A123 seeks funding for Michigan battery plant, but should the US 'leapfrog' into fuel cells & capacitors?

January 08 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2013   Rating: 2

A123The US continues to play catch up to Asia in manufacturing advanced energy storage solutions used in electric vehicles and 'smart grids'.  But a more organized US energy storage industry is starting to emerge.

Last month a group of battery makers formed a coalition to seek federal support.  A week later a group of fuel cell makers petitioned Congress for its share of cleantech funding.

Now lithium-ion battery start up A123 Systems has submitted an application to qualify for $1.84 billion in direct loans to support the construction of new world-class battery plant in Michigan.  At full operation, A123 expects the combined plants would occupy as much as 7 million square feet and create over 14,000 jobs to supply battery systems for five million hybrid vehicles or half a million plug-in electric vehicles per year by 2013.

Should the US leapfrog batteries into fuel cells and capacitors? (Continue)

A123 uses nanostructured electrodes to improve lithium battery performance and overcome issues like overheating.  It is widely considered to be one of the US's most promising energy storage startups and has had major investments from General Electric (Acquisition on the horizon?!).  But the future of energy storage is not limited to batteries. 

There is another option for getting the US into the energy storage world- leap frogging batteries into next generation storage via fuel cells and capacitors.  [Hydrogen, used in most fuel cells, stores energy in chemical bonds (like coal and oil).  Capacitors hold electrical 'charges'.] 

A123's batteries represent a significant opportunity, but it is not clear that lithium ion batteries are 'the' opportunity for the future of US manufacturing.

It would be a mistake to confuse 'first generation' plug in electric vehicles as the future of transportation.  Cars are not iPods and batteries are not likely to last long as the only energy storage device.  Next generation cars are likely to integrate fuel cells, batteries  and capacitors into one system. So which is the best bet for US energy storage makers?  Play catch up with batteries?  Or leapfrog into more advanced solutions with fuel cells and capacitors?

 

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A123 Press Release

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