Today, around half of all new cars sold are known as Micro-Hybrid Vehicles. These sales underpin a US$5B annual market for low cost, reliable batteries that can meet the demands of the hybrid technology.

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Despite the many attractions of Lead Acid Batteries, the relatively poor charging performance doesn't allow the fuel-saving potential of MHVs to be fully exploited.

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ArcActive's proprietary carbon technology - AACarbon - delivers vastly superior charge acceptance at low cost.

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Emissions regulations are driving fuel-efficiency innovation

Tough new CO2 emission standards in the World's key car markets (China, EU, Japan and USA) have induced a significant change in the types of cars consumers will be able to buy in the future.  Whether a heavily electrified vehicle or gas-sipping advanced internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, it’s clear that the mass market car of the future will not be the standard ICE cars that are available today.

Hybridisation of cars is a common approach that all large car makers globally are pursuing in order to meet the tough new CO2 emission standards. 

Hybrid vehicles help achieve emission savings (and fuel economy) through various design features and technologies such as Idle Elimination, Regenerative Braking and the Electric Motor. 

Typically, as fuel savings increase with higher levels of hybridisation, so does the cost of the vehicles.  The key issue for automotive industry is determining what types of vehicles will become the mass market during the next few decades.  The answer will depend on the sorts of cars that consumers actually buy, what technical developments emerge and the regulatory conditions imposed in each territory.

ArcActive Chart Regulations

Tomorrow's Mass-Market Car

Micro- and mild-hybrid cars are expected to be the mass market cars of the future.  These vehicles require new battery technologies to meet with the stringent emissions limits being imposed on automakers and as the following projections show, this represents a significant new battery market in the coming decades:

  • Pike Research (September 2012): 41m new start/stop cars per year by 2020.
  • McKinsey (May 2012): Start/Stop battery market to be greater than US$12B/year by 2020.
  • Lux Research (February 2012): Start/Stop battery market US$6.9B/year by 2017.
  • Pike Research (June 2011): Start/Stop battery market US$8.9B/year by 2020.
  • Johnson Controls (June 2011): 100m start/stop batteries per year by 2020 (including both new cars and the aftermarket).

Note: Traditionally the new car (OEM) market is around 20% of batteries sold in any given year and the aftermarket accounts for the remaining 80%.

ArcActive Chart MHV Market Projections

By 2030, the annual market for MHV batteries is expected to be 300m batteries/year worth US$20-30 billion.

The Problem with Traditional LABs

It may seem strange to apply cutting edge nanotechnology to one of the longest lived industrial products: the lead acid battery (LAB).  Its longevity - it has been around for over 150 years - is due to a number of incredibly useful attributes that make it hard to displace:

  • Low cost
  • High recyclability (approximately 98% in Western Europe and North America)
  • Massive industry scale and highly efficient, mature supply chains
  • Low risk and well understood chemistry
  • High discharge output (important for starting an engine)
  • Good low temperature performance (important for starting engines in cold countries)

While the LAB is excellent at discharging, it is slow to charge.  Until recently, this has not been a problem – the traditional role of the battery has been, after all, to crank the engine (a discharge process).  As it turns out, however, the fuel saving capability of MHV technologies is critically dependent on the charge capability of the battery over very short periods (5-10 seconds).  This charging characteristic is known as Dynamic Charge Acceptance (DCA) and simply, the better the DCA of the battery, the greater the fuel saving and the lower the CO2 emissions.

Almost all cars today use a LAB.  These batteries would be ideal for use in MHVs except for this one problem of having low DCA performance.  Given the significance of the MHV opportunity, a race is now on to develop a suitable battery, or combination of batteries, to meet all of the requirements for use in MHVs.  There is currently no battery that addresses all the needs.

The low DCA of the LAB is caused by problems that develop in the negative electrode of the battery.  The DCA is initially good, but within a few weeks, is operating at a significantly reduced, albeit stable, level of performance.  The exact mechanism of this degradation is not yet fully understood, but is believed to be caused by the loss of surface area of the battery reactants in the negative electrode (lower surface area translates to lower reaction rates).

ArcActive is developing a re-engineered negative electrode that overcomes these problems and delivers high and sustained DCA performance, while also meeting the traditional battery requirements.  To find out more, click here.

ArcActive's technology overcomes traditional LABs charging limitations and delivers superior DCA and charging lifetime.

Energy Storage Systems

Sulphation (loss of surface area of the negative electrode materials) affects Lead Batteries when they are operated at a Partial State of Charge (PSoC). Not only are batteries for hybrid vehicles operated at a PSoC, and hence experience sulphation, so to do batteries used for Energy Storage Systems (ESS’s), where the batteries are used to stabilise the power from intermittent Renewable Energy generation (wind and solar).

Given ArcActive’s negative electrodes outstanding performance in automotive applications, it is expected that the technology will work equally well for ESS’s. Early testing has been encouraging, and we are scaling up our development efforts for this emerging opportunity.