here comes on line, so we have a lot of flexibility.
As far as GM or any other customer is concerned they won’t be able to tell the difference as to whether the cell is made here or in Korea.

The cells for the Volt, are they pretty much going to be a standard LG automotive cell for all applications or are you developing differently nuanced cells for different applications?
There have to be different nuances. For example, if you go from a non plugin hybrid to a BEV there are three discrete types of cells that you need. On plugin HEV like hybrids, the power to energy ratio is high, because those hybrid configurations don’t need large pure electric range.

On the other end of the spectrum the battery electric vehicle where the energy density requirements are very significant when you get to 50 or 100 miles of range. The P to E ratio in that case is relatively low then. Plug in HEV cells like the Volt are in between in order for the cells to be optimized we have to tweak the chemistry or the recipe.

 

Oct 02

Compact Power CEO on the Cost of Lithium-ion Batteries

 

Prabakhar Patil is the CEO of Compact Power Inc, the subsidiary of LG Chem that has been working with GM to produce the Volt’s battery packs.

I recently had the chance to ask him about the cost of lithium-ion batteries.  As some sources suggest cost could be as high as $1000 kwh, I asked him what the actual cost is in today’s market.  My question with his explanation follows:

What is the cost of lithium ion automotive batteries?
Is its risky or dangerous to quote direct numbers.

At the cell level, in consumer applications, 100% of the nominal capacity at the beginning of life is somewhere on the order of $350 per kwh.

First, we have to keep adding factors for in a vehicle application, when you look at it as a 10 year life and you have this 25% degradation, then your denominator goes down by 25%.

Secondly, if you’re not using all of the capacity, just the combination of those two factors will effectively cut the denominator in half in terms of usable capacity at the end of life as opposed to nominal capacity at the beginning of life. And that will raise the price in dollars per kwh, if you do it in terms of usable capacity at the end of life, by a factor of two

Third, if you add all of the other stuff you have to put in the pack, and it depends on what you consider inside the pack as opposed to outside, because that depends on vehicle architecture. So that’s why it gets very fuzzy and inconclusive to talk about gross level numbers unless you know specifically on how they are being defined.

The other perspective is that lithium ion in the 17 years since it was first introduced has come down by a factor of 14 in terms of dollars per kwh and it’s not done. It will continue to come down not at the same rate, but I fully expect over the next 5 to 10 years for the cost to get better by anywhere from a factor of 2 to 4 in terms of dollars per kwh as compared to where we are now.

One of the things that has nothing to do with the cell or any technology itself, is at the end of life if the battery still has 70 to 75% of its power and energy left.  Why throw it away when you can recapture it? If you could capture that residual value by effectively leasing the battery and putting it to work again in a utility application, at 50% of its initial value, it will cut the effective cost by a factor of two.

 

Sep 29

Compact Power/LG Chem to Produce and Assemble Battery Packs for GMs 2-Mode Plugin Hybrid, Not GM

 

GM has been developing a plugin 2-mode hybrid since 2006. It was at first to be deployed in the Saturn VUE.  The host vehicle was later changed to a compact Buick SUV when the Saturn division was sold. That decision too was scrapped, however, GM still intends to sell the drivetrain in some vehicle in 2011.

Although GM has decided to do pack assembly in-house for the Chevy Volt, apparently they have decided to let LG Chem subsidiary Compact Power assemble the packs for the plugin hybrid themselves.

“We will be supplying the production packs,” Compact Power CEO Prabahkar Patil told GM-Volt.com.  “Those production packs will not be made by GM. We will actually be making them but in volume production.”

He explains that LG Chem and GM’s “relationship of course goes well beyond the Volt.”

The 2-mode plugin pack will be half the size of the Volt’s, consisting of 8 kwh of lithium ion cells.

“It’s a different form factor because its tailored to fit in the vehicle its intended for,” says Patil. “It is a different configuration, but there is quite a bit that is shared with Volt in terms of technology. The cell for example will be the same.”

He says that the thermal management system will also be “very similar” to the one used in the Volt.

“We try to commonize as much as we can,” he says. “That will always be our approach, to bring the cost down because of the volumes being higher and secondly because when you are reusing something it doesn’t require as much additional validation and testing and that also helps being the cost down and actually make the quality more robust.”

Patil says the packs will be made in a facility in Michigan that LG Chem just acquired in the past few months and refurbished.  He says that right now the facility is “still in the prototype phase as that’s where we are also making the Volt prototype packs.”

GM has not announced what production volume they expect for the 2-mode plugin hybrid.

Patil gives some guidance be explaining that when the current LG facility “gets some automation by the end of next year, it will have the capacity of 2500 of the large Volt type packs or as much as 10,000 of smaller packs.”

“The capacity depends on the nature and size of the pack,” he says.

 

Apr 23

LG Chem Has Begun Battery Plant Construction for Chevy Volt Cells

 

LG Chem of Korea will be supplying the lithium-ion cells for the first generation Chevy Volts. The company was picked from an initial pool of 27 applicants in March 2007, eventually whittled down to 13 serious contenders. Finally, as announced in January they edged out A123 Systems in terms of preparedness and were awarded the contract for the cells that will launch the first Volts.

LG subsidiary Compact Power Inc. CEO Prahbakhar Patil has been in charge of developing the actual packs with GM, and will continue to partner with the automaker as GM takes over the assembly process on its own.

Patil told reporters that "there are no showstoppers" which would delay the launch at this point.

He also dismissed criticism about the expense of batteries and hence the Volt, claiming that "at $3 a gallon of gas, the payback is within five years." He also said CPI supplied GM 50 packs last year and will be supplying them 400 in 2009. GM has said they expect to build about 100 production prototypes prior to launch, although a few hundred more pre-production for a captured fleet are also expected.

Excitingly Patil said LG parent company in Korea has already begun the construction of the Volt’s dedicated lithium-ion cell assembly line. He said the cell line only needs to be running for about 6 months before the Volt is launched.

LG is currently capable of producing 40 million cells per month. Each Volt pack has between 200 and 300 cells. Eventually a US factory is expected.

Source (Detroit News )

 
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